Originally posted at Fox & Hounds Daily.
By Scott Schmidt.
When is a stroller a bicycle? When that stroller is in West Hollywood, where any human-powered, wheeled vehicle must yield to pedestrians on sidewalks.
Although electronic smoking devices are no more cigarettes than strollers are bicycles, the City of Los Angeles is moving to reclassify vaporizers as tobacco products that cannot be used indoors, at restaurants or in public parks. Mayor Eric Garcetti now has ten days to decide whether a product that contains no tobacco whatsoever should be regulated as a tobacco product.
There’s no debating that smoking tobacco is so bad for people’s health that society has decided to regulate when and where people can smoke. If the Los Angeles City Council has its way, doing something that vaguely looks like smoking a cigarette will be off-limits wherever smoking is prohibited.
The City Council says they want to classify e-cigarettes as tobacco products to “protect the children,” (who are already prohibited from purchasing e-cigarettes), and because they lack any evidence proving the vapor from e-cigarettes is safe (even though they lack evidence saying it is harmful, either).
Finally, the City also claims that e-cigarettes should be treated like tobacco products because they contain nicotine, which may be harmful to people, even though e-cigarettes do not inherently contain nicotine. The City does not propose regulating the chewing of gum or wearing of patches, however, but there are nicotine patches and nicotine gums that many have used as smoking cessation techniques for years.
As someone who after two decades of smoking tobacco was able to quit thanks to e-cigarettes, I have to wonder why government officials are trying to ban e-cigarettes rather than encourage them.
I suspect, however, that the real reason anti-smoking advocates object to e-cigarettes is that tobacco taxes are as addictive to government agencies as tobacco is to its users.
Since 1988, tobacco users have paid taxes, and more taxes, which have in part, funded efforts to convince people to stop smoking—from preachy television ads to aggressive street teams accosting smokers in local bar patios. But there is a disincentive to make smoking cessation programs actually effective.
The Los Angeles County Public Health Director is asking local cities to regulate e-cigarettes just like tobacco, effectively discouraging people from quitting smoking by switching to electronic vaporizing.
If every smoker in Los Angeles County switched from burning tobacco to vaporizing water, the County would lose $60 million per year in Master Settlement Agreement funds alone, and tens of millions more in Proposition 99, First Five and State Childhood Health Insurance Program taxes.
Entire industries in government and the non-profit sector were created with tax dollars paid by tobacco users to get said taxpayers to stop using tobacco. The incentive to be effective was therefore not strong—accomplish your mission and you’d be out of a job.
Perhaps the real objection to e-cigarettes is that they are too effective at getting smokers to quit, which threatens the entire existence of the anti-smoking lobby.