Last week, the Missouri legislature overturned a veto by Governor Jay Nixon of a bill to ban the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors. Ironically, the bill was vigorously opposed by anti-smoking groups, including Tobacco-Free Missouri and the American Cancer Society and American Heart Association.
The bill is quite simple. It classifies electronic cigarettes as a non-tobacco product and bans the sale of these products to minors.
The health groups opposed this legislation because it classified electronic cigarettes separately from real cigarettes and they wanted the two products classified exactly the same.
Today, I reveal the true reasons behind the anti-smoking groups' ironic position on this legislation. After all, why would they oppose a law to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors?
The Rest of the Story
The rest of the story was revealed in an article at the KCUR web site:
"“It was operating under the guise of protecting youth, but really it
just created a special carve-out for a special interest,” says Traci
Kennedy, executive director of Tobacco-Free Missouri. Tobacco-Free
Missouri opposed the law, along with the American Cancer Society, the
American Heart Association and other health groups. While the law
doesn’t plainly forbid regulation of e-cigarettes, these groups point
out that, by defining e-cigarettes as not tobacco, it keeps them from
being subject to the same taxes and health-requirements as traditional
In other words, there are two reasons why the anti-smoking groups opposed this law:
The anti-smoking groups opposed the law because they want to see electronic cigarettes taxed, just as tobacco products are taxed. Anti-smoking groups receive a considerable amount of money from tobacco tax revenue so it is not surprising that these groups would want to see heavy taxes imposed on electronic cigarettes. This is a ludicrous position from a public health perspective, however. Why would we want to give cigarettes even more of a competitive advantage in the marketplace by reducing the cost advantage to the fake cigarettes? The only one protected by such a move is Big Tobacco and their cigarette profits. Which leads us to the second reason for the anti-smoking groups' opposition to the bill.
2. Protecting Cigarette Sales
Ironically, what the anti-smoking groups are promoting is the protection of cigarette sales from competition from electronic cigarettes. They are concerned about e-cigarettes escaping from the "health requirements" to which traditional cigarettes are subject. But what health requirements are there for traditional cigarettes? Maybe I need to be educated by Tobacco-Free Missouri, but the most recent data I've seen show that those tobacco cigarettes are killing more than 400,000 people each year in the United States. And I'm not aware of any meaningful health requirements for these products.
What Tobacco-Free Missouri and its allies are saying is that they do not want electronic cigarettes to enjoy any competitive advantage in the marketplace. Essentially, these anti-smoking groups are acting in a way to protect cigarette sales from competition. God forbid that there remain a cost incentive for smokers to switch to electronic cigarettes and quit smoking. God forbid that there is a public perception that e-cigarettes are much safer than real cigarettes and that smokers therefore quit smoking and switch to vaping.
The only one I would expect to take the position of the Missouri anti-smoking groups is Big Tobacco itself, because the cigarette companies have a financial incentive to protect their cigarette profits. But ironically, even Big Tobacco supports this ban on the sale of e-cigarettes to minors. Even Big Tobacco is not trying to protect its own cigarettes from competition from e-cigarettes.
It is shameful that anti-smoking groups in Missouri are willing to sacrifice the health of Missouri children because they want to stifle competition against cigarettes.