Monday 24 January 2011

Prohibitionists march on in New York

When the hysteria about Skoal Bandits set the wheels in motion for the banning of snus back in the 1980s, Ann McNeill wrote an editorial for the British Journal of Addiction in which she said:

“Some find it hard to justify the ban on oral snuff when cigarette smoking, which is undoubtedly more dangerous, is still permitted. The answer is simple. Prohibition is only feasible if relatively few people use a product.”

This was unusually candid, and true. The resulting ban on snus turned out to be a public health disaster since it prevented smokers from switching to a product that is at least 90% safer than cigarettes (and quite probably 99% safer). Not all anti-tobacco campaigners have admitted they got this one wrong but, to her credit, Ann McNeil is one of them and she has publicly stated that snus should be decriminalised.

Still, it is easier to ban a niche product than it is to ban a widely used product. No wonder, then, that those with a prohibitionist mentality went after snus and are now going after e-cigarettes. The fact that both of these products are excellent substitutes for cigarettes and are virtually harmless seems not to enter into it. As the American Council on Science and Health said in its Top Ten Unfounded Health Scares of 2010:

The chemical components found in e-cigarettes pose little danger to human health, and should not be considered toxins or carcinogens. It is irresponsible for public health organizations such as the CDC and the AHA to denounce the use of e-cigarettes as an effective smoking cessation method. In doing so, they only continue to promote the use of regular cigarettes for the majority of smokers who failed to quit using traditional approved cessation methods.

And yet, the prohibitionist crusade marches on in New York City. Some day someone will write a book explaining how New York went from being a world-wide symbol for liberty to being the pitiful nanny state it is today. The unsavoury, bloated, authoritarian figure of Michael Bloomberg will no doubt loom large in the story, but even he can't be held directly responsible for this insanity:

A01468 Summary:

BILL NO: A01468

Prohibits the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors; prohibits distribution or sale of any item containing or delivering nicotine that is not defined by law as a tobacco product or approved by the United States food and drug administration for sale as a tobacco use cessation or harm reduction product.

The above comes from a Bill to ban e-cigarettes. I understand that it will be voted on tomorrow. The justification for this legislation is...

Given the unregulated nature of this product, there is no way of knowing the amount of nicotine in each cigarette, the amount that is delivered with each inhalation, or the contents of the vapor created in the process.

Gee, if only there was some way of dealing with an unregulated product without having to ban it. Of course—and this comes completely out of left-field—you could just regulate it, thereby guaranteeing the quality of the product whilst guaranteeing that e-cigarette users don't have to go back to smoking a proven health hazard.

Call these people anything you want. Just don't call them health campaigners.

(Vapers Club has the links if you want to let the NY authorities what you think of banning e-cigarettes.)


Anonymous said...

"Given the unregulated nature of this product, there is no way of knowing the amount of nicotine in each cigarette, the amount that is delivered with each inhalation, or the contents of the vapor created in the process."

Nicotine gum is handed out to school children. One was hospitalised after chewing several pieces at once- pieces that had been given to him by an anti smoking campaigner. But he didn't die. If it were dangerous, it would be sold in smaller packets, like paracetamol, or made prescription only.

Is it any wonder that BBC2's Horizon is tonight investigating why the public won't believe the "scientic consensus" on AGW, MMR etc?

Anonymous said...

Vapers were quick to jump on the anti-smoking bandwagon and support the false idea that ETS was harmful and a reason to ban public and soon private smoking. They did this thinking that the forced smoking bans would enhance the desire for their products that might skirt the bans and thus increase sales. What the vapers failed to take into account was the entire premise of ETS harm was faulty, based on a lie and promoted by pharmaceuticals companies with larger sums of money with which to wield influence over politicians. Now, for having supported a lie, the vaping industry will be paying the price of being drummed out of business, the same way smokers were vilified and attacked. Had they instead not condemned smokers as so many of those vaper selling companies did, then maybe they'd have the upper hand in the argument now being used against them. It's hard to feel sympathy for companies that used the same tactics based on lies about ETS that the anti-smoking prohibitionists did when it backfires in their faces.

Anonymous said...

I agree with anon 00.27. They were naive. It became clear very soon after the ban and, to some people, even before, that protecting employees wasn't the purpose. Something which looks like a cigarette, particularly to cameras, and which massively undercuts drug companies' nicotine products really was doomed to failure. There will be a problem banning or regulating them. They are easy to post around the world and are odourless when used.