E-Cig Vote Reveals a Ban-Happy Mindset

Our public servants are anti-science and pro-nanny.


SACRAMENTO — The basic fallback position in any free society is that people should be allowed to do things unless those activities can be shown to harm others. Basically, the burden of proof should always rest with the people who want to ban stuff.

That's why it's dismaying that the San Diego City Council recently joined other local governments in voting to impose the same ban on electronic cigarettes that currently applies to traditional combustible tobacco products. The state legislature has mulled, but not approved, similar legislation.

"I'm concerned that the science that goes along with this is very new," Councilman Scott Sherman said. "But we should probably err on the side of caution."

There is no evidence that this new type of cigarette is bad for "smokers" or for people standing near them. But these days, if officials are in doubt about something, they ban it anyway — just in case. The San Diego vote was unanimous, which suggests this mindset transcends party and politics.

E-cigarettes do not create smoke. They are vaporizers that provide the user with nicotine, but without all the carcinogens found in tobacco. Most of us have stood near people who are puffing on these battery operated devices and there's no obvious smell or annoying side effects. The effects on the "smoker," however, are up for debate.

"(E-cigarettes) are just as important for public health as childhood vaccines, antibiotics, sewer treatment and water treatment," said one anti-smoking activist to Reason magazine, which surely is an overstatement. But there's much hope that many smokers will switch from a deadly product to a more benign one.

And some studies back up such optimism. The American Council on Science and Health concluded in 2006 that e-cigarettes are "at least 98 percent safer than smoking … and is not a gateway to smoking cigarettes." It attributed their popularity in Sweden in part to that country's particularly low smoking rate.

Eight years later, there's nothing to really debunk that. The University of California San Francisco produced a recent study, touted by advocates for e-cigarette bans, that refutes the idea that these vaporizers will save countless lives.

"Our bottom line is, at the moment, it doesn't seem like e-cigarettes are having a big impact on the population in terms of quitting," a study co-author told the San Francisco Chronicle. This criticism of e-cigarettes is not that they cause any harm or create any equivalent of "second-hand smoke," only that they haven't caused as many smokers as expected to give up regular cigarettes. Many people smoke both.

It's one thing to ban cigarettes in public given that smokers impose unwanted carcinogens and odors on others. It's understandable to want to stamp out cigarette smoking given its well-documented dangers. But elected officials are restricting a product that isn't demonstrably harmful or annoying simply because it may not be as helpful as expected. Isn't that unreasonable?

The zeal to regulate comes not only in cities and state capitols. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)now is considering national regulations to control e-cigs. The FDA's anti-nicotine approach is fairly clear. It previously warned about these e-cigarettes and trace levels of toxins in their vapor even though we're talking about miniscule amounts of commonly found chemicals.

One of the biggest concerns is that e-cigarettes' widespread availability could possibly lead young people to begin smoking them and then move on to tobacco products. Few people argue with limits on sales to minors, but this argument is based on what-ifs.

E-cig backers respond that anti-tobacco forces have such a vested interest in stopping anything that even smacks of smoking, they aren't going to let alternatives such as e-cigarettes become commonplace despite the evidence. "Their benefits as a replacement therapy outweigh any negative effects they've found so far," said Matthew Glans, a policy analyst for the conservative Heartland Institute.

Maybe the "so far" is the key phrase. But what does it say about the state of our free society when officials are so eager to severely limit a product before any ill effects are found? Why the rush to ban things?

NEXT: Stephen Breyer, the Supreme Court's 'Raging Pragmatist'

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  1. The basic fallback position in any free society is that people should be allowed to do things unless those activities can be shown to harm others. Basically, the burden of proof should always rest with the people who want to ban stuff…

    So you’re saying an agency like the FDA is the hallmark of an unfree society?

    1. Yes. Next question.

  2. “So you’re saying an agency like the FDA is the hallmark of an unfree society?”

    Its existence? No. Its current behaviour? Definitely.

  3. “The basic fallback position in any free society is that people should be allowed to do things unless those activities can be shown to harm others.”
    In any free society, there is no one to “allow” another to do anything. To allow implies that there is someone superior who can determine what you can or cannot do. If you are a (wo)man, there is no one superior except your creator. Furthermore, no group can have rights greater than any individual. Man is not bound by the opinions of others, individually or grouped, and man is certainly not bound by paper entities such as councils, municipalities, states, etc.

    1. If only, JayMan. If only.

      1. The key is knowing, understanding and correctly applying common law. We are one of the few countries that is still operating under common law.
        We have all been dumbed-down by decades of government education (indoctrination) and have been led to believe that we are ruled by “government.” One has to realize that all these government actors are just man and have no more rights than any other man. As a matter of fact, when they are acting in their government capacity, they have no rights. Man has rights; they have duties, responsibilities and obligations. They are public servants.

        1. Servants… how quaint.

    2. I think I’m quite considerate in that I allow libtards around me to live. Instead of going apeshit at their stupidity and crushing the life out of them.

      I spoil them I suppose.

  4. Speaking of cities with the wrong priorities, squeegee men are back on NYC streets.

    1. I think this is actually the Post trying to whip up hysteria against recent attempts to curb the excesses of cop Heroes.

      1. No, I think it’s just reporting on NYC’s return to Dinkinsville under DeBlasio.

  5. Once upon a time you could do anything that was not explicitly permitted. Enumerated powers and unenumerated rights.

    Now you may only do that which is explicitly allowed. Enumerated rights and unenumerated powers.

  6. What e-cigs that DON’T have nicotine in them, just the nice flavor. Is that included as well?

    How stupid can you get?

  7. There are three sides. First is the FDA, who would regulate dirt on the basis that some kids put it in their mouths if they thought they could get away from it. Perhaps they can get Obama to get out his pen and take care of it for them. Second is the government in general who can’t stand the thought of losing all those tobacco taxes. They’d rather see us all die from lung cancer than lose one penny of the over twenty-five million dollars they collect in tobacco taxes each year. And finally, my favorite side, the do-gooders. Those wonderful assholes who know better than anyone else what people should and should be allowed to enjoy. My company is headed up by a do-gooder of the first order who has decreed that I can only vape “off property”. He is so offended that someone might actually enjoy themself in the company breakroom that he would rather they stand in the rain to partake in a harmless habit. His reasoning is that others shouldn’t be exposed to the smell of water vapor. May the Lord deliver us from all three sides.

    1. The only side that matters is the one paying the lobbyists: Big Tobacco.

      1. I think you mean Big Pharma. Big Tobacco sure as hell isn’t fighting E-Cigs – they sell some of them. No, It’s Big Pharma – Just as it was Big Pharma pushing anti-smoking law, now they are pushing anti-vaping law. Both activities eat into their stop-smoking drug profits.

    2. They banned em in my building too. Fuck em. If someone doesn’t directly see you do it, no one knows. It’s pretty hard to police.

      1. That is so true. I went through two airports vaping and didn’t get one look. I’ve heard of people vaping on planes. My daughter noticed the coffee flavoring, but my sister missed the lemon. It just doesn’t have the nuisance value cigarettes have. And since you are not vaping for 5 minutes at a time like a cigarette, few people notice.

  8. As a class Jobholders are in favor holding jobs, and anti anything that might tend to make them look like the useless parasites and endless busybodies that they are.

  9. Read an article from someone trying to classify E-cigs as an aerosol. While it is silly and unfounded, I could see the nanny state using that excuse to try to regulate them like tobacco.

    Of course, if that happens a ton of vaping stores go out of business.

  10. Again, this all boils down to the money; big pharma is crying sour grapes because it thought that the smoking bans would create hoards of smokers to run to them with their money to purchase the patches, gum and other expensive products. Yes, they were grinning ear to ear with the thought of all the money they would be collecting not to mention the big win and the control on the general public. The smoking bans were NEVER about health. It was and still is about money and control. There are so many people, groups and organization that profit from these bans.

    Something needs to change drastically. Alcohol is also on the chopping block (Prohibition Drip by Drip). While I’ll agree it is not a hot topic right now as they are still beating the poor dead horse of smokers, they will begin their assault in the near future.

    1. And yet, among all this – and Democratic Senators holding their hearings in DC – not one single question on E-cigs to candidates throughout this entire primary season.

  11. Thanks for citing my org., ACSH.org, in your excellent article, Steven.
    And some studies back up such optimism. The American Council on Science and Health concluded in 2006 that e-cigarettes are “at least 98 percent safer than smoking ? and is not a gateway to smoking cigarettes.” It attributed their popularity in Sweden in part to that country’s particularly low smoking rate.
    I’d only like to add that ACSH and I have written many, many articles and addressed many, many studies on the low-risk, reduced-harm products being attacked by agenda-driven, ideological, and/or corrupt politicians and “public health” nonprofits since the article you cited, dating from 2006. Surely snus is a key factor in helping users reduce toxic smoking; but of course e-cigs/e-vapor products are now leading the way towards reducing the tragic, preventable toll of almost half-million dead American smokers EVERY YEAR. And this trend will continue despite the criminal opposition of the AHA ACS CDC FDA CTFK and UCSF, of that I’m certain. Gil Ross MD/ACSH

  12. We’ve been saving money hand over fist since my fianc?e switched entirely to e-cig. 75% of that money was supposed to be tax revenue for various levels of government. This is why governments are hostile to the devices.

  13. Liberals hate e-cigs for reasons unrelated to public health. There is something about the symbolism of cigarettes, e-cigs, and tobacco that irks liberals, even if though they don’t talk about it openly. Smoking (or vaping) is a personal and explicit assertion of pleasure and identity. I think Ayn Rand understood that; Atlas Shrugged is full of symbolism related to smoking. Liberals hate e-cigs because they hate pleasure; it is antithetical to their core values of sacrifice, self-denial, and self immolation.

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