The smoking rate has risen for the first time in 20 years. This sad discovery should inject new vitality into smoking cessation work. Surprisingly, the opposite is happening.
According to academic research funded by the National Institutes of Health, Democrats are trying to inject a new tax on nicotine use into the “Rebuild Better” bill, which will enable more than 2.5 million Americans to start smoking again. Just a few weeks ago, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration actually declared almost all e-cigarette products illegal, even though they have proven to be the most effective smoking cessation method ever.
Dr. Robert Califf, the head of the FDA nominated by President Joe Biden, helped formulate this tough policy during his short term at the FDA during the Obama era. His confirmation hearing on Tuesday showed that he could easily take office again.
So, have public health advocates stood up? No. They also seem to be bent on destroying the emerging e-cigarette industry, loudly urging the FDA to issue more market denial orders, depriving millions of Americans of their right to switch from smoking to safer alternatives to e-cigarettes.
Every year, more than 400,000 Americans die from smoking-related diseases, and none of them die from nicotine. However, organizations such as the American Lung Association and the American Medical Association called for a total ban on the use of e-cigarette products, but did not mention the surge in the number of smokers-although e-cigarette taxes and bans are directly related to the increase in smoking rates.
No wonder the stocks of major tobacco companies are rising, and analysts are optimistic that the crackdown on e-cigarettes will continue this trend.
If the alliance of Baptists and bootleggers in the Prohibition Era of the 20th century seemed unthinkable, then the partnership between today’s nanny moralization and the cigarette industry is indeed sinister.
In this version of the economic fable, the Prohibitor is paid directly through selling vices. That’s because the 1998 general settlement agreement between tobacco companies and state governments provided state and federal agencies and militant organizations with massive and permanent cuts in cigarette revenues to cheer on bureaucrats.
Incredibly, the FDA’s Tobacco Products Center is fully funded by tobacco user fees, averaging more than 5 billion a year. Every state can also get huge annual returns-as long as people continue to buy cigarettes.
You don’t need a degree in public choice theory to see how cash channels distort incentives for public health officials, who should rely strictly on clinical objectivity. The more cigarettes sold, the more cash the government gets.
Califf, the head of the FDA nominated by the White House, also faced the same problem: He served as a long-term consultant for many pharmaceutical companies that sell smoking cessation products. At Califf’s confirmation hearing, senators will ask why these companies are allowed to sell lucrative nicotine replacement therapies that are far less effective than the nicotine e-cigarettes he hopes to ban.
Senators can still ask written questions, and they may also ask him about the puzzling arguments raised by the FDA in the first e-cigarette case before the Supreme Court this month. The agency stated that its temporary market approval process forces adult e-cigarette users who have quit smoking to re-smoker, posing a real risk to public health, and the FDA has stated that this situation should be avoided as much as possible. But at the same time, the FDA is doing its best to stifle the e-cigarette industry, threaten retailers, and frighten the public with severely distorted fear appeals.
While they are doing this, the senators may also seek testimony from the man who spent more time and money lobbying the FDA to ban e-cigarettes: the chief nanny of the United States, Michael Bloomberg. In the 1920s, the chief paladin of Prohibition was a grumpy grandmother named Carrie Nation. She held an axe and believed that God ordered her to smash beer kegs. Today, this cloak is held by Bloomberg, a self-styled moralist who has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to fund a large group of lobbyists, public relations agencies and frontline organizations to support his anti-e-cigarette campaign.
More than 15 million Americans who use e-cigarette products will cheer for those gentlemen who ultimately face serious problems, because they deprive Americans of their freedom to switch from cigarettes to e-cigarettes and control their own healthy destiny.