This column has already documented officialdom’s unrelenting war on e-cigarettes. In fact, those articles were some of the best-read I have ever posted, so I guess we touched a nerve. The insidious tag team—comprised of Big Tobacco and the supposed public health interest groups against smoking—is perfectly evocative of the “Bootleggers and Baptists” phenomenon, originally described by economist Bruce Yandle.
This latest attack comes in the form of certain Indiana laws, passed this year. Specifically, we refer to Indiana House Enrolled Act 1432 (regulates e-liquids); and Indiana Senate Enrolled Act 463 (regulates the sales of e-cigarettes, treating them as tobacco products). Among other problems, these laws focus only on so-called “open system” vaporizers, while completely exempting the “closed system” variety.
A closed system e-cig consists of a battery and either cartomizer (cartridge and atomizer combined into one piece); or cartridge and atomizer, provided together in a single unit. This type of e-cig can be either disposable or rechargeable.
Open system vaporizers consist of interchangeable batteries, atomizers, tanks, or cartomizers. Some users remove the cartridge, and employ clearomizers (essentially a clear cartomizer) or tanks. What makes these products “open system” is that they afford vapers a good deal more flexibility in how they can be utilized. They can use a vast range of different e-liquids; they can use a variety of battery types, including variable voltage; and they can take advantage of many types of tanks or clearomizers.
Not surprisingly, the open system devices are becoming more popular. While some e-cig users prefer the older closed systems because they are simpler, the real opponent of the open systems is Big Tobacco, which sells only the closed system devices. By an odd coincidence, the closed system units are not nearly as efficient in accomplishing total tobacco replacement.
The Indiana laws impose burdensome regulations, but only on the open systems, and target the e-liquids specifically. This is curious since the open and closed devices are virtually identical in both their chemical composition and functionality. The regulations have been described as imposing casino security and Big Pharma manufacturing standards on the production of e-liquids. To what end?
Apparently, proponents of the laws invoked the notion of “adulteration,” whereby the e-liquid can be contaminated owing to poor manufacturing processes; or more commonly, doctored to contain controlled substances. Superficially, such adulteration is easier in an open system, although it can also be accomplished in a closed system.
Bear in mind that whatever adulteration might occur is virtually always done by the vaper himself. More than that, why would any legit e-liquid supplier risk his business by purposely adding a controlled substance to his product? Sadly, though, any appeal to health—especially the health of children—no matter how dubious is usually enough to line up the support of feckless legislators.
It probably didn’t hurt that Big Tobacco and interests that would directly benefit from the law lobbied heavily in favor of it. One of the more over-the-top appeals was a “poignant” video featuring a child being harmed by some sort of e-liquid, which was later discovered to have been purchased at a flea market—not any kind of legit supplier.
Suffice to say that strange politics were definitely involved in this matter, including an Indiana casino magnate who now wants to enter the e-cig business, via a crony capitalism monopoly. Litigation challenging the laws is underway, with a second action on the horizon. Should the laws stand, e-liquids will be hard to come by in Indiana, and a black market will surely flourish, not to mention the proliferation of less-than-ideally produced liquids, or the increased sales of cigarettes.
That virtually all health-related NGOs, as well as most relevant government agencies are lined up against e-cigarettes should tell you all you need to know about the sorry state of public health policy. I promise you that it goes far beyond e-cigs.