To the Editor:
Prohibition has a long history of failure. Not only has it failed to eliminate (or even diminish) the availability of banned goods, but it has also led to levels of violence that are wholly unacceptable.
Alcohol prohibition led to the rise of the mafia. Recreational drug prohibition has empowered street gangs and Latin American cartels. Other, more minor prohibitions, like the ban on selling “loosie” cigarettes, has led to cops shifting their focus away from solving violent crimes toward enforcing arbitrary “possession” and “distribution” violations, and has led to the imprisonment — and even death — of countless people who were doing nothing but selling a product to a willing customer.
We can only expect that the same thing will happen when Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s latest ban on flavored e-cigarettes goes into effect. Just like cannabis and cocaine today, and alcohol years ago, a government-induced ban will not eliminate their availability. As long as there are willing customers, there will be people willing to sell. The only difference is that after the ban, instead of going into their local convenience store, they’ll be going to some guy in a dark alley. As black market sellers vie for flavored e-cigarette “territory,” street violence is a likely consequence. And with one another banned item for them to enforce, cops will be even less capable of policing the crimes that we’d actually want to be policed — murder, rape, theft, assault, etc.
Proponents of a e-cigarette ban say (as they often do) that it’s to protect kids. While that sounds good and makes for a good line in a campaign speech, that’s baloney.
The ban was enacted via executive action, with the Special Codes Committee of the Public Health and Health Planning Council voting for emergency implementation saying that the risk was too great for them to wait for the state Legislature to come back into session. Prior to the vote, there were reports of hours of passionate testimony from people arguing vehemently against the ban. Considering all this, one has to wonder how much desire for such a ban existed at the grassroots level, or if it was merely a political consideration.
People have known forever that smoking cigarettes is harmful and can lead to all kinds of horrific health problems. Now that the market has provided a viable alternative to inhaling cigarette smoke, people are increasingly choosing to drop their lung-blackening cigarettes for the smokeless, vapor-based e-cigarettes. Many people have said that they’ve been wanting to quit cigarettes for years, and this new technology has been the catalyst for making that happen.
More than a desire to protect “the kids,” the far more logical reasoning behind the ban is that Big Tobacco has been losing market share and now their lobbyists are calling in favors with the politicians whose campaigns they’ve financed. These crony relationships are being used to protect their profits and protect themselves from competition. And the politicians are more than happy to oblige.
The writer is chairman of the Onondaga Libertarian Party.