Even intelligent people can make stupid decisions. For evidence of this, look no further than Thomas Edison, the quintessential scientist and self-made man known mostly for inventing the first practical, long-lasting light bulb. Nobody would dispute his intellectual credentials, yet in the early 1900s, he was embroiled in a debate over which was the safest form of consumer electricity: direct current (DC) or alternating current (AC). A staunch proponent of direct current, he sought to prove its worthiness by electrocuting a bunch of animals ”“ including an elephant that was slated to be put down by a California zoo.

Smart or not, frying an elephant to prove a point is pretty freakin’ dumb.

Obviously, I’m no Thomas Edison in the brains department. He was a prolific scientist whose mass-market inventions changed the way people live their lives, whereas I make fart jokes and swear a lot. The distinction is clear. Still, I consider myself a fairly intelligent person ”“ way dumber than physicist Stephen Hawking, but way smarter than real estate mogul and professional bird’s nest impersonator Donald Trump. I’m comfortable in my range.

But like other non-idiots, I’ve still made some boneheaded calls.

My first cigarette was a Kool Super-Long (now known as Kool 100), which is basically a menthol bomb that numbs your lips and makes you feel as though you’ve just sucked down a York Peppermint Pattie. I bought a pack of them shortly after my 18th birthday, on a dare from a friend of mine, who wanted me to put my newly-acquired “adulthood” to good use. We smoked three apiece in her parents’ backyard, giggled at the unexpected buzz it gave us, and then I tossed the pack in a drawer somewhere and let the rest of the cigarettes stagnate. It was supposed to be a one-time thing, one more youthful experiment to check off the list.

A year or two later, I went though a bit of a rough patch, found some cigarettes lying around ”“ again, a “one-time” thing ”“ and before long it was a part of my life. Like Batman and cheesy speed metal, only not as fun.

I was never a pack-a-day man or anything absurd, but I was still hooked on nicotine to the point at which it had officially become a “lifestyle choice” ”“ that vague phrase which covers the gamut from barroom vices to styles of pants. I wish now that pants had been my worst life choice, because while nicotine is an addictive substance, it’s pretty much impossible to get permanently hooked on neon pink windpants with the word “sexy” written across the buttocks. Unless you’re a high school freshman. Parents, watch for that.

Here I am, years later, managing the addiction with a product called an electronic cigarette. They’re growing in popularity; maybe you’ve heard of them. The gist is this: You fill a special nicotine-laced liquid into a battery-powered device, heat it up into an aerosol vapor, and inhale it ”“ thereby getting your fix without ingesting the kinds of carcinogenic chemicals that could eat through a gym locker. Ex-smokers like it because it allows them to blow out a big plume of something, replicating one of the more satisfying sensations of their dubious pasttime. Non-smokers like it because the smell is mild, dissipates quickly, and doesn’t cling to clothing and furniture like microscopic barnacles. E-cigs, as they’re called, fall under a new category of products dubbed “harm reduction,” which is code for, “This will kill you more slowly.”

Electronic cigarettes are now a multi-billion dollar industry. Which is what probably caught the attention of Jeff McCabe.

McCabe, of Skowhegan, is the Democratic leader of the Maine House of Representatives, and according to the Bangor Daily News, has introduced a bill to ban “vaping” from all the same places in which cigarette smoking is banned, citing the lack of scientific research into the effects of secondhand vapor. Cigarette smoking is allowed in an ever-shrinking list of places, so an e-cig enthusiast such as myself would pretty much be limited to vaping under rusty bridges and behind trash barrels in sketchy alleyways. All I need to do now is buy a pair of fingerless gloves and start playing the harmonica.

You might expect that I’d oppose this bill, since vaping is supposedly so great. Only here’s the thing: McCabe’s got a point.

Good decisions are made based on evidence, and given a lack of evidence, prudence is best. Since switching to this admittedly weird alternative to smoking, I’ve amassed a pile of circumstantial evidence that’s encouraging. I have more wind during workouts, my throat never hurts, and I don’t reek like a half-ton of wet construction paper burning in a giant diaper. Things are looking up.

But that’s all anecdotal. The real evidence, amassed by science, is just starting to trickle in. The early findings are mostly encouraging, signifying that the majority of e-cig/liquid combinations don’t produce the carcinogenic chemicals found in cigarettes. Only that’s not enough to justify blowing vapor in peoples’ faces in the frozen food aisle. This early in the research process, there’s no telling what future findings may hold. For years, I’d been used to smoking in select areas out of respect for the clean-air breathers; I’ve got no problem extending this courtesy in the e-cig era. If there are any conveniences to be had with this device, it’ll have to come in the form of health (and odor) benefits, rather than locational freedom.

When you make a stupid decision, you live with the consequences. Electronic cigarettes are great, but they shouldn’t moonlight as a get-out-of-jail-free card.

Maybe a fellow vaper or two is cursing me as a Judas, but you know what? Assuming responsibility is the least I can do in light of my own buffoonery. Otherwise I’m just a desperate mind, electrocuting elephants to make a groundless point.

So take that, Edison.

— Jeff Lagasse is a nicotine-addicted, animal-loving, Trump-disdaining columnist and Assistant Editor at the Journal Tribune. When not ripping on famous people, he can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 319 or [email protected]