By Dr. Julio Gonzalez, J.D.
As of this writing, the Florida Legislature is considering bills that would prohibit adult Floridians over the age of 18 from purchasing non-combustible nicotine products or nicotine dispensing products (“vapors”). The legislation may include an artificial definition of these products as “tobacco.” Such a move would be in error.
As conservatives, we demand that government’s intrusions upon our lives be as small as possible. Yes, government has a bona fide role in ensuring the health, morale, welfare, and safety of the people, but such an intervention in this case would do neither.
During the late twentieth century, government played an active role in discouraging cigarette smoking. This campaign was met with resistance from those who believed that it was not government’s role to meddle in their lives. Nevertheless, in that campaign there was direct and incontrovertible evidence that smoking was intimately tied with lung cancer, not only for the smoker, but for those who secondarily inhaled the smoke. In the end, most agreed, because of the incontrovertible, causative correlation between cigarette smoking and cancer, both its regulation and the active discouragement of its use was an appropriate role for government.
In the case of vaping, no such correlation exists.
The tars that plague cigarette smoke are not present in vaping products, nullifying the cancer links. Additionally, the American Cancer Society has stated that that giving up combustible cigarettes is the single most important thing a smoker can do to improve her health, even it if she accomplishes this goal by using e-cigarettes.
Additionally, Moffitt Cancer Center’s Thomas Brandon, PhD., Director of Moffitt’s Tobacco Research and Intervention program in Tampa, Fla., stated on February 28, 2018, that “…e-cigarettes represent the most important change in the landscape of tobacco use [in decades]” and encouraged society to harness this change “to maximize the public health benefit from it.”
Somehow, the discussion regarding e-cigarettes and government’s role in regulating it has gone wildly wrong. Here we do not have a product, as best as science can tell, that is killing people, but one that may be helping them and even saving lives. We have a product that stands unlinked to cancer and may serve as a needed substitute for another that is. For the Florida legislature to consider banning the sale of these products absent the causative link present in smokable and chewable tobacco (and perhaps even representing a net societal benefit) is a clear example of an overstep of government’s proper role.
Yes, there are many who find e-cigarette vapors annoying, but a local annoyance is no reason for government to step in. Rather, it is up to business-owners and individuals to regulate themselves.
Florida ought to avoid policy changes that would inhibit adults from exercising their freedom to access vaping products known to have health benefits and devoid of proven, life-threatening consequences relied on by many, including member of our military, to kick the smoking habit.
The Florida legislature to reject this invitation to excessively intrude into the lives of its citizens.
Dr. Julio Gonzalez is an orthopaedic surgeon and lawyer living in Venice, Florida. He is the author of The Federalist Pages and served in the Florida House of Representatives. He can be reached through www.thefederalistpages.com to arrange a lecture or book signing.