1) Batches of black-market vaping products, mostly containing THC rather than nicotine and used to get high, turn out to contain adulterants, most likely Vitamin E acetate, known to be harmful when inhaled. Over a period of weeks, hundreds of users fall seriously ill and several die in a classic “bad batch” episode familiar to epidemiologists and those who study the Drug War. [Erin Schumaker, ABC News]
2) Government reacts by banning a range of lawful nicotine vaping products sold in stores, none of which have been implicated in the deaths or injuries.
3) Predictable result: to drive some nicotine vape users back to cigarette smoking, and others toward sources of black-market supply. Good job, government! What problem would you like to fix next?
[Kimberly Leonard and Cassidy Morrison, Washington Examiner; Federalist Society Regulatory Transparency Project video featuring Sally Satel; Slate podcast with Jacob Grier; Jeffrey Singer, New York Daily News]
More: “Might restricting e-cigarette flavors actually increase smoking? (And acculturate vapers to tobacco flavors?) There’s actually some research on that” [Jonathan Adler on Twitter] Plus: trial lawyers circle vaping industry [Brendan Pierson, Reuters]
- London ban on transit ads depicting “bad” foods winds up nixing images of Wimbledon strawberries and cream, bacon, butter, cheese, jam, honey, and Christmas pudding [Scott Shackford]
- And more: British medical journal The Lancet wants to do some highly non-consensual poking and jabbing at your midsection, with the aim of making you lose weight; highlights include funding activist campaigns, cutting business out of policy discussions, and routing policy through the least accountable international organizations [Christopher Snowdon, The Spectator; more from Snowdon on state-subsidized anti-food advocacy in Britain; Nina Teicholz]
- Pushing back on the Lancet panel’s guideline that each person be allowed no more than one egg and less than 3.5 ounces of red meat a week [Mark Hemingway]
- “The Problem With Nudging People to Happiness” [Randy Barnett reviews Cass Sunstein’s On Freedom]
- “Pharmaceutical Freedom: Why Patients Have a Right to Self Medicate”, Cato Daily Podcast with Jessica Flanigan and Caleb Brown;
- “Proposed Anti-Soda Bills in California Would Ban Big Gulps, Mandate Warning Labels on Vending Machines” [Christian Britschgi] “Medical Groups Endorse New Taxes and Marketing Restrictions on Soda — For the children, of course” [Baylen Linnekin]
- “Sandwiches and main meal salads will be capped at 550 calories, ready meals will be capped at 544 calories and main courses in restaurants will be capped at 951 calories.” Guidelines from Public Health England aren’t mandatory yet, but expect U.K. government pressure on supermarkets and restaurants [Christopher Snowdon, Baylen Linnekin, Scott Shackford, Ryan Bourne]
- “We are not saying they can never give children a chocolate or biscuit ever again,” says the Public Health England official. “But it cannot be a daily occurrence.” And more from “2018: The [mostly U.K.] nanny state year in review” [Snowdon]
- Research paper on Philadelphia soda tax: cross-border shopping completely offsets in-city reduction in beverage sales, “no significant reduction in calorie and sugar intake.” [Stephan Seiler, Anna Tuchman, and Song Yao, SSRN via Caron/TaxProf] More: owner blames tax for closure of Philly supermarket [Eric Boehm]
- Alternative headline: feds act to curb food waste by giving local schools more freedom to offer lunches kids will willingly eat [Jaden Urbi, CNBC]
- “Los Angeles councilmember Paul Koretz [has] introduced a bill that, if passed, would require entertainment and travel venues around town to put at least one vegan dish on their menus.” [Clint Rainey, Grub Street; Scott Shackford]
- “Dollar stores are the latest target of advocates who want to improve food offerings by limiting them” [Baylen Linnekin]
From the U.K. — and a Conservative government, at that. “Pizzas must shrink or lose their toppings under Government plans to cap the calories in thousands of meals sold in restaurants and supermarkets. Pies, ready meals and sandwiches will also be subject to the new proposed calorie limits…. Under the draft proposals, a standard pizza for one should contain no more than 928 calories – far less than many sold by takeaways, restaurants and shops.” For the moment the restrictions would not be mandatory, but in a parallel initiative concerning sweet foods failures to meet the targets “have prompted warnings from ministers that tougher steps may be taken.”
If you figured the British Medical Journal would take the side of individual liberty against the nanny state, you might soon be fated to miss the point.
Government often makes a show of regulating business when its real aim is to regulate what consumers or citizens do. When direct coercion seems “brutal, unfair, and wrong… Switching to indirect coercion is a shrewd way for government to sedate our moral intuition.” Some examples that come to mind: campaigns that at base aim to regulate consumers’ eating and drinking choices instead often take the form of campaigns against manufacturers and sellers of food and drink, who as targets are inevitably less humanized and sympathetic. [Bryan Caplan]
Advocates claiming the mantle of public health would like to introduce scary new warnings on foods high in sugar, salt, or fat, and restrict marketing, as by banning the use of cartoon characters. For years they’ve been trying to advance their schemes through the use of international organizations and institutions, but now the United States, or at least its federal government, has begun pushing back. The New York Times doesn’t like that one bit and my latest Cato post examines the difference between what a principled position might look like, and the position the Times actually takes. Excerpt:
Like international organizations, treaty administration bodies tend to draw for guidance on an elite stratum of professional diplomats, conference-goers, NGO and nonprofit specialists, and so forth, most of whom are relatively insulated from any pushback in public opinion. That might be a good reason to minimize the role of transnational panels in governance where not absolutely necessary. It is not a good reason to adopt the Times’s implicit position on lobbying for international standards, which is that it’s fine when done by our side but illegitimate when done by yours.
Related: Good piece on sugar/fat wars, with one proviso: when it’s Stanton Glantz spreading a tale, don’t just call it “University of California” [David Merritt Johns and Gerald M. Oppenheimer, Slate]
Public Health England “is ‘demanding’ a calorie-cap on supermarket ready meals that would limit breakfasts to 400 calories and lunches and dinners to 600 calories each.” That’s among numerous nanny-state initiatives under way in the United Kingdom, including stringent guidelines on individual drinking and the introduction of a sugary drinks tax. Madsen Pirie, Adam Smith Institute:
It is not really government’s job to make people feel miserable, and it is certainly no business of theirs to legislate what people may or may not eat. The fact that the recommended limits are so low is justified by officials on the grounds that people will always exceed recommendations, so ultra-low ones will make them exceed to tolerable rather than intolerable levels. The problem with this approach is that the ultra-low targets simply discredit the whole process of recommendation. …
There is a very good case for proposing that government should stop doing this altogether. There is plenty of good medical advice that people can read in the press, and most people are aware of the ancient dictum, “Nothing to excess.” Most of us, I suspect, would like to indulge ourselves occasionally without having official bullies making us feel bad about doing so.
“Wyoming has the most freedom from paternalism, while New York is the most paternalistic state.” 50-state survey [Russell Sobel and Joshua Hall, Mercatus Center] From: “For Your Own Good: Taxes, Paternalism, and Fiscal Discrimination in the Twenty-First Century,” new Mercatus book on sin taxes edited by Adam Hoffer and Todd Nesbit.