California's Anti-Vaping Law Puts Puritanism Above Health

Part of the ideological war on tobacco



I like to quote H.L. Mencken's definition of Puritanism: "The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy." It often applies in the California state capitol, with one of the latest anti-tobacco bills—five of which were signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown (D) earlier this month—being an obvious example of what Baltimore's favorite cynic was talking about.

Most attention has focused on the law raising the smoking age from 18 to 21. But the most significant new law—the one that evokes Mencken—actually deals with vaping. S.B. X2-5, sponsored by state Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), "recasts and broadens the definition of 'tobacco product' in current law to include electronic cigarettes." It applies all the current tobacco-related rules and restrictions, including the new age 21 rule, to vaping products.

Leno says the new law closes a "loophole" that allowed e-cigarettes to be treated differently than tobacco. But there was no loophole. E-cigarettes heat a liquid and create vapor, not smoke. They are not tobacco. Many of the smoking solutions have nicotine in them, but others do not. Experts estimate vaping presents no more than 5 percent of the risk of smoking real cigarettes.

Why would the state classify a non-tobacco product as tobacco? It's part of an ideological war on tobacco. There's no reason to cut tobacco companies any slack, given the inherent dangers of the products they sell. But it's disturbing when the state, succumbing to the influence of public-health activists, decides to embrace a crusade mentality that could cause serious harm to public health.

Study after study find vaping is a safer—note the word safer, not safe— alternative to smoking cigarettes. The United Kingdom's well-respected Royal College of Physicians recently released a study that acknowledges what anti-smoking activists say: "Smoking is the biggest avoidable cause of death and disability, and social inequality in health, in the UK." It notes quitting smoking is difficult for most people, who are addicted to nicotine. But it finds "in the interests of public health it is important to promote the use of e-cigarettes."

Although anti-smoking activists may promote the use of nicotine patches and other such treatments to help people break their bad habit, e-cigarettes "appear to be more effective when used by smokers as an aid to quitting smoking," according to the study. That's because it's more enjoyable to take a break and puff on an e-cigarette than to chew nicotine gum, wear a patch or use nasal spray. I think it's the enjoyment factor that sets off these anti-vaping zealots.

State and federal officials counter that vaping may be a gateway to tobacco use. That sounds plausible, except it doesn't appear to be true.

"There are concerns that e-cigarettes will increase tobacco smoking by renormalizing the act of smoking, acting as a gateway to smoking in young people," reported the study. "To date, there is no evidence that any of these processes is occurring to any significant degree in the UK. Rather, the available evidence to date indicates that e-cigarettes are being used almost exclusively as safer alternatives to smoked tobacco, by confirmed smokers who are trying to reduce harm to themselves or others, or to quit smoking completely."

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is taking an anti-vaping approach with its new regulations, which led my R Street Institute colleague Cameron Smith to conclude the agency apparently "wants more people to die of lung cancer." Without vaping, more people will keep smoking a deadly product. Nothing is assuredly 100 percent safe. The question is about harm reduction. Vaping clearly reduces harm, but it does so in an enjoyable manner. The enjoyment factor probably explains why it's so successful. What's wrong with that?

I've experienced such nanny-ism when I sought information about the risks of puffing on a cigar every now and again. Most of the government information portrayed cigars as the equivalent of cigarettes, even though cigar smokers tend to smoke on occasion and rarely inhale. It's easy to discount literature that has a "reefer madness" ring to it.

As with vaping, officials seem more interested in stopping something they don't like than honestly evaluating the risks. It's too bad, given the likely health benefits of this product. Maybe the best approach to satisfy the Puritans would be if people who use e-cigarettes stopped behaving as if they enjoyed them.

NEXT: Tom Cotton Says U.S. Facing an 'Under Incarceration' Problem, Slams Criminal Justice Reform as 'Criminal Leniency'

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  1. Vaping looks sort of like smoking. It must be destroyed.

    1. Your a mean one.

    2. You have all the tender sweetness of a seasick crocodile!

    3. One of the “reasons” local anti-vapers get the vapors is “police in stores where smoking is prohibited can’t tell who is vaping instead of smoking.”

      These are the same people who swear they choke and gasp on secondhand smoke if someone lights up on the other side of a football stadium.

  2. Leno says the new law closes a “loophole” that allowed e-cigarettes to be treated differently than tobacco.

    It’s the same loophole that lets you cash a paycheck instead of all of it going to the government.

    Ban loopholes.

    1. You mean loopholes like large standard deductions and personal exemptions for middle class families and child care credits? I never hear about those,just,the rich must pay their fair share.

      1. It’s only a loophole when it allows somebody that you don’t happen to like to keep more of their own money.

    2. No, it’s more like the loophole that allows driving below the speed limit. Or that allows one to ride in a car with a seat belt on. Or that allows one to sit with no seat belt on in a car in a driveway; yeah, that’s the closest of these. Another would be the loophole that allows pointless lawn darts. Or that allows a non-carcinogenic food additive that does the work of a carcinogenic one. Or that allows virtual child porn or simulated snuff pictures.

      I don’t think it’s about animus against tobacco or tobacco companies, or this would be about mfr. or sales rather than use. It’s not about foregone taxes either, else they’d just enact a tax. It’s that people forget the purpose of a law. They see there was a law against smoking, then they see a practice that allows people to accomplish the same end, so they figure it’s a loophole asking to be closed. It almost did happen with virtual child porn, with only a judicial remedy to stop it from happening. It’s happened with sexting, i.e. self-child porn.

    3. It’s the type of “loophole” that enables me to treat my ass differently than I treat my elbow: Knowing the difference.

  3. A better Mencken quote would be Mencken’s Law:

    “Whenever A annoys or injures B on the pretext of saving or improving X, A is a scoundrel”

    Kind of sums up all the world’s buttinskies in a nutshell.

    The anti-tobacco Crusade abandoned reason and logic so long ago that they can’t see either from where they are now.

  4. Progressives are pro-science. Except when they aren’t.

  5. Progressives are pro-science. Except when they aren’t.

    1. How about proggie squirrelz?

  6. Seems mundane, but using tobacco laws to regulate things that are not tobacco is a concrete example of doublespeak that should scare even statists. Reminds me of the “hate speech isn’t free speech” nonsense that began not too long ago. It will eventually have repercussions that dwarf the immediate catalyst of vaping.*

    *thus endeth my sermon; the choir may now continue singing

    1. Ban night shade vegetables .They contain nicotine.

  7. Progressive/socialist/communists are very uptight control freaks. They are the essence of a bummer, the square, the kill-joy.

    It is because of their interpretation of the US Constitution that we have a drug war and an unaccountable, deeply corrupt, and out of control federal government.

    1. I wonder how much of it is that governments are addicted to tobacco themselves (in the form of sin taxes). Vaping could be a major threat to that revenue stream if it’s promoted properly.

    1. These cold hands?


      1. Nice scare tactic. Typically when devices(yes, that includes your cellphone) blow up, it is user error. I like to think of it as natural selection.

        1. The reason for it is because lithium ion batteries themselves have issues, not because an E-CIG is particularly terrible. Go ahead and see how many assholes will then turn around and call for a ban on their precious iPhone. I imagine just shy of 1% of these nanny-statists. I also imagine plenty of them gave a ‘smart’ phone to their child! Shall we call CPS on them? Hmm…

          1. Oh, and don’t forget their precious Prius. Can’t get rid of that either.

            Now that I think about it, your typical proggie likes a lot of explosive items…

  8. Why would the state classify a non-tobacco product as tobacco?

    *** scratches head ***

    Because a non-tobacco product can’t self-identify as a woman?

  9. Alt-text should be: just the tip.

  10. Don’t forget the taxation angle. “Tobacco” is evil, so we can tax the living daylights out of it on top of restricting it to ludicrous degrees.

    1. It’s easy to take the moral high ground when you’re also making a ton of cold hard cash off your ‘morals’, am I right or am I right?

    2. Yeah this is about money, but in typical prog fashion they’ll spin it as being about the children

      As someone who just went past two months smoke-free, using an e-cig, the FDA’s plan with this bothers me. I’ll be using it for another month and then I’ll give up the device completely. It’s done me a lot of good, made quitting easier, so I’m sympathetic to the vaping community because of the good that can come from it.

      That being said, even if someone wants to vape forever, all the power to them.

      I think I support a minimum age, but that’s where it ends.

    1. Fuck Gawker too. Off-topic, by blood sugar all last week was in 250-280 range, it is now in the 150-180 range.

      1. *my – walks off and mumbles about coffee

      2. That’s good. Did your A1C comes back yet?

        1. 9.7

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  12. You might ask how a product that contains no tobacco can be deemed a “tobacco product”. It’s the same way you can be charged with a dui without the “d”. FYTW.

    1. Also in the same way that property (usually cash) can itself be deemed “guilty” as an excuse to steal it via civil asset forfeiture.

  13. Fuck these fuckers worth a fuck stick. And the FDA, too. Who asked these people to stick their nose into shit that is clearly none of their business?

    1. Incorrect sir!

      These fuckers are NOT worth a fuck stick. I value my personal fuck sticks way more than I do these fuckers.

  14. “The more obvious the failure becomes, the more shamelessly they [the prohibitionists] exhibit their genuine motives. In plain words, what moves them is the psychological aberration called sadism. They lust to inflict inconvenience, discomfort, and whenever possible, disgrace upon the persons they hate ? which is to say, upon everyone who is free from their barbarous theological superstitions, and is having a better time in the world than they are.”

    “They cannot stop the use of alcohol, nor even appreciably diminish it, but they can badger and annoy everyone who seeks to use it decently, and they can fill the jails with men taken for purely artificial offences, and they can get satisfaction thereby for the Puritan yearning to browbeat and injure, to torture and terrorize, to punish and humiliate all who show any sign of being happy. And all this they can do with a safe line of policemen and judges in front of them; always they can do it without personal risk.”

    ?an extract from “Notes on Democracy” by Henry Louis Mencken, written in 1926, during alcohol prohibition, 1919-1933

  15. If only there was a sin tax on spam in comment sections. The states would be rolling in the dough.

  16. Leno = fascist

    1. Leno is surprisingly unattractive for a gay man:


      You would think he would at least consider botox…

  17. This is California? Just tell them you are vaping 420 and it should be all good.

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  19. RE: California’s Anti-Vaping Law Puts Puritanism Above Health
    Part of the ideological war on tobacco

    Look, it’s simple.
    Kalifornia, like New York, is a nanny state.
    Nannies will nanny.
    Otherwise their lives will be meaningless.
    We can’t have that now can we?

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