New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s aggressive nanny-state policies — such as his crusades against trans fats and large-size sodas — have been annoying and, at times, unconstitutional. While some of his critics have suggested sinister motives, the most charitable assessment has always been that Bloomberg is well-intentioned; it’s just that his policy solutions are misguided.
Now, news leaked last week that Bloomberg is getting ready to push for a series of ordinances intended to drive electronic cigarettes off the market in Gotham. In doing so, Bloomberg is making it evident that he really does just want to boss people around — even if it’s not for their well-being.
For decades lawmakers and bureaucrats have tried to mitigate smoking and the harm it causes through punitive taxation and heavy regulation. However, the technological breakthrough behind electronic cigarettes could be a disruptive technology — letting the free market provide a solution to a problem that social engineers have not been able to address through stiff government regulations. It’s one reason why businessmen like Sean Parker, an early investor in Facebook and founder of Napster, have become big boosters of electronic cigarettes.
Studies have shown that electronic cigarettes stand to improve health and prevent disease. By choosing to “vape” e-cigs instead of smoking cigarettes, consumers get their nicotine fix without the combustion and smoke — responsible for much of the negative health effects of tobacco cigarettes. For smokers already addicted to nicotine, e-cigs provide an alternative delivery mechanism that does not come with the proven harm that results from smoking.
The new ordinances to be proposed by the Bloomberg administration, which were reported last week and are expected to be taken up by the City Council later this month, would define and regulate electronic cigarettes as a tobacco product — though it has no tobacco. It would also raise the legal age to purchase e-cigs from 18 to 21, and ban the promotion, display and marketing of e-cigs.