Friday, January 15, 2010

Apparently it's Bad for Smokers to Quit Smoking

Smoking is bad, okay? This is the message that our great and glorious government leaders have been telling us via legislation for over 40 years. Cigarette manufacturers have been forced by the government to place warnings on their product since the mid-1960s. Cigarette manufacturers have been banned from television and radio advertising since the very early-1970s. Smoking has been banned since the early-1990s in many private businesses due to intrusive legislation.

It seems we got the message all too clear. Big Tobacco is a boogieman that we hate as much as the characters in the novel 1984 hated Emmanuel Goldstein. Big Tobacco is our common enemy, comrades. It is our duty to hate them and the users of their product.

The non-smoking public is enraged by smokers. It is acceptable to direct all of our hatred and vitriol toward this minority group because they are a dangerous threat to public health & safety. Interestingly enough, it is not socially acceptable to hate other minority groups who may carry communicable diseases that are also a dangerous threat to public health & safety. Society is impossibly paradoxical sometimes.

A handy device, colloquially called an e-cigarette, has emerged as a popular smoking cessation tool in the last several years. The smoker gets their nicotine hit via a vaporized liquid nicotine mixture and enjoys a similar hand-to-mouth experience. It doesn't release any smoke or chemicals, it only releases water vapor. It should be perfectly acceptable to use an e-cigarette in areas where actual smoking is prohibited because the user is not actually smoking anything.

I'm a former smoker and this sounds like a win-win to me. Smokers get their hit and no one is forced to endure the lingering effects of cigarette smoke. What's not to like here?

Turns out there's plenty not to like here. Since smokers still persist in their habit, many states have increased the taxes on cigarettes to epic rates. Presumably, state legislatures and voters figured that they could tax the addiction out of existence. But then they inexplicably created feel-good social programs that are funded by said tobacco taxes. Suddenly it isn't desirable to have too many people quit smoking because those fabulous social programs sure as heck aren't going to pay for themselves. Those programs need to continue to receive funding from the cigarette taxes we get from those damn dirty smokers. Apparently it is bad for smokers to quit smoking.

The FDA regulates e-cigarettes as a drug-device combination and they had been attempting to stop shipments of e-cigarettes. Federal District Judge Richard Leon put a temporary stop to the agency's shenanigans by recently declaring that e-cigarettes are basically the same as traditional paper & tobacco cigarettes. He pointedly added, "This case appears to be yet another example of FDA's aggressive efforts to regulate recreational tobacco products as drugs." And he found their claim of jurisdiction "to be unreasonable and unacceptable." Given Judge Leon's ruling I would guess that BATF are the ones who would regulate e-cigarettes and I'm curious what they think of the FDA trying to regulate one of their regulated products.

So why is California Attorney General Jerry Brown in state court attempting to prevent the sale of e-cigarettes? It's disingenuous that AG Brown says that e-cigarettes are dangerous and marketed to children. Traditional cigarettes are considered dangerous, why isn't he trying to make a case against those? I'm curious to hear what evidence he has of this marketing effort directed toward children and I doubt it truly exists. Smoking Everywhere is the company involved in the action in California. Their VP, Ray Story, maintains that they do not represent their product as being healthy or safe, their product carries health warnings on the package, and his company discontinues business relationships with retailers who have been found to sell the product to minors.

So what's the real issue? I think that Jerry Brown desires another term as Governor and he doesn't want to see any programs cut during his desired tenure. Cutting programs tends to piss off constituents, even if We The People don't want to pay for said programs. Keep the tobacco taxes rolling in and we get to keep programs that make us feel all warm & fuzzy.

Sorry, but this is a win-lose to me and the only people who will be winning are those who are interested in collecting tobacco taxes for selfish gain. Smoking is a legal activity if you are over 18-years of age. If smoking is so damn dangerous, it stands to reason that our benevolent leaders would want us to quit. Here is a tool that is helping smokers quit and it is being persecuted. That's wrong.

I doubt that Jerry Brown would have had my vote anyway, but he sure as hell won't be getting it now.

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