Sen. Dick Durbin, long known for his anti-smoking campaigns, released a new report Monday alleging that e-cigarette companies target youth smokers, and then proposing a new set of Food and Drug Administration regulations for the products. Durbin’s 40-page report urges a slew of restrictions on e-cigarette marketing and sales. Durbin commented upon release of the paper that: “E-cigarettes are a candy-flavored addiction which is dangerous to our young people across America.”
But if anything, the report reveals more about the bizarre and childish obsessions of nanny-state politicians such as Durbin than any true public safety risks. The report makes hay over the fact that many e-cigarettes have flavors – cherry, strawberry, and grape, for example, which somehow prove that e-cigarette manufacturers conspire to get children hooked on e-cigarettes – as if adults never enjoy flavored products at all. This is hardly news and falls far short of proving a conspiracy to entrap children.
Other demands in the report appear to clearly violate the First Amendment. Durbin wants e-cigarette companies to “refrain from the use of television and radio advertisements” and suggests that the FDA and Federal Trade Commission establish rules banning product promotion via social media, event sponsorship, and in any other promotion they deem “attractive” to minors. These requests amount to little more than censorship under the guise of health regulation. If any federal agency attempted to regulate advertising in such an obviously unconstitutional manner, it would rightly face numerous lawsuits.
Even if most people think some regulation of e-cigarettes is necessary, it’s still worth asking if federal regulation is needed when state and local governments, such as Chicago’s, have already begun to address the issue with a rather heavy hand and, among other restrictions, have banned sales to minors. There’s no good reason to create a redundant layer of laws at the federal level, too.
Durbin says his proposal is to protect children, but children can’t legally purchase e-cigarettes. What it’s really about is treating the rest of us like children – which, given his history of trying to get the FDA to regulate energy drinks, Durbin seems addicted to. It’s time for busybody politicians to start allowing adults to make their own decisions about the products they use, where they use them and how they can hear about them.