Alberto Mingardi  

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The war against tobacco has been fought vigorously by the European Union. Lately, the European Commission has been pushing for changing the Tobacco Products Directive, in an even more restrictive sense. To dissuade young people from picking up smoking, health warnings will cover 65% of the front and back of all tobacco packs. Here you can find an interesting gallery of "cigarette packaging through the ages".

Tobacco regulation is an interesting issue because governments are waging a crusade against cigarettes under the banner of public health, but at the same time they are the main beneficiaries of this very trade, as excise tax counts for roughly 60% of a cigarette pack's price.

How should then governments consider alternatives to cigarette smoking? As a threat to precious fiscal revenues, or as a way of "nudging" smokers out of their old habits? The Daily Telegraph reports that there are talks in Brussels of banning "by 2017, e-cigarettes that produce levels of nicotine above 20 mg per ml, those with refillable cartridges or those designed to taste like tobacco. Suppliers say that all e-cigarettes currently available would fall foul of the prohibition".

For the Telegraph, "Brussels officials fear that there is a 'risk that electronic cigarettes can develop into a gateway to normal cigarettes'".

In Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand writes:

I like cigarettes, Miss Taggart. I like to think of fire held in a man's hand. Fire, a dangerous force, tamed at his fingertips. I often wonder about the hours when a man sits alone, watching the smoke of a cigarette thinking. I wonder what great things have come from those hours. When a man thinks, there is a spot of fire alive in his mind - and it is only proper that he should have the burning point of a cigarette as his one expression.

I am not so sure that this - the pleasure of taming fire like Prometheus, but at a much lower cost - is the main motivation behind smoking. I fear somebody in Brussels is taking Ayn Rand too seriously, for once.

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CATEGORIES: Eurozone crisis , Regulation

COMMENTS (8 to date)
Shane L writes:

"I wonder what great things have come from those hours."

I wonder what great things have not come because the thinkers died decades early because they spent their youth smoking.

Anyway! I enjoy your perspective that proposed regulations on e-cigarettes is an attempt to protect tax revenue, though several governments have passed laws prohibiting smoking in workplaces and so forth. These could also harm government revenue if they lead to people giving up smoking. I'd stick with the more mainstream interpretation: governments are responding to pressure from lobby groups to reduce tobacco consumption, hopefully thereby also cutting the costs to treating tobacco-related diseases in public health systems.

Puritanism. Victorianism. Maternalism. Uninvitedly messing with other people's lives. This is what this is all about.

Gene writes:


The great majority of the "best work" of thinkers, scientists, artists, writers, musicians, etc., throughout history was done during the first half of their lives. That those thinkers died at 65 instead of 75 likely did not deprive us of very much.

Heather writes:

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chipotle writes:
For the Telegraph, "Brussels officials fear that there is a 'risk that electronic cigarettes can develop into a gateway to normal cigarettes'".

From the continent that gave us snus, this is pretty effin' rich.

This is just bureaucratic busywork.

Is it not just as likely that e-cigs are the most effective anti-smoking/pro-cessation advancement in history?

How hard would it be to wait until the outcome of the experiment before making a judgment?

And people wonder whence the origins of anti-Brussels sentiments... Please!

Tracy W writes:

The thing I've noticed about the anti-smoking movement is that it doesn't stop. Each restriction is followed by calls for more restrictions, not by saying "meh, if someone still wants to kill themselves it's their choice."

Pajser writes:

Tobacco production is likely one of those evils in the plain sight discussed recently. It might be that libertarians are on the wrong side of the ideology here. Paternalist and similar reasons can be dismissed, but libertarians should restrict tobacco use more than others because of "trespassing" lungs and non-aggression principle. Others can request that non-smokers tolerate a bit of tobacco smoke for a "greater good." Libertarians cannot do that.

LD Bottorff writes:

I despise tobacco smoke and its effects on people. However, I'm afraid that Tracy W has nailed it.

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