Pot legalizers for illogical vape bans -…


California is a funny place. A few years ago, marijuana users were put in jail, while smoking cigarettes was everywhere, even in hospitals. Today, pot has been legal for recreational use since 2016, but cigarette and other tobacco use increasingly is banned. Sure, it makes sense to ban using either in public places, and for youngsters. But can’t the politicians just let adults alone to decide for themselves what they inhale in private?

The latest example of regulatory overreach concerns “synthetic nicotine.” It sounds sinister, but it’s just a form of nicotine made for “vapes,” especially the flavored kind. And it’s supposedly behind a “vaping epidemic” among young people. Currently, nicotine from tobacco is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.

But synthetic nicotine is not regulated, and sometimes is advertised as “tobacco-free,” meaning it also does not have the “tar” that is a prime cause of cancer for smokers. Some tobacco smokers even use vapes as a way-station to quitting altogether.

Unfortunately, California Attorney General Rob Bonta, a Democrat running for re-election, has jumped on the bandwagon to ban. “Synthetic nicotine products have become the new driver of the youth vaping crisis, with manufacturers using fun flavors and attractive marketing to addict a new generation to nicotine,” he said. “I urge the FDA to move swiftly before a new generation of teens starts vaping and smoking.”

He joined a bipartisan coalition of 30 attorneys general urging the ban. Calls to his opponent in the attorney general’s race, Republican Nathan Hochman, were not returned by publication time.

Jacob Sullum pointed out to us vapes are regulated as tobacco, even though they don’t use tobacco; he’s a senior editor at the Los Angeles-based Reason Foundation and the author of “For Your Own Good: The Anti-Smoking Crusade and the Tyranny of Public Health.”

He said, “The problem is the government is trying to stop vapers from consuming the flavors they overwhelmingly prefer (i.e., flavors other than tobacco), which makes vaping less appealing as a harm-reducing alternative to smoking. The upshot is that some ex-smokers will return to their former, much more dangerous habit, while some people who might have switched will continue smoking. That policy undermines public health in the name of promoting it, resulting in more smoking-related deaths than otherwise would have occurred.”

Ironically, attempts to ban real tobacco, or even tax it at higher levels, entirely have failed because doing so creates a vast black market. And governments depend on tobacco-tax revenues. According to the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration, in fiscal year 2020-21 the state took in $1.7 billion from taxes on tobacco.

If the FDA bans synthetic nicotine, doing so only will drive it underground. In California, vapes, like tobacco, already are banned for anyone under 21. Encouraging the FDA to ban synthetic nicotine only will create more problems and, ironically, more deaths. Bonta would be better advised to relax on this issue.

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