Nicotine policy flawed

| May 24, 2018

In a opinion piece, Raymond March has asked why, when other examples of lawmakers attempting to legislate consumer health have failed or made the situation worse, would it be assumed that regulating cigarettes would be any different?

March said that, in 2015, nearly 70 percent of smokers in the US tried unsuccessfully to quit and that their inability to stop had come with considerable health risks. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking accounted for more than 480,000 preventable deaths per year. Health complications associated with smoking were also financially taxing, leading to nearly $170 billion in direct medical costs annually.

To reduce both eye-opening figures, the Food and Drug Administration had recently announced its intent to reduce nicotine levels in cigarettes.

The FDA hoped that reducing nicotine would cause current smokers to cut back and prevent future generations from starting.

But, said March, it was important to look beyond policy intentions. Unfortunately, the most well-intended policies, especially those aimed to promote health or deter vices, were often deceptively harmful.

Reducing nicotine in cigarettes would likely motivate smokers to consume more cigarettes to satisfy their craving, increasing the amount of toxic materials they ingested. Others might turn to other nicotine products to satisfy their cravings.

Often the alternatives were no better or worse.

Regulations placed on physicians and consumers to prevent opioid abuse often drove patients to seek dangerous illicit alternatives, including heroin. Taxing soda motivated consumers to drink more unhealthy fruit juices and alcoholic beverages. As a result, the consumer’s health was at greater risk.

‘When other examples of lawmakers attempting to legislate consumer health fail or make the situation worse, why would regulating cigarettes be any different?’ he asked.

March is a research fellow at the Independent Institute and assistant professor of economics at San Jose State University.


Category: Breaking News, Harm reduction, People, Regulation

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