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The vaping judge of Cleveland

After a request by judicial administrators of Cuyahoga County, Judge Joseph D. Russo of the Cleveland Common Pleas Court is agreeing to stop vaping from the bench.  Apparently, at least one juror during a trail last year complained that the judge was “constantly slurping and sucking” from his favorite box mod throughout a judicial proceeding. 

Judge Joe was not in violation of breaking any laws because the court’s policy manual at the time only prohibited smoking in the courtroom.  The manual is currently under revision to ban vaping, as well.

The issue was raised when a convicted rapist asked for a new trial on the grounds that the judge’s vaporous actions may have distracted the jury or – even more strange - may have altered the judge’s brain chemistry to such a degree that he was not able to rule coherently on lawyers’ court motions and objections.

A lawyer for the defendant, Jaustin Browning, told Cleveland.com that the judge’s vaping habits, which included blowing massive clouds of billowing vapor across the courtroom, were tantamount to “a teether or rattle which was a constant distraction."  Judge Russo declined the motion for a new hearing, but he did give up the vape.

Vaping etiquette matters

There are a number of things that are just plain wrong about this silly story.  First and perhaps foremost, Russo seems to have broken one of the primary rules of vaping etiquette.   Avoid vaping in public forums, especially if indoor vaping policies are unclear.  The second issue is, of course, the very thought that a nicotine-based vapor product could alter one’s brain chemistry.

Unfortunately, the judge’s actions seem to have been backed up by at least five different lawyers who claimed that Russo had vaped during their court hearings, as well.  A spokesperson for the Justice Center, Daren Toms, said that the court manual dictates a “smoke-free environment.”  Of course, every vaper knows that vaping isn’t smoking.  Toms later added the following statement.

“However, policies on vaping are relatively new and are not included in the current policy manual, which is currently under revision…vaping will be included in that version when completed.”

The whole affair is eerily reminiscent of the Duncan Hunter event of 2016.  During a congressional hearing of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the then-Republican congressman from California pulled out his trusty vape pen and began vaping openly during the hearing. 

At the time, vaping was still relatively new to the American public, and the committee was debating the pros and cons of vaping on airplanes.  So, in Duncan’s eyes, his actions likely seemed appropriate.

Duncan Hunter – the vaping congressman

Hunter – who would quickly be labeled The Vaping Congressman by the press – argued that electronic cigarettes are not the evil devices that anti-vapers make them out to be.  He suggested that one day very soon, Americans will be vaping their prescription and non-prescription medications because vaping allows the medicine to enter the blood stream faster and at a more controlled rate. 

Rep. Hunter did not win his argument either. Vaping on airplanes was banned by the airlines shortly thereafter.  And perhaps at least partially due to his vaping publicity stunt, Hunter drew lots of public scrutiny. By March 2020 while still an active member of congress, Rep. Duncan Hunter was convicted of stealing campaign funds and sentenced to eleven months in federal prison.  He also resigned his post. 

The moral of the story?  Vaping etiquette matters. 

Related Article:  New study suggests vaping CBD as possible treatment for COVID-19

(Images courtesy of Shutterstock)

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