According to media reports in Indiana, a state legislator who voted to approve e-cigarette restrictions benefitting a single company is now an employee of that company.
In September, Indiana media outlets reported state Rep. Alan Morrison (R-Terre Haute) has been employed by Mulhaupt’s Incorporated, a security firm directly benefitting from a bill for which Morrison voted, since May 2016.
The restrictions Morrison voted in favor of were passed in 2015 and revised in February 2016. They require companies wishing to manufacture e-cigarette liquid to sign five-year contracts with security companies meeting a defined set of standards. Only one company in the state, Mulhaupt’s, satisfies those standards.
Federal Bureau of Investigation agents are investigating the circumstances that led to the bill’s approval, according to reports by the Indianapolis Star, including interviews with state lawmakers and industry representatives.
Jared Meyer, a fellow with the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, says the bill should have looked suspicious to legislators from the start.
“The law should have raised red flags for those legislators,” Meyer said. “There is a very good argument that the security company that benefits from the law is behind it. They have very strong ties to the government and to the [Indiana] Alcohol and Tobacco Commission and what they’re trying to push for. It’s pretty clear the way the law is written that they submitted something knowing that only they and a few others would be able to comply.”
‘Strong Justification’ Needed
Robert West, a professor of health psychology at the University College London’s Health Behaviour Research Centre, says laws restricting personal freedom should have “a strong justification.”
“In a democratic country, laws that restrict people’s behavior should have a strong justification, in terms of protecting the wellbeing of the population rather than oppressing it,” West said. “There is reason to believe that some of the proposed legislation on e-cigarettes is oppressive and in practice serves to protect the tobacco industry’s commercial interests.”
Bootleggers and Baptists
West says some of the research surrounding e-cigarettes has been and will continue to be manipulated by activists not interested in the scientific data.
“Unfortunately, some misguided public-health activists have such a strong antipathy to the idea that people may use nicotine, [even] in a way that reduces their risk of ill health and premature death compared with smoking, that they distort research findings and give an excuse to those who do not necessarily have the public interest at heart,” West said.