The Nanny State Can Get You Killed

Published December 6, 2013

On the same day that the Los Angeles City Council moved to regulate e-cigarettes, the National Center for Public Policy Research’s Jeff Stier testified at a New York City Council Health Committee hearing on a similar measure being rushed through the New York City Council.

In his testimony, Stier encouraged council members to think twice about whether it is in fact “prudent” to extend New York City’s ban on smoking in public places to include e-cigarettes:

I would caution you that this is not the prudent thing to do. The prudent thing to do here is to help cigarette smokers quit. Rushing to judgment here could have serious, unintended consequences that you need to be aware of. It will stop people from quitting smoking. E-cigarettes are not a gateway to smoking. The data does not show that. E-cigarettes are a gateway to quitting smoking.

E-cigarettes, which do not produce smoke, have been a boon to those who have tried to quit smoking but have failed.

“Nicotine,” Stier explains, “is addictive, but not particularly harmful, especially at the levels consumed by smokers or users of e-cigarettes, who are called ‘vapers’ for the vapor, rather than smoke, emitted by e-cigarettes.”

“Nicotine’s bad reputation should be attributed to its most common delivery device, cigarettes,” says Stier. “Nicotine itself is about as dangerous as the caffeine in soda. Along the same lines, while too much soda can cause weight gain, nobody seriously suggests that caffeine causes obesity. Similarly, e-cigarettes provide the nicotine and the habitual activity of smoking, without the danger of burning tobacco.”

“Mayor Bloomberg and his nanny state allies in New York City and Los Angeles have steam coming out of their ears about e-cigarettes. Here is a product created by private-sector innovation that is doing what many hundreds of millions of dollars of government spending, costly litigation, addictive excise taxes, warning labels and punitive regulation have been unable to do: help cigarette smokers quit happily.”

“Regulators understand that in order to maintain not only their huge budgets, but their basis for authority to control both private-sector businesses as well as personal decisions, they must demonize, delegitimize, and defeat e-cigarettes every step of the way,” Stier says.

“Some, without any basis in science, allege that e-cigarettes are a ‘gateway’ to smoking. But initial studies, as well as empirical evidence, show that e-cigarettes are a major gateway away from, not toward, smoking. For all the heated rhetoric, there’s little dispute in the scientific community: those who quit smoking cigarettes and switch to e-cigarettes reap immediate as well as long-term health benefits. And those improvements are dramatic.”

Stier concludes: “Regulations that treat e-cigarettes the same as their deadly predecessor will have the unintended consequence of keeping smokers smoking. Quitting nicotine use altogether is the best choice. But for those who chose not to, or find it too difficult, e-cigarettes are a potentially life-saving alternative.”

Outgoing New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, nicknamed “Nanny Bloomberg” by many for his use of government tools to influence what private citizens eat and drink, supports the New York proposal. Bloomberg’s administration imposed New York City’s ban on public smoking in 2003.

Like Los Angeles and New York, Chicago is considering banning the use of smokeless e-cigarettes anywhere in the city tobacco smoking is banned. The proposed ban is supported by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The sale of e-cigarettes to minors is already appropriately illegal under Illinois state law.

The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than four percent from foundations, and less than two percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors.

Contributions are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated.

[Originally published on Pundicity]