Governments kill smokers by banning safer alternatives to cigarettes

Governments kill smokers by banning safer alternatives to cigarettes

mini-electronic-cigaretteGovernments are banning safer alternatives to cigarettes, even though doing so increases the death toll from smoking. The Economist notes that Brazil and Singapore ban e-cigarettes, even though they could save countless lives since they do not emit the smoke that makes cigarettes lethal. As it points out, “E-cigarettes do not just save the lives of smokers: they bring other benefits too. Unlike cigarettes, they do not damage the health of bystanders. They do not even smell that bad, so there” is “no reason to ban their use in public places.”

Other countries like Austria and New Zealand restrict the sale of e-cigarettes, by classifying them as “medical devices.” The Economist laments that “Instead of embracing e-cigarettes, many health lobbyists are determined to stub them out. . . .these objections seem to be driven by puritanism, not by reason. Some health lobbyists are so determined to prevent people doing anything that remotely resembles smoking—a process referred to as ‘denormalisation’—that they refuse to endorse a product that reproduces the pleasure of smoking without the harm.”

Cyprus may be in chaos, threatening another financial crisis in the European Union (EU), but as CEI’s Iain Murray notes:

[T]he good old EU knows where its priorities lie — in an effort to ban e-cigarettes. As The Commentator reports,

“On December 19th 2012, the EU produced a proposal for new laws controlling tobacco and e-cigarettes. Under the new proposals, packets of both will likely have to be brazenly branded with warning signs and unsightly images. Fine if you believe this deters people from smoking (which there is scant evidence for), not so fine if you believe that smokers should be more free or indeed encouraged to take up something less harmful to wean themselves off cigarettes.

“The proposed EU directive will make it harder for smokers to switch, and will also ban outright the least harmful tobacco products on the market – a product known as ‘snus’. It will treat e-cigarettes as ‘medicinal products’, causing concern over impossibly high standards and regulations leading to higher manufacturing costs. This means that e-cigarettes may no longer be able to compete in a lower, or even the same price band as cigarettes, which would likely cause smokers to think twice about adopting the healthier option.”

Of course, the EU isn’t alone. The FDA has been riding this pony for years. As my colleague Hans Bader wrote in 2009:

“The FDA is now moving towards banning e-cigarettes, reports syndicated columnist Jacob Sullum. Cigarettes, which contain lots of toxins and cancer-causing agents, aren’t banned, but the FDA wants to ban e-cigarettes, which contain infinitely-smaller amounts of carcinogens, complaining that e-cigarettes contain “detectable levels of known carcinogens and toxic chemicals to which users could potentially be exposed” (emphasis added).”

“As public-health expert, and tobacco-industry critic, Michael Siegel notes, this is terrible reasoning by the FDA, since all tobacco replacement products now on the market contain small but “detectable” amounts of known carcinogens. The FDA used to be more reluctant to block smoking alternatives that have small or imaginary risks, but that seems to be changing over the last year.

“A bill supported by the nation’s largest cigarette maker that was signed into law earlier this year by Obama will keep producers of smokeless tobacco from truthfully telling smokers about the fact that smoking is more dangerous to their health than smokeless tobacco. That will harm public health, as advocates like Bill Godshall of Smoke Free Pennsylvania have noted.”


Hans Bader

Hans Bader

Hans Bader practices law in Washington, D.C. After studying economics and history at the University of Virginia and law at Harvard, he practiced civil-rights, international-trade, and constitutional law. Hans also writes for CNS News and has appeared on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal.”

Commenting Policy

We have no tolerance for comments containing violence, racism, vulgarity, profanity, all caps, or discourteous behavior. Thank you for partnering with us to maintain a courteous and useful public environment where we can engage in reasonable discourse. Read more.

You may use HTML in your comments. Feel free to review the full list of allowed HTML here.

Facebook Comments

Disqus Comments