E-cigarettes

Government Officials Are Determined to Turn Vapers Into Scofflaws

E-cigarettes aren't just a safer alternative to the real thing, they're an innovation people plan to use whether or not scolds approve.

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It shouldn't be surprising that, even as researchers endorse the harm-reduction potential of e-cigarettes and a prominent British medical group flat-out endorses their use, government officials are doing their best to make vaping difficult and expensive, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stands poised to impose what are widely expected to be burdensome regulations on the popular smoking substitute. After all, what good is a pleasurable pastime without a little taste of prohibition? Or, at least, that seems to be about as far as official "thinking" ventures.

If officials are successful in their efforts to tangle vaping in red tape, you can expect the public reaction to be as defiant as always.

For those not in the know, e-cigarettes are handheld devices that vaporize liquid for inhalation. One popular component of that liquid is nicotine, making the widgets handy stand-ins for cigarettes, and the devices can even be made to look like old-fashioned smokes. For many vapers, though, the ability to customize the appearance of e-cigarettes and to choose the flavor of the "juice" is part of the appeal.

Given that combination of personalization and nicotine delivery without actually having to set something on fire, it's no wonder that e-cigarettes are growing in popularity. The ranks of vapers doubled from 10 percent of smokers to 21 percent just from 2010 to 2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). By 2014, e-cigarettes were more popular than traditional tobacco products among teens, University of Michigan researchers found.

That really pisses off CDC director Tom Frieden, who told the Los Angeles Times, "To me, as a physician, when 1.78 million of our high school kids have tried an e-cigarette and a lot of them are using them regularly … that's like watching someone harm hundreds of thousands of children."

Harm? Really?

Maybe, if you assume that any recreational nicotine consumption is a bad thing, and that the alternative to e-cigarette use is an ascetic lifestyle, you could make the case for "harm." But a lot of people in the know disagree. They say that vapers are likely to use e-cigarettes as an alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes, and that depriving them of their preferred pleasure is likely to drive them to actual tobacco, or to simply ignore regulators.

E-cigarettes "could reduce harm to never smokers who would have otherwise initiated long-term cigarette use, and reduce harm to current smokers by helping them to quit," write a panel of researchers headed by David T. Levy, an oncologist at Georgetown University, in a paper published last week in the journal Addiction.

Britain's Royal College of Physicians goes even further. In a report issued last week, the group, which sets standards for doctors in the UK, urged that "in the interests of public health it is important to promote the use of e-cigarettes, [nicotine replacement therapy] and other non-tobacco nicotine products as widely as possible as a substitute for smoking."

The principle here is "harm reduction," based on the recognition that people are going to do what they want to do, not what kill-joy scolds wish they'd do. Since restrictions and prohibitions won't really curb people's disfavored behavior, it's best to reduce the harm they suffer by leaving them options that have a realistic chance of minimizing the damage done.

Like letting people choose a wildly popular recent innovation that dispenses nicotine through vaporized liquid instead of the smoke from burning leaves.

As Frieden's comment above indicates, U.S. officials aren't really leaning in that direction. The FDA's proposed rules, which could officially take effect anytime, would (among other things) require that any vaping products introduced after February 15, 2007 would have to be pulled from the market and reintroduced only after working their way through an approval process established by hostile government nags.

That regulatory gauntlet is almost certain to not only inconvenience vapers, but favor large, established companies accustomed to negotiating bureaucratic mazes—such as tobacco companies.

The FDA's attitude can probably be predicted by the warnings it has been issuing about the lack of regulation (a gap it's more than willing to fill) and invitations for tales of "adverse events" with e-cigarettes.

The only thing currently standing in the way of prohibition (and crony capitalism) by regulation is an amendment to the agriculture appropriations bill that would leave vaping products subject to regulation, but would eliminate the requirement that products introduced after the magic 2007 date undergo pre-market approval.

Well, that's not the only thing standing in the way of prohibition. People's unwillingness to be bossed around also plays a big role. At the end of 2015, the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association surveyed its membership about their potential response to a variety of scenarios, from restrictions on the availability of vaping products to total bans. From 89 percent to 93 percent responded that they'd continue "getting products and supplies (e.g., e-liquid) from overseas or the domestic black market," or make the juice for themselves (the Internet is chock full of guides and products for enthusiasts who want to brew their own concoctions).

Many others would just turn to actual tobacco, of course.

Even if the FDA is thwarted, local killjoys might make e-cigarette bootlegging a going concern anyway. Vermont is poised to adopt a 92 percent excise tax on e-cigarettes as well as tight rules on their sale and use in public. Other jurisdictions have adopted similarly restrictive policies, without regard to the positive alternative the devices offer to old-fashioned smokes.

Government scolds seem bound and determined to subject vaping to the same prohibitionist policies they've inflicted on actual tobacco products. If they do, they're guaranteed to reap the same defiance and generate a whole new type of black market.

NEXT: Why Shouldn't Bernie Sanders Stay in the Damned Race?

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  1. Vaping is dangerously addictive. If I can’t get my vapes I’d prostitute myself or make a deal with a pimp to prostitute me out for a cut even if it was only $5. Even if he beat me regularly. Yes I am that hopelessly addicted – nicotene is the worst. People who sell e-cigs to kids should be fed feet first into woodchippers.

    1. Please kill yourself.

      1. Push ‘Reset’ on your sarc detector.

        1. I can’t do that, it would short out the midplane and I’d be out $80 for a replacement.

          1. More importantly, why is everyone jumping at the troll and ignoring the bigger picture? That’s twice he’s misspelled nicotine.

          2. More importantly, why is everyone jumping at the troll and ignoring the bigger picture? That’s twice he’s misspelled nicotine.

            1. Speaking of twice.

            2. You can say that again

              1. Internet law. I checked that post repeatedly for spelling errors, and when I was certain I’d made none, thought, “Yeah, the squirrels will even it up by getting me.”

                And, naturally…

        2. It’s hard to tell sometimes with AM. He’s posted so much stupid shit, some of it seemingly sincerely, that it’s impossible to know if he’s being sarcastic or if he really is that stupid.

      2. Sounds like the vapors are going to do it for him!

    2. I fell for your sarcasm the first time AdMyth. NEVERMORE *caws and flies off

  2. This is government of the people, by the people, and for the people? Nothing new under the sun that they don’t want to get all in the middle of, boss you around about, and fuck you over for.

  3. SCIENCE!!!!

    1. They fucking love it?

  4. Socialist interpretation of the commerce clause – big daddy looking out for us.

  5. Government excel at, retardation, monopolies, and misery.

    From banning plastic bags to e-cigarettes, this is what we mean by ‘big government’ intervening in minutaie of our daily lives.

    Basically what we need is a libertarian moment.

    1. You had your moment.

      It ended.

      1. That was fast and wood.

  6. They say that vapers are likely to use e-cigarettes as an alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes, and that depriving them of their preferred pleasure is likely to drive them to actual tobacco, or to simply ignore regulators.

    Sounds like Dr. Frieden is the one with the vapors! Hmmmm?? *cocks an eyebrow*

    1. He’s turning Japanese?

  7. depriving them of their preferred pleasure is likely to drive them to … simply ignore regulators.

    Just like everyone else, from texting-while-drivers to heroin junkies.

  8. I’m old enough to remember when cigarette ads used to tout their low-tar status as a good thing. The official position of the government is that implying some cigarettes are less-bad than others is a fraud, which is in itself a fraud. As far as I am aware, nicotine by itself is simply not a huge health hazard (yes, it is a poison but I’m talking about normal doses – a few beers is not the same thing as a half-gallon of Jack nor is a couple of aspirin the same as the whole bottle) but it’s the delivery system that’s the problem. Nicotine doesn’t cause lung cancer, smoking cigarettes causes lung cancer. So obviously, these Puritans sincerely and plainly and honestly want nicotine users to get cancer and die. There simply is absolutely no excuse whatsoever for what these sick fucks are twisting science for, it’s just pure evil.

    1. these Puritans sincerely and plainly and honestly want nicotine users to get cancer and die.

      Well, duh. Nicotine is a substance which helps some people feel better and gives them just a little hint of pleasure, and as we all know anything that gives people pleasure (other hard work – Puritan work ethic and all) is the work of “teh debil.” And anyone who’s in congress with teh debil deserves to die a slow painful death. QED.

      1. “anything that gives people pleasure (other hard work – Puritan work ethic and all)”

        But the neo-Puritans who are trying to ban vaping/e-ciggies are almost exclusively progressive democrats, and we know that they are against hard work too. So this makes no sense.

    2. Skoal!

  9. WHY IS NO ONE APPLAUDING THE RETURN OF 2-CHILI?!?!?

    1. I bow to no man in my appreciation of 2Chili, but he does still contribute articles to Reason from time to time, it is known.

  10. I’ve never understood people’s inclination to seek control over the habits of their neighbors. Why must it concern you that your countrymen indulge in harmful personal behaviors? They assume the risks their chosen pleasures entail by partaking of potentially unhealthy activities voluntarily, and it is wholly their right to do so without being inhibited by government. Free men are at liberty to do with their bodies as they desire, detrimental physiologically though some choices may be.

    The totalitarian imbeciles among us must eventually learn that they have no valid justification for the chains they place upon their compatriots.

    1. Why must it concern you that your countrymen indulge in harmful personal behaviors?

      We need a population of healthy young men in order to defend the borders of our nation-state.

      1. We don’t need a population of any sort for that purpose. We’ve already got Leonidas down in Los Angeles, just waiting for the Russians to invade.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Prc1UfuokY

      2. It’s not the defense of borders that these particular scolds are concerned with, but with trying to wring out as much tax money as possible.

        Banning them will inevitably push people back to smoking which fills their coffers with tobacco settlement cash. Taxing them heavily will either push people back to smoking or fill their coffers via the tax itself.

        It’s all about 1) money and 2) control. Government bureaucrats never have enough of either, and with their bullshittery they can have both, with the bonus of watching someone get killed by the police for the temerity of wanting to choose their method to quit smoking, because you know it’s coming.

    2. Since we all pay for each others healthcare it’s clearly in all of our interest to make sure no one at all is allowed to negatively impact their own health because their personal well being keeps our wallets full and taxes low. Thus, we all are interested in keeping our neighbors health and fit because, if they aren’t, we foot the bill. Ergo it is not only our responsibility, but our privilege to

      Of course, this is also why the beneficent government is making sure that everyone is genetically tested and matched with mutually beneficial partners for breeding. Unwanted genetic variation will, obviously, be cleansed post haste. Since there are already far too many people, we must bring the number of humans down considerably and make sure that those who remain are simply the best we can make them.

      /proglodyte ‘futurist’

      1. “…but our privilege to rat out unhealthy choices.”

        Whoops…

    3. ONLY DEATH WILL CONVINCE THEM

  11. You know if the Republicans were really a “small government party” this issue would be front and center and they would be clubbing the progressives over the head with it. Unfortunately the problem with that party isn’t image or branding or the unfair media it is that they just don’t give a shit about liberty issues yet are trying to sell themselves as the party of small government. Nobody is going to be sold on a party marketed as being for “small government” that in reality doesn’t stand for much of anything.

    1. “Nobody is going to be sold on a party marketed as being for “small government” that in reality doesn’t stand for much of anything.”

      Problem is that there a lot of people who do not want smaller government, and these are the ones who are more likely to vote.

    2. “Nobody is going to be sold on a party marketed as being for ‘small government’ that in reality doesn’t stand for much of anything.”

      Not sure how true this is. How long now have people been voting Republican saying it’s because they’re the party of small government, or at least smaller government than the Democrats? Even after the Bush years?

      1. I really don’t hear this much or at all anymore. I do hear various incarnations of “I vote republican because the democrats are pure evil”

        That hardly qualifies as being sold on republicans.

  12. “By 2014, e-cigarettes were more popular than traditional tobacco products among teens, University of Michigan researchers found.”

    Is it fair to call an e-cig a ‘tobacco product’ if it doesn’t contain nicotine and contains zero things connected to Tobacco? This would be akin to calling Wintergreen Bubblegum a tobacco product because some people like to chew it while smoking a cigarette.

    I’m not sure if these ‘teen surveys’ are actually asking about nicotine or not, but something tells me they need to inflate the teen usage rate in order to get the desired amount of panic.

    1. Since it is illegal for teenagers to smoke (in most states, anyway), why does anybody take ‘research’ that involves asking teens if they smoke seriously?

  13. The FDA’s attitude can probably be predicted by the warnings it has been issuing about the lack of regulation (a gap it’s more than willing to fill)

    And they’ll fill that gap, good and hard…

    Government scolds seem bound and determined to subject vaping to the same prohibitionist policies they’ve inflicted on actual tobacco products. If they do, they’re guaranteed to reap the same defiance and generate a whole new type of black market.

    Coming soon to an H&R post: the first case of a toddler being burned half to death in a 3 AM no-knock SWAT raid over black market e-cig juice.

    1. +1 FLASH-BANG GRENADE

  14. Deep sigh followed by deep vape…

    I imagine that the dozens of smaller e-cig companies along with some of the big dogs like Altria or RJR could sue the FDA over the e-cig regulations being overly restrictive. That could delay any action for years, like the lawsuit against the EPA and CO2 emissions.

    1. What would be the basis of such a suit? “Too restrictive” isn’t illegal.

      The CO2 emissions thing was about whether CO2 could rightly be considered a “pollutant” according to the meaning intended in 1965 by the Clean Air Act. You’d have to find something similar re Congressional intent as to vape.

      1. Remember, the US Sup. Ct. did turn back FDA’s attempt to regulate tobacco products as medical devices, on the basis of Congressional intent. Then Congress went ahead & amended the FFDCA to cover tobacco products, but as a thing in themselves, not drugs or medical devices. It may not be clear whether vape containing nicotine was meant to be covered under any of those provisions. Unfortunately I’m afraid that even if they succeed in persuading courts that the tobacco provisions were not meant to cover e-cigs & vape, FDA has a case at least as good as they have for much of their regulation of other products that, given the knowledge out there that vape is useful in smoking cessation, and given that smoking cessation is considered a medical treatment, nicotine-containing vape is a drug, and vaping apparatus with or without nicotine in the juice is a medical device. But then, maybe that’s enough to tie it up in court for a while, so you’re right in that way.

        1. Robert, the Fourth Circuit already ruled that e-cigs are NOT a medical device several years ago when the FDA was first trying to kill them. So now they are trying to tax/regulate them out of existence.

          Who knows what will happen next, but the good thing is that e-cigs have been around long enough and there are enough vapers to have some clout that the FDA will hopefully think twice before setting everything back 10 years.

          1. Why would the FDA thunk twice. Is there any evidence that anyone in the entire agency THINKS? As opposed to moving in a series of refelxive jerks?

  15. They can come pry my mod and my gun from my cold dead hands. (I didn’t just hex myself, did I?)*vapes in office ’cause boss likes me to stay at my desk instead of fucking off outside

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  17. I assume the government’s argument is that the science is settled?

  18. I think what’s driving legislation like this is blind loophole-closing. Vaping is seen as a loophole in the smoking laws, so they’re moving to close it, regardless of the justif’n for the smoking laws, flimsy as they were:

    “We ban smoking around other people.”
    “There must be a good reason for that.”
    “This allows people to accomplish the same goal as smoking.”
    “Then we must ban this too. Because that goal must’ve been the reason.”

    Same thing with applying kid porn laws to sexting.

  19. “We must tax tobacco to cover the health-care costs of smoking”

    (An alternative to smoking arises with no health care costs)

    “Uh.. we need to tax that too”

  20. RE: Government Officials Are Determined to Turn Vapers Into Scofflaws
    E-cigarettes aren’t just a safer alternative to the real thing, they’re an innovation people plan to use whether or not scolds approve.

    Amerika is a nanny state.
    You can’t have a nanny state without an army of nannys.
    Otherwise people would start thinking for themselves, acting responsible and enjoy freedom to choose their own lifestyle.
    What socialist turd would want that?

  21. I would say that the headline loudly shouts the following. These Officials Lack Real Work To Do.

  22. The anti-tobacco hysterics have been throwing a decades long tantrum ever since it bacame clear that a portion of the population just wasn’t going to do as they were told amd flat-out quit. As a society we should have, metaphirically, snatched them off the flooor by the scruff of their collective neck and dusted the seat of their pants for them. That is how one deals with shreiking, kicking children.

    We didn’t. And so they have learned that they can make any unreasonable demands they want and there will be no repurcussions.

  23. It’s the good vs. the best.

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