The FDA’s anti-tobacco crusade is dumb and un-American
“Hey, man, this is America!”
We all know the expression. Previously, it signified the cordial invitation of a free person to go – Americans know their rights and are not afraid to exercise them. Today, however, the phrase has lost its rhetorical weight. “This is America!” could actually be an acknowledgment of the Puritan war that many elites in our country are waging against smoking and vaping. These activists have little respect for the rights of citizens and their ability to make their own choices. They want to expand the reach of the federal government in a totally un-American way.
This year alone, the Food and drug administration headed for a complete ban on menthol cigarettes and has also tent to remove Juul’s vaping products from the market. These movements are representative of a restless interventionist tendency in certain elite circles, stemming from a dogmatic disgust and pretext for cigarettes – or anything reminiscent of a cigarette. The resulting policy proposals are bound to do more harm than good.
In its feud with Juul, the FDA was checked in the middle of the victory lap: a federal appeals court stayed the agency’s ridiculous decision the day after it was published. Juul is now challenging the merits of the ban on the grounds that it is “arbitrary and capricious and lacks substantial evidence”. The FDA’s spectacular boondoggle makes perfect sense, however, given that its bureaucrats are less concerned with improving public health than pursuing a long-running beef with nicotine vapes. It does not matter vaping is 95% safer that traditional smoking or nicotine vapers are often essential for cigarette smokers trying to quit. The thing is, vapes are just too reminiscent of cigarettes for the taste of the FDA.
Unfortunately, the folks at the FDA aren’t alone in their iconoclastic desire to end vaping. A fake study followed a fake study linking vaping to all sorts of misfortunes, from cancer to erectile dysfunction.
Or consider the “popcorn lung” panic of 2019. Many Americans have become convinced that e-cigarettes have caused thousands of cases of serious lung disease, only for the CDC to discredit the hysterical story. In truth, the disease – EVALI – was caused by vitamin E acetate, an additive in vapes containing THC. Additionally, most cases of EVALI have been contracted from vapes obtained from what the CDC politely calls “informal sources.” Of course, as is the case with most fear-driven reporting, the original narrative received far more coverage than later, more measured analyses. How many smokers continued to use traditional cigarettes because they mistakenly believed switching to e-cigarettes was unsafe? How many lives have been cut short?
There is an assumption supported by tobacco prohibitionists: that the government can – and often should – force its way into the personal life of the citizen, so long as its micromanagement can plausibly (or even implausibly) be linked to health. . The American system, however, was intended for a nation of adults, and efforts to infantilize the population are inconsistent with fundamental American principles.
The logic of Leslie Knopian governance goes well beyond tobacco regulation. While less than 14 percent of american adults smoke cigarettes, nearly 42 percent of Americans are obese. What else, more than 9,500 Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer every day, and annual rate alcohol-related deaths average over 140,000. So should we institute a head nanny to criminalize the Big Mac and enforce sunscreen mandates? Should alcohol prohibition be reinstated? Last time we tried it ended in a nation full of drinkers and the rise of organized crime.
The FDA ongoing action against menthol cigarettes is an outgrowth of this same worldview. Its proponents, however, rarely face the enforcement costs of criminalizing common behaviors. Derrick Johnson, president of the NAACP, for example, called the proposed menthol ban a “victory for justice,” due to the popularity of menthol cigarettes in the African-American community. While Mr. Johnson is understandably concerned about the high rates of smoking-related disease among black Americans, he obviously has no qualms about expanding the war on drugs into a new theater. The assumption that the proposed menthol ban won’t have unintended consequences – just because smoking is unhealthy – is as naïve as Grandma’s taunts at “Kids These Days” with their loud music and funny clothes. . Would the world be a better place if no one smoked cigarettes? Surely. Is the prohibition gratuitous or particularly effective? Surely not.
Everyone understands that smoking cigarettes is unhealthy, and American smoking is on the decline. Doctor approved Advertisements “LS/MFT” are not anymore. If the FDA is serious about tobacco harm reduction — “THR,” for short — and insists on getting involved, it should avoid ill-advised bans and focus its resources on promoting THR strategies that are demonstrably effective (how to vape). Instead of prolonging the war on drugs — which will inevitably lead to violence —Washington could expose the myriads of fictions advanced by anti-vape puritans.
The fact that smokers are, in 2022, a shrinking and increasingly unpopular constituency makes their rights not less, but more worthy of public advocacy. The American system was designed to protect the rights of small factions against prying majorities and to create space for citizens to pursue their own notions of happiness.
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