If It Tastes Good to Kids, Ban It

Critics of marijuana edibles and flavored e-cigarettes would reduce adults to the level of children.


Three weeks ago, a New York City councilman proposed a ban on flavored electronic cigarettes. Last week Colorado news outlets reported that the state health department had recommended a ban on almost all forms of edible marijuana products. As is often the case when politicians or bureaucrats demand new limits on liberty, both proposals were aimed at protecting children.

Although flavored e-cigarettes and marijuana edibles are intended for adults, appeal to adults, and can be legally sold only to adults, the prohibitionists argue that they cannot be tolerated because they also appeal to minors. The same rationale has been offered for bans on flavored tobacco products and sweet malt beverages. This argument, although couched in the language of moderate and sensible regulation, should be a non-starter in a free society, because it reduces adults to the level of children.

The consequences of such reasoning can be dramatic. In the recommendation publicized last week, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) urged regulators to "prohibit the production of retail edible marijuana products other than a simple lozenge/hard candy or tinctures." Such a ban would eliminate a wide range of marijuana-infused foods and beverages that Colorado dispensaries have been selling to patients for years and to recreational consumers since January. Even marijuana cookies and brownies, which had a following among cannabis consumers long before you could openly buy them over the counter, would disappear from dispensary shelves. Although consumers could still bake their own, they would lose the convenience, reliability, and quality control offered by commercial producers, not to mention the label information, dose control, and child-resistant packaging that the CDPHE presumably considers important.

The CDPHE quickly backtracked from its proposal, and with good reason: It probably would violate the state constitution, which now includes Amendment 64, the marijuana legalization initiative that voters approved in 2012. Amendment 64 clearly envisions a market in which various marijuana-infused foods and beverages are available to adult consumers. Furthermore, reprohibiting this segment of the marijuana market would invite black-market dealers to satisfy the demand for products that have proven very popular, making the state's minimum purchase age as well as its packaging and labeling requirements impossible to enforce.

Despite the CDPHE's retreat, its rationale for banning marijuana edibles is worth considering because it illustrates the mindset of people who demand that adult choices be restricted for the sake of the children. "To allow the production of retail marijuana edibles that are naturally attractive to children is counter to the Amendment 64 requirement to prevent the marketing of marijuana products to children," the department argues. Thus it redefines the rule against targeting children as a duty to avoid products they might like.

The CDPHE claims "the intent of the Amendment and subsequent laws and rules was to decriminalize the use of retail marijuana, not to encourage market expansion within the marijuana edibles industry that subsequently create[s] potential consumer confusion or mixed messages to children." Yet the amendment did not merely decriminalize recreational use; it also decriminalized the production and sale of marijuana products by state-licensed businesses serving that market. The "market expansion within the marijuana edibles industry," as distasteful as it may be to the CDPHE, was a natural result of letting buyers and sellers of those products engage in peaceful, mutually beneficial transactions without fear of arrest.

The CDPHE supposedly favors lozenges or hard candies because they can be stamped with a symbol that indicates their psychoactive nature even when they are removed from their original packaging. "By limiting the scope of allowable retail marijuana edibles to products that are not easily confused with ubiquitous food products," it says, "this recommendation creates a more defensible and transparent regulatory framework." If the ability to mark the edibles themselves is the department's main concern, its proposed rule is needlessly restrictive. Lollipops can be marked just as easily as hard candies, and chocolate bars could be stamped as well. There has even been talk of imprinting the icing on baked goods with a marijuana symbol.

But is it reasonable to demand that all marijuana products be identifiable as such even when unwrapped? While it's true that marijuana-infused brownies and gummy candies look just like the unspiked versions of those products, that is only after they are removed from clearly marked, child-resistant containers. At what point does the manufacturer's responsibility end and the consumer's begin? Notably, the law under which Colorado's Marijuana Enforcement Division is developing new regulations for edibles says the products should be "clearly identifiable, when practicable" (emphasis added). It is pretty hard to make a cannabis-infused soda "clearly identifiable" outside the container, but the same is true of sweet, fruit-flavored liqueurs or cough syrups. The expectation is that adults won't leave such products lying around for kids to glug.

The good news is that the sweeping ban proposed by the CDPHE, which was criticized not only by the marijuana industry but also by the governor's office and a co-author of the law dealing with edibles, is unlikely to materialize in Colorado. But if past policy is any indication, New York City may very well ban flavored e-cigarettes, another adult product damned because of its purported appeal to minors.

Back in 2009, Congress banned flavored cigarettes because they supposedly lured kids into smoking. But as a favor to Philip Morris, which supported the bill, Congress made an exception for menthol, the only flavor that has ever had a wide following among teenagers, while banning products like clove cigarettes and strawberry bidis, which accounted for something like 0.1 percent of the underage market. Later that year, the New York City Council went further, banning all flavored tobacco products (again, except for menthol cigarettes), on the theory that stopping adults from buying rum-flavored cigars or cherry-flavored pipe tobacco would stop kids from smoking cigarettes.

The argument for banning flavored e-cigarettes is equally rigorous. "These flavors are direct marketing to children," says the sponsor of the bill, Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Queens). "They appeal to children, and we're taking them out of that market."

Notice how Constantinides, like the CDPHE, equates making a product that could appeal to minors with "direct marketing to children." I doubt that Constantinides has any evidence, aside from his own intuition, to back up his claim that e-cigarette companies are targeting children. But one thing is clear: Whether or not they appeal to minors, the flavors that offend him appeal to adults who switch from smoking to vaping.

In a survey conducted by E-Cigarette Forum last summer, three-quarters of adult vapers preferred flavor categories other than tobacco, including fruit (31 percent), bakery/dessert (19 percent), and savory/spice (5 percent). Sales data from Palm Beach Vapors, a chain of 14 stores that sell vaping equipment and liquids to adults only, confirm that supposedly juvenile flavors are popular with adults. Last fiscal year, only two of the chain's top 19 sellers were tobacco flavors. They finished 18th and 19th, far below flavors such as strawberry, watermelon, and cinnamon.

Two-thirds of the ex-smokers in the E-Cigarette Forum survey said nontobacco flavors were important in helping them quit. Survey data reported in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health last December likewise indicate that flavor variety is important in quitting. That study, which involved about 4,500 vapers, found that they tended to prefer tobacco-flavored fluid initially but later switched to other flavors. Most reported using more than one flavor on a daily basis and said the variety made the experience more interesting and enjoyable.

Critics like Constantinides and Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-Va.), guided by little more than their own idiosyncratic tastes, want to decree which flavors adult vapers may consume, even at the cost of deterring smokers from quitting. They do so in the name of protecting children, even though the risk that experimenting with e-cigarettes will lead to smoking is purely speculative.

"Although there have been claims that EC [electronic cigarettes] is acting as a 'gateway' to smoking in young people," notes a recent review in the journal Addiction, "the evidence does not support this assertion. Regular use of EC by non-smokers is rare, and no migration from EC to smoking has been documented (let alone whether this occurred in individuals not predisposed to smoking in the first place). The advent of EC has been accompanied by a decrease rather than increase in smoking uptake by children."

In other words, Constantinides and his allies are prepared to sacrifice the interests, and potentially the lives, of verifiably real adults for the sake of hypothetical teenagers. This is where the logic of regulating "for the children" leads. Attempts to child-proof the world do not necessarily make kids any safer, but they always makes adults less free.

This article originally appeared at

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  1. The French give wine to children. So do the Catholics. Do you want to be like the Catholics, Sullum? Or the French? No, I didn’t think so.

  2. Little kids like beer. (So I’ve been told.)

    BAN IT!

  3. “Sullum says this argument socialism should be a non-starter in a free society, because it reduces adults to the level of children”


    1. But we have to reduce adults to the level of children – for the children.

      1. The children may not want the competition sucking at Uncle Sambo’s teat.

    2. ” it reduces adults to the level of children”

      Adults don’t need socialism for that. They are reducing themselves to the level of children and capitalism is willing to do whatever it can to help.

  4. Is there really any use to add the obligatory ‘for the children’ these days. I thought it was just a given that everything we have to ban is for the children.

  5. This isn’t about kids. It never was. The tobacco prohibitionists have been dancing around banning tobacco entirely for decades, because they are dimly aware of what a train wreck banning alcohol was. They seem to think that if they stop jist short of a general ban they won’t get the smuggling,nthe crime-boom, and the social rebellion. That marks them as goddemned fools, but we knew that.

    The Marijuana Projibitionists are fighting a hysterical rearguarg action against a public that has finally grown sick to the teeth of their REEFER MADNESS idiocy.

    Both bunches, and they probably overlap a lot, should be told to go climb a tree.

    1. The only thing standing in between the tobacco prohibitionists and banning tobacco completely are the politicians who see the budget ramifications of such a ban.

      1. I don’t think that’s quite true, although there is a lot to it. The anti-tobacco Crusaders do seem to be at least dimly aware that banning alcohol was a disaster for the anti-saloon league. What they don’t seem to grasp is that they are having almost the same effect as things are. Smoking, which was socially out for a while, is increasingly seen as cool again, because it’s associated with resistance to the nannies.

        We’ll see. I’m convinced that the fools will eventually get over their hesitation, and then we’ll have smoke ledgers, smokeasies, and gang battles over territory. The Hip Smokers will become an icon, just as the smart drunk did in the ’20’s, and it will take the nannies decades to undo the damage, if they ever do.

        All because they just can’t STAND it when their fellow citizens won’t do what the nannies tell them would be good for them.

  6. Both bunches, and they probably overlap a lot, should be told to go climb a tree

    Why do you hate the trees?

    1. Overexposure to the nitwits who claim to love them.

  7. The reason we have people who want to do counter-productive things like this is optics. This entire nation is more concerned with optical illusions than results or cause and effect. It’s the same foolishness that leads to gun registration, stripping citizens of their rights based on state laws and bans on “assault” weapons, despite the fact that 50 years ago there were no school shootings yet you could purchase firearms at hardware stores and through mail order catalogs delivered to your door. It’s not the solution to anything and will have negative results, but it looks good so lets go for it.

    1. despite the fact that 50 years ago there were no school shootings

      Woah, hold up there, Hoss!

      My favorite from the list:

      April 9, 1952: New York City, A 15-year-old boarding school student shot a dean rather than relinquish pin-up pictures of girls in bathing suits.

  8. You know what kids really like? Smoking weed.

  9. “The CDPHE claims “the intent of the Amendment and subsequent laws and rules was to decriminalize the use of retail marijuana, not to encourage market expansion…” This is like saying “The ban on lawn-mowing was not intended to increase the height of grass.” Any politician who spouts this sort of illogical nonsense needs to be IQ tested, and the results made public.

    1. There’s nothing wrong with his IQ. It’s his opinion of his opinion of the voters’ IQ that is low.

  10. my friend’s sister makes $70 hourly on the internet . She has been fired from work for 6 months but last month her paycheck was $16511 just working on the internet for a few hours. straight from the source…..


  11. And again I ask, where are the “freedom-loving” candidates calling bullshit on this “for the children” crap – one week before elections?

  12. My buddy’s sister-in-law makes $83 /hour on the computer . She has been without work for 8 months but last month her pay was $17994 just working on the computer for a few hours.
    For information check this site. ?????

  13. Can you have some spare time to sit back in your chair having your laptop with you and making some money online for some interesting online work said Jenny Francis in the party last nightsee more what is for you there to increase your pocket money??.

  14. Do people NOT talk to their children? I mean, I am so sick of this excuse… Think of the Children! I don’t want you to think of my children! I will think about my own, talk to my own AND inform them on my own. Grow some balls people! Speak up for what you want! Someone who keeps spouting off Think of the Children are really NOT thinking of the children… they have their own agenda. They don’t care about your children. No one loves your children but you! It’s up to you to tell your children about pot you can eat in food. It’s up to you to tell your children about the dangers of smoking and that e cigarettes, although better than cigarettes are still NOT something you want to see them doing. That was the responsibility I set upon myself as a smoker and now e cigarette vapor’er… I don’t want some a hole telling my children what is good for bad for them. What I want my children exposed to is up to ME! NOT YOU! NOT THEM. If I didn’t want to raise them, I would have given them to the state. Obviously, I took my parenting seriously and have raised 6 smart, free thinking human beings who know they have choices. Get out of my house, stop trying to parent my children and stop telling me you’re worried about my children. Figure out how to balance the budget… figure out how to bring our soldiers home… rest assured. I’m taking care of MY kids and I’m sure a few million other people are as well.

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