Bans and regulations on ecigs and vaping products roar worldwide. Consumer’s rights and freedom of choice are constantly limited by a paternalistic approach by governments and international regulatory bodies. But history repeats itself. In the United States, back in the last century, prohibition on alcohol didn’t work. Why should bans work with e-cigarettes nowadays?
To be successful, governments and advocates need to empower people to make informed decisions. Deliver consistent information, show the options available, promote safer alternatives. All factors will help consumers to make the right choice.
So far, the Health public authorities have used coercion rather than cooperation, but this approach won’t lead to any result.
Looking back to the prohibition’s period in the U.S during the first decades of the past century, many people agreed that it was a failure, which only pushed the alcohol industry underground with unsafe and tax-free products that increase the number of criminal groups thanks to high-lucrative profits.
Those are the main points conveyed during the panel by David T. Sweanor J.D., Chair of the Advisory Board for the Centre for Health Law, Policy & Ethics at the University of Ottawa.
“What we have now is an effort to use the power of the states to impose one or more views on a specific behaviour or a choice. The state impose rules saying you can’t do a certain action and to fulfil these rules it uses the power of coercion. But you are fighting against consumers instead that working with them” said Mr Sweanor.
According to Sweanor, societies is moving in different directions in trying to deal with dangerous products or activities. Inevitably, prohibition and bans lead to a failure while in certain cases there was a success in transforming the market in favour of consumers.
An example is the war of public health agencies against junk food: it’s a story of success because it transformed the market thanks to the information given to consumers about the risks. An approach that pushed producers to adopt the consumer’s preference for a better quality of food, and move in that direction.
“Bans without working with users don’t lead to any change and don’t push the markets to meet consumers needs,” stressed Mr Sweanor during the panel.
The idea of using the power of the states to impose a particular view on consumers comes from a wrong assumption.
“People think they are battling with the evil, but they don’t think about people. It’s like a crusade, with a strong moral reaction, where they do not look for compromise and a pragmatic view. They want to win because they are on the side of truth and justice,however, they get it wrong. This is particularly true for the crusade against smoke, where even international bodies think nicotine is the problem and they must attack any alternatives to combustible cigarettes because of it,” Mr Sweanor concluded.