Smoking Bans

Scott Gottlieb's FDA Is Moving Toward a Stealth Ban on Cigarettes and Cigars

The Food and Drug Administration can't ban cigarettes outright. But the agency appears to be planning a workaround.



Earlier this month, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced sweeping new rules governing e-cigarettes and tobacco in the United States. The most striking change is a ban on the sale of most flavored e-cigarettes in retail locations that admit minors, which will limit most in-person sales to specialty retailers like vape shops and tobacconists. The FDA also announced its intention to eventually ban menthol cigarettes and all forms of flavored cigars.

More worryingly, these moves may pave the way for even more radical regulations that would, in essence, make it illegal to sell the combustible tobacco products favored by cigarette and cigar smokers throughout the United States.

The new vaping rules fall short of the stricter interventions favored by many anti-smoking activists. But even though Gottlieb is a former fellow at the American Enterprise Institute who was appointed by Donald Trump with the expectation that he would champion deregulatory policies, his longer term plans align the FDA with the most strident anti-smoking groups. In addition to banning menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, Gottlieb is steering the FDA toward mandating low nicotine yields in combusted tobacco, a regulatory intervention that would effectively outlaw most traditional tobacco products.

Paired with his support for e-cigarettes, the policies evolving at the FDA break down the standard framing of debates within tobacco control, which typically pits advocates of harm reduction against abstinence-only hardliners. The newly emerging division is between those who embrace a liberal, dynamic approach to regulation and aggressive interventionists who advocate technocratic central planning of the tobacco market. Despite his intellectual ties to free market think tanks, Gottlieb increasingly looks like a radical restrictionist out to ban the sale of smoking products as we now know them forever.

How creeping interventions could lead to a federal takeover of the tobacco market

Gottlieb announced his intentions in July of last year as part of a comprehensive plan to transition cigarette smokers to less dangerous forms of nicotine delivery. "Envisioning a world where cigarettes would no longer create or sustain addiction, and where adults who still need or want nicotine could get it from alternative and less harmful sources, needs to be the cornerstone of our efforts," he said.

Technically, the FDA is forbidden by law from requiring the complete elimination of nicotine in tobacco. But it could mandate that nicotine be reduced to near zero. The FDA says it is considering the pros and cons of "lowering nicotine in cigarettes to a minimally or non-addictive level through the creation of a potential nicotine product standard." The idea is that new smokers would never get addicted, and current smokers would be forced to quit or turn elsewhere for their fix.

In this scenario, cigarette smokers would switch to e-cigs or similar devices. Realistically, however, many of them will choose to stick with actual tobacco, sourcing it on the black market or buying it in other legal forms such as roll-your-own, pipe tobacco, small cigars, and premium cigars.

Therein lies the threat for people who enjoy smoking any of those products. Cigarette smokers who switch to these instead of e-cigarettes would offset the gains of regulation, inviting further interventions. A rule that began by targeting only cigarettes could end up affecting all forms of combustible tobacco, including premium cigars.

This is no idle speculation. Anti-smoking organizations are actively and explicitly pressuring the FDA to mandate low nicotine yields across the board. According to comments to the FDA signed by a bevy of anti-smoking groups, "There is no rational basis for reducing nicotine levels in cigarettes, while leaving cigars highly addictive. …Exempting cigars from a reduced nicotine standard is likely to lead current cigarette smokers to switch to cigars or use both cigarettes and cigars to satisfy their need for nicotine." The FDA's own analysis similarly concludes that extending its authority to all forms of tobacco would be necessary "to rectify an institutional failure in which tobacco products that are close substitutes are not regulated by the FDA in a like manner."

Whether Congress ever intended for the commissioner of the FDA to wield such power is debatable. The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, the 2009 law that gave the FDA the authority to regulate tobacco products, prohibits it from banning entire classes of tobacco products or requiring the removal of all nicotine. Mandating near-zero nicotine yields would accomplish essentially the same thing, perhaps complying with the letter of the law but ignoring its spirit.

"By continuing to advance this measure," Carrie Wade and Clive Bates argue in a policy study for the R Street Institute, "the FDA takes Congress literally but not seriously, and the agency would do well to recognize that Congress expects to authorize rulemaking of this significance." If an unelected agency head took such drastic action, it would arguably represent an anti-democratic power grab, substantially affecting millions of stakeholders without accountability.

If nicotine is essentially prohibited in cigars and other tobacco products, the act of smoking them would be fundamentally changed–a real cost to consumers who enjoy them. Anti-smoking groups implausibly deny this, contending that this wouldn't result in any loss of utility for cigar smokers because they would still be allowed to obtain nicotine from patches, gums, or e-cigarettes.

"To the extent that smokers derive pleasure from smoking apart from satisfying their need for nicotine, they will continue to be able to purchase cigarettes and other combusted products," they argue in their comments to the FDA. "Having access to both nicotine and combusted tobacco products, it is questionable whether smokers will experience any loss of consumer surplus, even assuming that such surplus is generated by smoking."

Yet the argument might persuade the FDA. The agency has struggled for years over whether to treat premium cigars differently from other tobacco products, likely because any threat to them would meet organized political resistance. It's possible that premium cigars would be exempt from new nicotine requirements, at least initially. But this special treatment would survive at the whim of future FDA commissioners, who might be inclined to revoke it for the sake of consistency or in response to cigarette smokers who turn to cigars as the last legal source of tobacco with nicotine. Sooner or later, Scott Gottlieb's proposal could end up affecting all traditional tobacco products throughout the United States.

The new debate over tobacco pits dynamism against technocracy

The increasingly aggressive moves by Gottlieb's FDA reveal the biggest divide in today's tobacco policy debate. On the one hand, there are people who favor an open, classically liberal approach to regulation that expands the range of choices. On the other, there are advocates of top-down, technocratic planning to reduce it.

Both groups recognize that nicotine products exist on a continuum of harm, with some substantially more dangerous than others. The liberals want to see cigarettes, the most dangerous product on the continuum, suffer creative destruction by voluntary means, with smokers choosing for themselves to take up safer alternatives. Educational campaigns, targeted advertising, and preferential tax treatment could provide additional nudges. The technocrats seek not to nudge but to shove, urging the FDA to manage the market from above by banning some products entirely and coercively rendering others less appealing.

In this new framing, Scott Gottlieb looks increasingly like a central planning wolf in deregulatory sheep's clothing. His early actions at the FDA protected the open market for e-cigarettes with the aim of promoting harm reduction, fending off restrictions that critics might portray as "nanny state" interference in the choices of consenting adults. His plans going forward suggest that the agency's hands-off approach is coming to an end. That will inevitably create conflict between regulators and the producers and consumers of the products they seek to remove from the market.

Part of the challenge is that the harm reduction argument sows the seeds of its own destruction. It's easy to see the benefit when an actual smoker switches to vaping. But if e-cigarettes are effective, then the population of smokers will fade away as they switch, quit, or never take up smoking in the first place. As the gains of harm reduction are realized, the underlying questions of consent and coercion that have always surrounded nicotine and tobacco use will come roaring back. What happens to the small minority of people who continue to smoke cigarettes in spite of everything? What about those who smoke for pleasure, perhaps with cigars or pipes? What about nonsmokers who take up vaping? Inevitably we'll have to confront the fact that people are smoking or using nicotine and the question of what, if anything, to do about it.

Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products, raised similar questions in an article published last month in Nicotine and Tobacco Research outlining the agency's concerns. "How comfortable are we with long-term, or possibly permanent, use of less harmful nicotine delivery mechanisms by adults, if they help keep currently addicted smokers from relapsing to combustible tobacco products?" Zeller asks. "Given the potential health impacts of dual use of tobacco, how acceptable is a short period of dual use while transitioning to less harmful nicotine-containing products? What if many current smokers engage in dual use on a long-term or permanent basis?"

Who is the relevant "we" and why should their determination of what is acceptable or comfortable be decisive for everyone else? One struggles to find any indication in the statements of FDA leaders that the preferences of individual smokers are viewed as a constraint on their actions. As Gottlieb noted in a recent interview with Reason, he is guided by a mandate to reduce smoking rates. The entirety of tobacco policy is reduced to one metric—the maximization of public health—at the expense of any other interests.

This approach, culminating in the plan to require near-zero nicotine yields, is thoroughly technocratic. It micromanages the flow of products on and off the market and places ever more restraints on adult behavior in pursuit of a single goal.

An alternative approach would embrace dynamism, a concept journalist and former Reason editor Virginia Postrel elucidated in her 1998 book The Future and Its Enemies. Technocrats, in her telling, advocate for a "one best way" determined by politically empowered experts. Dynamists, in contrast, "permit many visions and accept competing dreams…Their 'central organizing principle' is not a specific outcome but an open-ended process. A dynamic future tolerates diversity, evolves through trial and error, and contains a rich ecology of human choices."

E-cigarettes owe their evolution to that very sort of dynamism, arising from a messy, bottom-up process with minimal regulatory oversight. Had the FDA imposed its heavy-handed regulations a few years earlier, the tools the agency now sees as essential for harm reduction might not exist.

Yet to judge by his public comments, Gottlieb has faith in the power of technocratic authority. Once feared by progressives to be an unabashed deregulator, he has settled comfortably into the role of central planner when it comes to tobacco. He speaks of "on-ramps" and "off-ramps" to nicotine addiction that he believes he can manage from above to optimize public health. Even that road metaphor understates his top-down mindset. The job of traffic engineers is to help people get to where they want to go; Gottlieb wants to choose their destination too, insisting on abstinence from combustible tobacco as the only acceptable aim.

In contrast, a dynamic approach to tobacco regulation would empower smokers by giving them safer options while respecting their right to choose what goes into their bodies, whether it's drags from a cigarette, hits off a vape pen, or a cigar on special occasions. The millions of smokers who do want to quit could be aided by streamlining and clarifying the FDA's approval process for e-cigarettes, freeing manufacturers to speak truthfully about their products, and targeting advertisements to existing smokers.

The ultimate pattern of use that would emerge from such an open market is impossible to predict, but it would likely lead to longer, healthier lives for millions. Recent modeling published by health researchers in Tobacco Control projects that even with residual smoking rates of 5 to 10 percent, a large-scale transition to vapor products would prevent 1.6 to 6.5 million premature deaths between now and 2100.

In place of the aggressive central planning currently being contemplated by the FDA, a dynamist could look to the examples of Sweden and Norway. Residents in both of these countries have shifted consumption away from cigarettes and toward snus, a form of oral tobacco that presents much lower risks than familiar American-style chewing tobaccos. Sweden, which made the transition to snus earliest, now has phenomenally low rates of smoking, with superior health outcomes to match. The transition was driven by consumers from the bottom-up, largely without planning or approval by health authorities.

Academics differ about the extent to which snus has directly contributed to this success, but one lesson from the Nordic experience is that significant gains in health can be made by persuading people to give up smoking even if they don't give up tobacco and nicotine altogether. Swedes and Norwegians can still buy cigarettes and cigars, but given access to safer alternatives, the vast majority of them choose not to.

Harm reduction isn't always liberal

Scott Gottlieb has said he is committed to the idea that transitioning smokers and potential smokers to a safer form of nicotine delivery would prevent much of the harm caused by cigarettes. It's a compelling case, and we know from countries like Sweden and Norway that it can work.

But how we achieve that outcome matters. Harm reduction is typically viewed as the more liberal approach to tobacco control, but harm reduction itself comes in liberal and illiberal varieties. The proposal to ban flavors and eliminate nicotine in tobacco marries illiberal harm reduction to the so-called "endgame" strategies favored by the most radical wings of anti-smoking activism, guaranteeing conflict over who decides what products adults have access to. This technocratic vision allows for anything but a rich ecology of human choices. Its one best way is the extinction of combustible tobacco use in all its forms, and the pervasive assumption of its supporters is that this goal is universally shared.

That's a self-serving illusion that erases the preferences of many smokers as irrelevant obstacles to the ideological aim of achieving a smoke-free society. Today's anti-smoking technocrats are not so far removed from the early-20th-century prohibitionists like Lucy Page Gaston, who dreamed of a "smokeless America by 1925" and refused to let the autonomy of consenting adults stand in the way of it.

Gottlieb may have come from the deregulatory right, but he now embraces technocratic central planning of the tobacco market that may lead inexorably to the elimination of everything from cigarettes to premium cigars in their traditional forms. If he brings that about, it will be a loss for those who view the preservation of individual choice as a good on its own—and an ironic legacy for an FDA commissioner who was expected to be a skeptic of overreaching government.

NEXT: 'We Will Close the Border Permanently If Need Be': Reason Roundup

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  1. It’s a tragedy these asshats get paid by us to sit around and think of ways to fuck us.

  2. The FDA also announced its intention to eventually ban menthol cigarettes

    This racist move will never fly.

    1. And this racist fly will never move.
      [kills the racist fly with a rolled up newspaper]

    2. I believe that both banning menthol and not banning menthol are racist.

    3. The NAACP keeps tweeting about how much they support this, ostensibly because the companies have marketed heavily to black people ad the solution to this is an outright ban, plus bans on products that black people enjoy have never been used to abuse, imprison, and kill black people. Right? Right?!

  3. Is it just me or is this crack down on tobacco right as Marijuana is legalized just waaay too convenient? I noticed the other day that Boehner- the super conservative former GOP house majority leader- is now chairing some conference on MJ investing.

    My tin-foil-hat theory is that large companies are trying to lock down the industry. Tobacco almost got out of their control due to Vaping disrupting the market. They have locked that down. However, to make sure nobody can disrupt the industry again, they are going to really lock it down such that the barriers to entry are impossible for small disruptors to overcome. And then they will use the same regulators to stake out a place in MJ industry and lock it down with the same tobacco laws as precedent. Only companies that already have massive distribution and compliance regimes in place (aka the RJ Reynolds and the like) will be able to comply with these new laws.

    Just you wait- in two years we’ll be hearing “we need to be as tough on MJ as we are on tobacco”.

    1. Someone’s gotta fill up all those jail cells left empty by legalized weed-might as well be the nicotine fiends.

  4. They are never going to ban the sale of cigarettes the way they are banning and restricting the sale of vaping devices. Vaping is competition for the tobacco companies and tobacco growers. They are going after Vaping because it cuts into tobacco companies’ profits. The FDA does not care and never has cared about people’s health and safety. They are totally happy with people smoking, provided that them doing so creates loads of tax revenies and the tobacco companies are willing to cough up the necessary high paying jobs and lobbying gigs to former political appointees at the FDA.

    It is called regulatory capture. That is all that is going on here.

    1. The tobacco companies have invested heavily in vaping products. They have been pushing for all of these high compliance costs to get rid of the small vape-juice providers. However, they didn’t anticipate the advent of Juul and nicotine salts. That company blew them out of the water. So now they are trying to restrict the products in an attempt to squeeze juul out of the market.

      My conspiracy theory is that the attack on combustable tobacco is just another maneuver in the industry as canabis takes off. Big tobacco is going to regulate the shit out of combustable and everyone is going to go over to MJ, and then they will do the same thing there.

      1. The tobacco growers have a lot of political clout too. And I don’t think vapping requires near the amount of tobacco, thought I could be wrong about that.

        Regardless, this whole thing is nothing but regulatory capture and corruption. That isn’t good. But it is not the same thing as some secret conspiracy to ban tobacco. The secret conspiracy is as it usually is, to get the various cronies rich.

        1. I don’t know what vapping is, but I’m pretty sure that much of the nicotine for vaping is synthetically produced. No farmers required.

          1. That would explain why so many people hate it.

          2. I’m pretty sure that much of the nicotine for vaping is synthetically produced.

            Its possible to synthesize nicotine, but much cheaper to extract it from tobacco. I have also heard of vape juices that contain nicotine derived from tomatoes and even eggplant leaves, to get around the “tobacco product” stigma.

          3. I don’t know what vapping is

            I think it’s like fapping, only for chicks (v = vagina, or something).

            1. I agree! We need to stop vapping!

              1. I think we should study it more.

    2. No. They are going after vaping because the anti-smoking cause is a Crusade, and the Crusaders not only don’t want anybody to smoke, they can’t stand anybody enjoying anything LIKE smoking.

      These idiots think they can regulate and regulate and move towards actual Prohibition of a vice that one fifth of the population is willing to admit to doing, and somehow they won’t get the huge black market that Prohibition generated and all the attendant problems.


      It is high time that the Crusaders were told that all of this is nunyo – ‘nunyo business’ – and forcibly retired, preferably with a Halligan tool.

      It is not the government’s place to tell people to not indulge in vice with volunteers. It wastes time and money, erodes civil liberties, and encourages antisocial behavior by government stooges who need no encouragement.

  5. “House-broken” is the term they use, Gottlieb has been house-broken, trained to think that what’s good for the bureaucracy within the agency is what’s good for the agency itself and what’s good for the agency is what’s good for America. You can’t just sit there with all this power and be expected to do nothing with it.

    “Growing in office” is similar – I think we’ll get to see Brett Kavanaugh grow in office just like John Roberts.

    1. I often wonder how many of us here would similarly “grow in office” if given the opp’ty. A few? Most? Nearly all?

      But then, authoritarians can “grow in office” into more libertarian types too. People change, you can never foretell how much or in what direction.

      1. Fuck off Hihn.

        1. Hihn is one I suspect would. But you can never tell, that’s the point.

  6. Remember when you had to pass a Constitutional amendment to ban something?

    Those poor, misguided paternalists would’ve been positively giddy with our current government.

    1. You mean a system where states could ban whatever they wanted and you let people vote with their feet such that the various states having different policies sorted things out rather than one nationwide policy? That is so crazy it just might work.

    2. It was progressives then, and its progressives now.
      More Left than Right, but still progressives

    3. Remember when you had to pass a Constitutional amendment to ban something?

      No, I don’t.

      1. At the state level, you don’t because it never existed. At the federal level, there was once a time when the Constitution actually restrained the powers of the federal government. Amazing I know.

        1. Chipper willfully ignores the points unnecessary to his ideology.

          1. Or he’s just not that old.

    4. So we could pass a constitutional amendment to ban legislation and regulation that bans things?
      Or one that says non-tobacco things cannot be regulated like tobacco?
      Or one that says the rest of the constitution has to be followed?
      Or am I just getting carried away here?

  7. An outright ban would be bad. But higher federal taxes on tobacco products with the money going into health care and public health campaigns make a lot of sense.

    Libertarians got very upset over the ban on tobacco in bars and restaurants, but that’s been a pretty successful policy.

    1. Yeah sure. Just raise taxes higher and higher. That would never create a black market or anything. And what exactly do you think a public health campaign would accomplish? The government has been preaching about the ills of smoking for over 50 years. I think people know the risks at this point.

      1. More than that. Smokers already pay more in tobacco-specific taxes than the health consequences of that smoking. But the excuse for each new round of tobacco taxes is the same. Raise taxes to spend money on ‘health’. Then don’t spend the money on that while developing selective Alzheimers. And in a few years – ‘let’s raise taxes to spend money on ‘health’.

        Easiest way for the limousine liberal to raise taxes on poorer people while breaking their arm patting themselves on the back about how much they ‘care’.

        1. Absolutely. Tobacco taxes are about the most regressive taxes there are.

          1. Eric Gardner probably would agree. Unfortunately he was killed for not paying those taxes.

        2. What’s the problem with raising taxes and spending the money on health care and smoking prevention? I don’t understand your argument.

          1. “What’s the problem with raising taxes and spending the money on health care and smoking prevention? I don’t understand your argument.”

            What’s the problem with raising taxes on a product that is currently taxed far more than any other good or service in the world to the point of prohibition by expense, and done so by the consent of a super-majority of people who will never pay it? To be spent on Health Care – something people should pay for themselves, not on the backs of taxpayers? To be spent on “smoking prevention”? The extent of government’s role in smoking prevention should be this statement: “Don’t smoke – it’s bad for you”. NOT bans on private property, not taxation to prohibition by expense, not ad campaigns that serve to demonize the user or continually trod out the tired old ” tobacco companies are evil” to the effect of making individuals smokers suffer loss of freedom and dignity.

            JStrummer, if you don’t understand “what’s the problem” with this, then you really don’t belong on a libertarian website. We are, after all, all about less government in our lives and “leave us the fuck alone”

          2. Let’s see, we’ll tax a product we disapprove of, claim to use the proceeds for “Health care,” but not do so, require the producers to confess their guilt on every package that people buy voluntarily, then subsidize their production to keep that lovely tax money coming, using tax dollars.

            If you don’t see a problem with that, we can’t explain it you. I think the only thing I can say that you’d understand is, “Yes, I would like fries with that.”

      2. Who would ever complain over exorbitant taxes.

        What? There’s a riot in France over taxes on gasoline prices? (not that the media is reporting it that way)

    2. Go fuck yourself, JStrummer.
      Better yet, go fuck yourself then quickly die

    3. If you wanted to “save” Social Security and Medicare you would make smoking and drinking mandatory. People who smoke and drink don’t live as long, and don’t linger very long at the end of life when people health care is most expensive.

      Not that that is a good idea either. But taxing people even more who are already saving the system money doesn’t really seem right either.

      1. taxing people even more who are already saving the system money doesn’t really seem right either.

        Doesn’t seem right? It’s freaking perfect man. Those folks have proven they will pay those taxes. So pluck that golden goose until it screams. And then pluck it some more. And finally you can kill it off because it’s all uppity and screaming too much.

    4. Many years back I worked in a restaurant that was non-smoking. It was the only tobacco free restaurant in town. The city passed an ordinance banning smoking in all eateries, and my employer went out of business. The snobby crowd who ate there could now go anywhere without being subjected to cigarette smoke, so they did. My lease was up the same month, and I ended up homeless for about four months. So yeah, I was very upset about banning tobacco in bars and restaurants. And I wasn’t even a libertarian yet.

      1. That sucks, man. Sorry you had to go through that. What was it like being homeless? Did you interact with other homeless people much or did you keep to yourself?

        1. It sucked. I bounced between shelters and friends’ couches while working two jobs to save money for first, last and deposit. I did discover that for many people, being homeless is a choice. It’s a lifestyle. No strings. No responsibility. They like it. Then there are the temporary homeless like I was. They work like hell to get out.

        2. Because of that experience I do not support any efforts to “end homelessness.” You can’t end it. There have always been vagabonds. There always will be.

          1. Of course homelessness can never be truly ended, but its rare is affected by policy. Requiring a living wage, providing good public housing, and universal health care are important. So that when people run shitty restaurants and fail and are too stupid to save up enough money for themselves, people like you, don’t need to be homeless.

            1. I really hope you’re a parody.

              1. If not parody, then die in a fire.

            2. Oh, he’s got to be a troll … perfect parody of a progressive

        3. People who don’t want to be homeless will work their way out. The ones who remain do so by choice.

          1. Or are mentally ill or addicts.

            Which might count as “by choice”, I guess.

            1. What if they are mentally ill? I think rightfully so, we’ve already said you can’t lock them up in an institution as long as they aren’t hurting anyone. How they choose to live, mentally ill or not, is their choice. Saying they must live as society deems is proper is a heavy hand.

              What if it isn’t their choice if they are mentally ill? How do you decide who is or isn’t mentally ill? Some would vehemently argue they very act of shrugging off societal norms is ill. That would lead to some folks that just want to exist with nothing more than a hobo sack being unduly interfered with.

              1. There isn’t a single person who couldn’t be diagnosed with some mental illness. It’s like traffic laws. Nobody can drive perfect, and nobody has a perfect mind.

                1. My wife certainly can’t drive perfect.

                  *looks over shoulder to see if wife saw that *

                2. The original Mythbusters did an interesting test on differences in parking skill between the genders.

                  They set up a parallel parking scenario which they would score on a 100 point scale. You started with 100 points and they deducted points for:

                  Being too close to the curb.
                  Too far from the curb
                  Too close to the vehicle behind you
                  too close to the vehicle in front.

                  Bigger deductions for:
                  Running over the curb.
                  Contact with the vehicle in front or the vehicle behind.

                  The ran 10 men and 10 women through this test.

                  The men had an overall average around 65 points.
                  The women came in marginally lower for an over all average.

                  The interesting thing was the distribution of the individual scores.

                  The men had a fairly narrow distribution with no more than two significant outliers, they were uniformly mediocre.

                  The women spit into two groups of 5.

                  The bottom group had an average score of 0. The average was 0, think about that..

                  The upper group of women all scored above 85 points, though none managed a perfect score.

                  A small sample size, but still an interesting result.

            2. I guess. Addiction is a demon that can’t be cured by force. Same with mental illness. Thing is, chronic homeless people like being homeless. If they didn’t then they’d do something about it. In my experience. Some are addicts. Some are mentally ill. True. But what can you do? If they like the lifestyle then they like the lifestyle. You can’t force them into apartments. Well, you can but they’ll just trash the place and then leave. If there is no solution, is it really a problem? Or is it something to be accepted.

              1. I’m not saying that anything can or should be done. Just an observation that I think further supports the notion that homelessness is mostly not people who are down on their luck or economic, but people who live that way for a reason. Even insane people should get to make their own choices as long as it isn’t hurting anyone else.

                I think I pretty much agree that homelessness is not something we are going to eliminate. I think we’ve done about as much as can or should be done in the US.

                1. We are on the same page.

                  1. Seconded.

        4. Being homeless was expensive. No fridge. Had to eat out all the time. No washing machine. Had to go to the laundromat. Little shit you take for granted adds up.

      2. Very sad. Maybe you shouldn’t have run such a sad business whose only draw was it didn’t allow smoking. Anyway, best of luck with everything.

        1. That was twenty years ago. I’ve moved on.

        2. Is your reading comprehension as bad as your central planning ideas? He didn’t run it, he said he worked there. It was a long time ago, so he was obviously much younger. Sounds like he learned a lot from the experience.

          What would he have learned from the experience if he had your guilt free, often unearned, government handouts? Nothing, because someone else was there to bail him out of his negative outcome free environment.

          And you make a lot of presumption with it being a bad business. That was a market that could’ve been saturated other than the smoking requirements. So when government altered the market through force that business structure failed. It’s funny that you force driven, asshat fucktards never take responsibility for the problems you cause, but you are Johnny on the spot for perceived issues in the private sector.

          Lets hope nothing but the worst for you. Maybe the government fairy will cure all of your ills.

          1. S/he’s trying to be funny, not doing it so well, you’re not doing well at realizing that…thread clusterfuck. Really good sarcasm’s hard, needs practice, & those you practice on will just get annoyed.

        3. Sarcasmic worked in the restaurant, didn’t say they owned it. Get your facts right before accusing.

    5. What is the cost of federal subsidy in the healthcare field for treating all the smokers who get sick going outside to smoke?
      You know, allergies in the good weather, colds and flu in cold weather.

    6. I hate this argument. All of my friends who are pro-legalization of MJ always follow it up with tax and regulate it, as if legalization for the fact that it’s the right thing to do from a personal liberty standpoint isn’t enough. It all has to be some revenue stream for an already bloated government to interfere in some other aspect of our lives.

      No thanks.

      1. They’re right, it’s not enough. The swing voters need to be bought off.

    7. But higher federal taxes on tobacco products with the money going into health care and public health campaigns make a lot of sense.

      …to morons who don’t understand how black markets work.

    8. Libertarians got very upset over the ban on tobacco in bars and restaurants, but that’s been a pretty successful policy.

      By what measure? Fewer people smoking in bars? Sure. Punishing people who don’t forbid smoking in their businesses is likely to succeed in that sense.

      In any case, the success of a policy tells us nothing about it’s value or legitimacy.

      1. Given the number of folks that smoke while they drink, and only while they drink, it is likely that any measuring performed will be bunk. Many folks will say they agree with it even though they actually don’t like it for themselves. If people wanted smoke free bars, unlike how Stalin JStrummer would suggest, why weren’t there more smoke free bars before government regulated it? Because people didn’t want it.

        1. And sometimes people did want it, and the market delivered. In the town where I’m from, before the state-wide smoking ban, there was only one bar in town where you could still smoke (and it was the shitty Chinese restaurant). All the others went smoke-free on their own.

          1. Cool. I’m all for that, even though when I visited bars back in the day I really wanted to smoke.

      2. It really wasn’t “successful”. Everywhere I lived where a ban came in, good places died, existing places (other than high quality expensive restaurants) went down in quality. Worst of all, and especially in bars and lower class places, instead of smelling smoke, one would now smell all remnants of activity past and present and the body odor of patrons. The most annoying artifact – young couples now bringing their babies into a bar.

    9. “But higher federal taxes on tobacco products with the money going into health care and public health campaigns make a lot of sense.”

      Oh, so creating a huge black market with high taxes is somehow different from doing so with a ban?

      Seriously, I remember back in the 1990’s when NYC once again raised its cigarette tax, and a year later the same politicians were expressing shock that New York City was supporting a billion dollars a year black market in untaxed cigarettes. And I had to hope that said politicians were being disingenuous, because otherwise they were dumber than so many cherrystone clams.

      We don’t want politicians to start thinking about taxing ‘risky’ behavior on the pretext of funding this or that program supposedly to address the ‘problem’. Think about this; it takes ten to twenty years (on average0 of smoking a pack a day or more, to get lung cancer. Statistically speaking, it takes only five years of living a Gay Male lifestyle to contract a life threatening STD.

      If you think that politicians looking to fund their pet projects, hobby horses, and graft aren’t capable of taxing Gays, you have far more respect for politicians than I do.

    10. What counts as success?

      As Screamin’ Jay Hawkins said, “Don’t suck lemon, success!”

      1. But trust me, cess you don’t want to suck.

  8. Despite his intellectual ties to free market think tanks, Gottlieb increasingly looks like a radical restrictionist out to ban the sale of smoking products as we now know them forever.

    There is no such thing as a ‘free market think tank’. At least not within 100 miles or more of DC. Maybe a ‘central planning for the benefit of multinationals and big donors think tank’. But only in DC could the two be conflated. And there is never any innocent intention behind the two being conflated.

    1. The think tanks shill for whomever pays their bills. You don’t create a think tank on individual donations. You create it from corporate donations and corporations are not interested in ideological purity. They want something for their money and expect the think tanks they fund to promote things that are in their interests.

      “Think Tanks” are just whore houses that employ ugly people who give a slightly different service than traditional whores do.

      1. Could you create a think tank on individual donations? Or would the result not be called a think tank?

  9. With this guy banning smokes and Rosenstein cracking down on drugs, I’m starting to think it’s a conspiracy.

  10. The FDA says it is considering the pros and cons of “lowering nicotine in cigarettes to a minimally or non-addictive level through the creation of a potential nicotine product standard.” The idea is that new smokers would never get addicted, and current smokers would be forced to quit or turn elsewhere for their fix.

    Or, in some cases, some smokers may end up smoking more in order to make up for the lowered nicotine content in volume, leading to them inhaling more of the carcinogenic chemicals in the combustion products, resulting in worse health outcomes instead.

    A government plan backfiring and resulting in the exact opposite outcome as intended? Nah, that never happens, ever. /sarc

    1. I am going to institute a ban on “/sarc”.
      If they can’t tell, they deserve the resulting high blood pressure and strokes.

      1. Fuck your ban.


    2. Like low-flow toilets that need to be flushed two or three times.

      1. Big boys like yourself who take big dumps need to lose some weight. That’s one solution. Individual responsibility

        1. Yeah, sure. Me a big boy. LMAO! Good one!

        2. Agreed. The solution is to shit on your lawn. Get your government friends to prove who is doing it.

        3. And forgive us if we all aren’t soy boys that eat only kale and gluten free water.

      2. Low flow plumbing fixtures are a special peeve of mine. We all need these things that don’t work so well because some parts of the country have water shortages. Water is a very local resource. My using water here has no effect on the water supply for other parts of the country. But I’m still not allowed a shower or faucet that will give me more than 2.5 gallons per minute.

        1. And why isn’t a market a solution? If you want folks to decide how much water they need then just alter the price. Water shortages demand that price increases to match supply rates. Government controls most of the water, but having variable pricing to meet demand would put politicians heads on the block. It’s just easier to have a law from our betters in far away reaches retract capabilities.

          1. Because water is a right, damn it! (or so I’m told)

            Market pricing for water could also have the effect of discouraging more people from moving to places without the water resources to support large populations, like a lot of places in the West. Which I don’t think would be a bad thing.

            1. I need the shorter list of ‘not rights’ nowadays. Is porn a right yet? I want that right, dammit.

        2. Well, so far as I can tell it isn’t so much a question of which localities are suffering from potential water shortages as which few localities aren’t.

          That said, I have to wonder why, if aquifers are being serious drained, it isn’t a practical solution to take water cleaned in water treatment plants and inject it into the aquifers. I mean, is there a technical reason it won’t work, or is it merely that an engineering solution won’t allow the buttinskies to posture and push people around?

  11. The tobacco control enterprise has existed for over a very long time and joined forces with the alcohol prohibitionists through groups like the anti-cigarette league. In fact, cigarettes were also illegal in some states (Kansas and Iowa, I believe) until alcohol prohibition ended. Der Furher was, of course, also rabidly anti-tobacco, and it goes back even further, to the Ottoman Sultan Murad, who ordered the tongues of smokers to be cut out. None of this was successful then, and it will never be going forward, since tobacco is pretty easy to grow. Might be a good idea to start stalking up on seeds while you can still get them.

    The modern tobacco control movement continues with preaching morality poorly disguised as health, but recently, Big Pharma has joined them by trying to push their anti-smoking drugs. If you have noticed, they are now fighting “nicotine addiction”, as if it were as destructive as opioid or meth addiction, because their movement and careers are most threatened by e-cigarettes. They may succeed again with prohibition, but people will still be using tobacco or nicotine in some form 100 years from now, as they have for thousands of years before.

    1. Stalking up on tobacco…Nice pun.

    2. I have to wonder what a thorough audit of the anti-tobacco industry would reveal. Just how honest are the books of the American Lung Association?

  12. This “writer and bartender” has produced the most sophisticated piece I have ever seen in HnR, and one of the best pieces ever to appear in Reason. It is certainly the best analysis of Gottlieb I have seen anywhere–not that that is saying much, as the second-best is nearly worthless. It is also one of the subtlest and most comprehensive analyses I have seen of the tobacco politics spectrum, one of the subtlest and most comprehensive analyses I have seen of “public health” nannyism, and one of the subtlest and most comprehensive analyses I have seen of technocracy as a mentality–including the tendency of people commonly considered “pro-market” or “pro-capitalism” to be some of the most zealous and committed social planners in existence.

    Scott Gottlieb is Mike Bloomberg in a MAGA cap. He is the most fanatically authoritarian FDA head in American history and perhaps the most extreme prohibitionist in tobacco control anywhere on Earth. That said, when he made his announcement the only analyst I could find commenting on the industry advised investors to buy the tobacco stock dip, as according to her the menthol ban was extremely unlikely to actually be implemented. Can’t say I see it. But hey, whatever will keep me from freaking out I will take.

    1. Yes great article but the underlying basis for all of FDA’s interventions, nicotine addiction, is not the reason people use tobacco. Nicotine has been available in many delivery systems for decades but a lot of people prefer to use to use tobacco. Nicotine is no more addictive or powerful than caffeine. Gottlieb is obsessed with it but the entire conversation is silly.

      1. Nice try but wrong. Nicotine is a poison. Caffeine is a stimulant. If you ingest nicotine in its pure form such as eating uncured tobacco, you will be dead within minutes. Caffeine in large doses will make you puke, but wont kill you. Claiming the two are the same is ridiculous. How many people have died as a result of ingesting caffeine vs nicotine? Does coffee or tea have warnings about causing cancer, birth defects and heart disease?

      2. So, you’ve never met a smoker?

        Yes, caffeine causes a physical dependence and some degree of addiction. But based on experience and observation, it appears that the caffeine addiction is much easier to break than that for nicotine.

  13. I hate do-gooders. They make the worst tyrants.

  14. Why not?! Just one more prohibition, for the criminal black market to exploit!

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  16. So the FDA plans to regulate cigarettes, cigars and E cigarettes similar to alcohol. Big deal. Talk about trying to make a mountain out of a mole hill. Minors are banned from
    entering liquor stores and other places that sell alcohol in a number of states that require it be sold in speciality stores. The only thing the FDA is attempting to do it regulate e-cigarettes like traditional tobacco. Who cares? Stop pretending the move is some unprecedented move by the government. Nicotine is a poison which is why you cough when you start smoking. Regulating poison is any form is what the government is supposed to do. It regulates pesticides and herbacides, why not tobacco? Uncured tobacco will kill you within seconds if smoked, think about that before whining about regulating it.

    1. The way tobacco is regulated is largely driven by big tobacco companies. They want the upstart competitors in the vaping market driven out of business. Regulating vaping like cigarettes would put vaping firmly in the hands of Big Tobacco.

  17. This may be the best reason yet to support a Convention of States. A new “21st Amendment” for ALL substances would breathe new life into our Constitutional form of government, which has been on life support for decades.

  18. Ok, that started out weak, but the last two sentences brought it home. Not bad.

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