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36 Organizations Sign Coalition Letter Condemning Menthol Prohibition Proposal

Earlier today, Americans for Tax Reform released a letter signed by 36 leading national and state-based organizations representing millions of taxpayers and consumers throughout the United States urging the Food and Drug Administration to reject a proposed ban on menthol cigarettes. This letter adds to a similar letter signed by 27 civil liberty and racial justice organizations organized by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and demonstrates overwhelming bipartisan opposition to this proposal.  

The letter noted the devastating social impact of criminalizing an activity undertaken by over 18 million Americans, primarily from minority communities, asserting “If this proposal were to be enacted, it is inevitable that it would lead to further confrontations between individuals and law enforcement and break down trust even further. In addition, by diverting law enforcement resources to preventing the sale of menthol cigarettes, this policy will reduce the resources available for the prevention and solving of property and violent crimes.” 

The letter continued, “We further draw your attention to the fact that any comprehensive analysis of the data from jurisdictions where menthol products have been banned demonstrates that, while the majority of users switch to non-menthol cigarettes, over 20% of menthol smokers moved to purchasing illicit products through the black market. Not only does this put all parties involved at risk of police involvement, the illicit tobacco market is increasingly been run by sophisticated international criminal syndicates, often with links to sex trafficking, money laundering and even, increasingly, terrorism.” 

For these reasons, as the letter noted, the U.S. State Department has explicitly called tobacco smuggling, “a threat to national security”. 

The letter also recognized the importance of promoting harm reduction over prohibition, writing, “If the FDA wishes to reduce smoking rates, the best way of doing this is not through bans, but rather embracing life-saving new technologies to help smokers quit. The science is now overwhelming that the most effective way for smokers to quit is through the use of non-combustible reduced risk tobacco alternatives, ranging from vapor and “heat not burn” devices, to oral nicotine delivery systems or moist loose tobacco (which the FDA already allows to be marketed as reducing the cancer risk for persons who make the switch).” 

The letter concluded by urging the FDA to “engage in evidence-based policy making and embrace new technologies and alternative nicotine delivery systems that have been proven will be able to save millions of American lives.” 

Originally published here.

South Africa’s Prohibition Was A Failure. It Shouldn’t Be Repeated

CONTACT:

David Clement

Consumer Choice Center

South Africa’s Prohibition Was A Failure. It Shouldn’t Be Repeated

Cape Town, SA – Today, South Africa officially lifted its pandemic-era prohibition on the sale of alcohol and tobacco products. 

David Clement, North American Affairs Manager with the Consumer Choice Center responded: “While it is good news that South Africa is ending the ban, it needs to be restated how much of an utter failure the ban was over the past few months,” said Clement

“In banning otherwise legal products throughout the pandemic, the South African government criminalized peaceful adults, and drove consumers to illegal markets often selling dangerous and unregulated products.

“While South Africa’s failed prohibition experiment is over, it is important for South African consumers to urge the government to refrain from implementing another ban if a second Covid-19 wave comes to pass. The pandemic has been awful for millions of South Africans and the South African economy as a whole. Recreating prohibition in the process just made the situation worse,” said Clement

***CCC North American Affairs Manager David Clement is available to speak with accredited media on consumer regulations and consumer choice issues. Please send media inquiries HERE.***

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org.

US Prohibition: The Noble Experiment?

Podcast by The History Society

Prohibition in the United States was dubbed the “Noble Experiment”. For 13  long, dry, and dreary years, the government aimed to keep alcohol out of the hands of its citizens, creating a litany of unintended consequences that continue to have an impact today.

In this episode, Yaël Ossowski describes the rise of the “dry” campaigners who sought Prohibition to remove alcohol from society, the bootlegging gangsters who built their fortunes, and the millions of Americans who became scofflaws in the face of corruption, violence, and disorder.

The Consumer Choice Center:  https://consumerchoicecenter.org/

Follow us on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/thshistorysociety/

Intro  and Outro Music: Fearless First by Kevin MacLeod Link:  https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/3742-fearless-first

License:  http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Prohibition has never and will never lead to smokers quitting

SA should learn from Australian tobacco policy failures, and stick to education rather than over-regulation

It is now beyond clear that SA’s continued ban on tobacco-related products has been a total disaster in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. The government loses R35m in tax revenue every day, and South Africans continue to smoke as before.

What comes after the lockdown ends? Research from the Australian government suggests that there should be a relaxation of tobacco policy given that country’s own failures. SA should take note.

Recent evidence from Australia illustrates the folly of trying to reduce demand through regulation, not that we necessarily need to look beyond the lived experiences of our friends and relatives here at home. On July 16, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare published its 2019 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS).

The survey asked more than 22,000 Australians about the performance of their government’s health policies, which includes tobacco control. Australia introduced plain packaging for tobacco products in December 2012, and is the only market for which longer-term data exists on policy effectiveness.

NDSHSs were conducted before and after this policy became operative, giving an indication as to whether it has succeeded.

Plain packaging was introduced to make tobacco products less appealing and thus lead to lower demand. But the NDSHS findings are not surprising and confirm what economists have known for decades: regulation and, at worst prohibition, does not lead to lower demand.

The percentage of daily smokers in Australia up to the introduction of plain packaging had been declining at a steady rate of 0.46% a year for more than two decades. After 2012, the decline slowed — not accelerated — to just 0.26% a year.

Before plain packaging, three in 10 Australians had no interest in giving up smoking — and that number did not decline afterwards. This is not to say that plain packaging was the cause of an increased demand, but rather that it certainly did not reduce demand.

Author’s analysis

Where plain packaging and other regulations can be blamed for an increased demand is with illegal loose-leaf tobacco, consumed either in roll-your-own form or inserted into empty cigarette tubes. The proportion of Australian smokers consuming these products increased by 37% after plain packaging was introduced, meaning that the 10.5% of illicit tobacco users in 2010 became 14.4% in 2019.

A May 2020 KPMG study agrees, but puts the latest numbers far higher for overall consumption of illicit tobacco (which includes unbranded loose tobacco, along with contraband and counterfeit product) — there has been an 80% increase in demand, from 11.5% in 2012 to 20.7% in 2019.

The Covid-19 lockdown regulations in SA have similarly caused the demand for illicit tobacco to skyrocket. Indeed, the only reason smokers aren’t rioting in the streets of SA is because they have managed to source cigarettes from the “black market”, which is short for “the economy doesn’t care about your politics”.

Prohibition cannot work: demand will always be supplied. Governments should find innovative ways of decreasing demand, such as education and information about alternatives to smoking, such as vaping.

The Covid-19 ban on tobacco product sales is, however, the more pressing problem … and has likely led to the smoking of far more hazardous cigarettes

The data shows that plain packaging is not helping Australian smokers quit. It might even be contributing to growth in the illicit tobacco trade. The law of unintended consequences, as with all policy, makes its presence known. It would therefore be unwise, reckless even, for SA to introduce plain packaging as contemplated in the Control of Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Bill of 2018.

As I pointed out at the time of the bill’s public participation process, the impact assessment undertaken by the government was woefully inadequate. That it did not factor in the poor performance of the plain packaging experience in Australia, goes to show that the bill was ill-considered.

President Cyril Ramaphosa should send the bill back to parliament, where any plain packaging provisions should be removed.

Moreover, the bill’s anticipated over-regulation of vaping products should also be revised, as vaping might prove to be one of the more effective means of getting people to quit smoking. If there is to be regulation, it must be proportionate and reflect the simple fact that vaping isn’t smoking, and they should not be treated in the same way. Public Health England argues that it is at least 95% less harmful than cigarette smoking, and e-cigarettes have also been found much better for quitting smoking, compared with nicotine replacement treatment.

The Covid-19 ban on tobacco product sales is, however, the more pressing problem. It has cost government more than R1bn a month in revenue since March, and has likely led to the smoking of far more hazardous cigarettes than would be available on the legal market. It is not government’s place, nor is it evidently within its expertise, to dictate lifestyle choices, even and perhaps especially during this particular pandemic.

Even the National Institute for Communicable Diseases has admitted that there is little to no evidence linking smoking to severe Covid-19 cases.

If SA does not wish to learn from history, which teaches the lesson that prohibition has never and can never work, then perhaps we can learn a lesson from experiences in other countries right now. The Australian experiment with plain packaging shows that at best it has no influence on the prevalence of smoking, and at worst might lead to an increased demand for illicit tobacco products, already a major problem in SA.

If our government insists on being involved in the lifestyle choices of citizens, it must stick to education and information, and leave the disastrous ideas of over-regulation and prohibition in the dustbin of history.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Prohibition and paternalism are always wrong, especially in a pandemic

Canada, in contrast to South Africa, responded to Covid-19 by ensuring that Canadians would continue to have access to alcohol, nicotine, and even cannabis during the lockdown. Ontario also allowed cannabis retailers to offer kerbside pick-up and delivery options.

David Clement and Martin van Staden – The recent full-scale lockdown is something that most people experienced for the first time in their lives. Countries like Canada and the United Kingdom, hit harder by Covid-19, enacted public policy that attempted to keep life as normal as possible by expanding consumer choice to compensate for the disruption. South Africa, in contrast, made the reality of the lockdown leaps and bounds worse by preventing consumer access to alcohol and nicotine, which drove consumers to the black market and forced addicts into withdrawal amidst a pandemic.

The continued prohibition on cigarette (and even e-cigarette) sales – alcohol is being sold freely again – is now being heard in court. South Africa is one of only three countries, the others being India and Botswana, to ban cigarettes during its lockdown. Government has asked, should the court find Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma’s regulations to be unlawful, that the matter be referred back to her for reconsideration rather than declaring them void.

Canada, in comparison to South Africa, responded to the pandemic by expanding consumer choice, and ensuring that Canadians would continue to have access to alcohol, nicotine, and even cannabis during the lockdown. Ontario, which is Canada’s largest province, declared convenience stores essential businesses, allowing them to operate from the start of the lockdown onward. This ensured that residents could still have access to nicotine products.

For alcohol, Ontario declared their state-owned liquor stores were essential, mandated that they remain open throughout the lockdown, and even went so far as to liberalise the hours of sale to offer consumers more choice and to avoid overcrowding. In addition, the Ontario government allowed for restaurants to offer alcohol with their food order deliveries, something that was previously prohibited. The province even did the same for cannabis retailers, allowing them to remain open by offering consumers kerbside pick-up and delivery options.

South Africa enacted its alcohol and tobacco/nicotine ban under the mantra of public health and protecting the healthcare system. This is a problematic approach for a few reasons. The first is that a full ban on these products recreates prohibition, which puts consumer safety at risk when consumers seek these products in the illegal market. Consumers accessing dangerous black-market products run the risk of increasing hospitalisations.

It will no doubt be argued that South Africa is unlike Canada. There is an underdeveloped healthcare system which has come under unbearable strain during the Covid-19 pandemic, and our population suffers from a host of ailments not easily found in the West, particularly tuberculosis. This, to some, means the drastic limitations imposed on personal freedoms here are justified.

The horrific stories of a man from Brakpan and a couple from Port Nolloth dying after consuming unsafe, homemade alcohol are illustrative of the consequences of prohibition. The proximate cause of their deaths might have been the dangerous substances they consumed, but the source of the problem was the government’s insistence that it knew best. The social contract never included an agreement that it was acceptable for the government to use a pandemic to paternalistically ban otherwise legal products. As a result, citizens have continued to, and will continue to, buy those products whether they are prohibited or not.

To make matters worse, South Africa’s approach flew in the face of harm reduction by also banning the sale of vaping products, which are 95% less harmful than traditional tobacco products. Not only has the government of South Africa pushed consumers into the hands of the black market, it has also banned one of the most successful smoking cessation tools available to consumers. If the goal of banning products is to protect public health, the last thing that should be banned is reduced risk cessation tools like vaping.

But the ban on vaping does not depart from the South African government’s already well-known paternalistic opposition to this alternative to smoking. The facts will not be allowed to stand in the way of political ideology and alliances.

It will no doubt be argued that South Africa is unlike Canada. There is an underdeveloped healthcare system which has come under unbearable strain during the Covid-19 pandemic, and our population suffers from a host of ailments not easily found in the West, particularly tuberculosis. This, to some, means the drastic limitations imposed on personal freedoms here are justified.

But a study in 28 countries found that there are fewer smokers, who presumably have weaker lungs, among Covid-19 hospitalisations than non-smokers. Research indicating that nicotine might in some way be inhibiting the spread of Covid-19 has hardly been limited to a single, vested interest source, but has come from all over. Nicotine, in other words, may help ensure that one does not contract the virus. If a smoker does end up being hospitalised for Covid-19, however, then there is certainly a greater risk.

Moreover, the overstretched and hopelessly inadequate public healthcare system is the government’s own making. Not only has the government historically done everything in its power to waste the money taxpayers have paid over to it through inefficiency, corruption, and incompetence, but the government has also let the lockdown, which was intended to allow for capacity-building, go to waste.

Rumours of another billion-rand bailout for South African Airways, or the establishment of another doomed national airline, should leave no room for doubt in the minds of our critics that the government has had, and currently has, the resources to run a tight ship in its healthcare system. It is by corrupt choice, and the lack of market-driven incentives, that this does not materialise. The constitutional freedoms South Africans are endowed with should not fall victim to the desire to give a malicious government “another chance”.

In 2017, Canada ranked 8th highest in the world for respecting the economic freedom of citizens. It is this deference to adults who can make their own decisions that, over the years enabled Canada and other countries in the top quintile of economic freedom to have economies and societies capacitated enough to deal with Covid-19. 

South Africa, ranked a poor 101st in the same index, has through its policy choices dug its own grave. It’s never too late to course-correct, but this requires paternalistic attitudes to be abandoned. 

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Narcos 3.0: Mexico declares War on Vaping and repeats old prohibitionists mistakes

When Mexico’s far-left President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (or short AMLO) ran for office in 2018, he and his platform promised an end to the decade-long war on drugs in Mexico. He acknowledged that prohibitionist policies cause more harm than they do good. Ironically that same President issued a surprise presidential decree on February 19 banning the import of e-cigarettes, vapes, and heated tobacco products. The order even forbids the import of nicotine-free vaping liquids.

The Presidential decree relies heavily on scare tactics, invoking the U.S. “vaping crisis” to justify Mexico’s ban. But even the U.S. CDC and AMLO’s decree concede the “vaping crisis” was actually caused by illicit black market vaping liquids. Pushing Mexican vapers to the black market will exactly cause what the order claims it is trying to prevent: more lung diseases.

Even before this decree, Mexico had opaque vaping regulations, that had to be clarified by a supreme court ruling and allowed at least certain manufacturers to sell e-cigarettes to the country’s roughly 1.2 million vapers.

These vapers are now being left alone with no access to nicotine products that are less harmful than conventional cigarettes, and that in times of lockdowns and people spending most of their week at home thanks to COVID. Two scenarios are most likely to happen if the decree does not get annulled:

  • Narcos 3.0: Mexico has a well developed black market for illicit substances, and, as regular Netflix viewers know, it serves as a massive transit hub for the global drug trade. It wouldn’t take much for organized crime to either smuggle legal vaping products from neighboring countries into Mexico and sell them on the black market or (even more concerning) sell counterfeited vaping liquids to Mexican vapers. The vaping crisis in the United States, which the Presidential decree instrumentalizes for its ban, was caused by illicit black market vaping liquids. Pushing Mexican vapers to the black market will exactly cause what the order tried to prevent: More lung diseases. 
  • Back to the ciggie: Even is the more dramatic scenario of a booming vaping black market might not come true (mainly due to the low margins on nicotine products compared to Cannabis or Cocaine), we would still see over a million vapers left behind. It is more likely that most of them will switch back to smoking regular cigarettes instead of switching to nicotine patches or entirely quit. That, in turn, would also lead to worse public health outputs.

We can see that AMLO’s decree will have serious, negative unintended consequences contrary to its own objectives.

Perhaps the most concerning is that the World Health Organization lauded Mexico’s vaping ban as a public health achievement, it fails to recognize that Mexico’s anti-vape stance will keep smokers and nicotine consumers locked in with combustible cigarettes. This policy deprives them of the choice to switch to the 95% less harmful vapes. The Consumer Choice Center’s interactive vaping map shows that up to 3.3 million additional Mexican smokers could switch to vaping if the government would emulate the UK’s progressive and science-based vaping laws.

 

Better vaping policies could help millions of Mexicans

So instead of cracking further down on vaping, Mexico should embrace tobacco harm reduction. Due to COVID and the parliamentary schedule, the Mexican Congress is currently out of session. Still, there is a window for legislative action when Congress returns to operation in the fall.

Consumer groups, vaping advocates, and the scientific community need to use this window of opportunity to explain more Mexican politicians and regulators the benefits of vaping and help busting myths around the United States’ vaping crisis. Initial protests against this misguided decree started already in March. This multi-lingual paper on the Myths and Facts on Vaping, written by my colleagues Yael Ossowski and Bill Wirtz explains the reasons behind the perceived vaping crisis in the US and is also available in Spanish. Probably an essential message in this paper for politicians is this one:

MYTH #3: VAPING IS THE CAUSE OF RECENTLY REPORTED RESPIRATORY ILLNESSES

Much cause for concern of late has been a flurry of reports of illness and hospitalizations blamed on traditional vaping devices and liquids. The CDC has reported nearly 380 cases of lung illnesses related to vaping. Sensational headlines and opinion articles have convinced leaders in several states and even President Donald Trump to consider banning vaping flavors outright.

But careful analysis of the reported cases reveals that a vast majority of the patients with symptoms were found to have used illicit vape cartridges mixed with the cannabis compound THC. 

A study in the New England Journal of Medicine that examined cases in Illinois and Wisconsin found that 84% of hospitalized patients report using illicit THC vaping cartridges prior to their illness. No illnesses have yet been tied to store-bought vaping pods or liquids containing nicotine.

To that end, two Wisconsin brothers were recently arrested in connection with a multi-million dollar operation that mixed various chemicals (including Vitamin E) with THC in cartridges meant for vaping devices, which they then sold illegally. Authorities have identified this large scheme spread across much of the Midwest as a culprit in the recent lung illnesses there.

What this reveals is that illicit vaping products sold on black markets, rather than licensed retailers, have actually caused the most severe of the lung illnesses reported in the media. 

As such, a ban on regulated devices and liquids, whether with flavors or not, would not address the problem as it currently exists.

By pushing vaping into the black market and Mexican vapers going back to the cigarette, AMLO will (despite the thunderous applause from the World Health Organization) further weaken Mexico’s public health outputs. If he is passionate about fighting lung diseases he should make access to legal and safe ways of consuming nicotine easier and not harder. Everything else is just a stimulus program for organized crime and lung specialists.

European Union Specializes in Nicotine Prohibition

Consumer Choice Center policy analyst Bill Wirtz wrote at the end of 2018 that the findings of the European Court of Justice were nothing but political due to a history of policy that prioritizes certain tobacco products over others. The FDA’s approach to regulating e-cigarettes is that the agency is down an aggressive regulatory path not too far off that of Europe’s.

Read more here

«Pas de commerce de cannabis dans ma ville» : des Ontariens prônent une prohibition locale

Porte-parole de l’organisation Consumer’s Choice Centre, David Clement croit que les villes font fausse route en voulant interdire les points de vente de cannabis. Photo : Radio-Canada/Christian Noël David Clement vit à Oakville. Il est aussi porte-parole de l’organisation Consumer’s Choice Centre. Selon lui, les villes qui songent à interdire la vente de cannabis sur […]

Eighty-Five years since prohibition, but have we learnt anything?

This Wednesday was a special day. In the Netherlands, Dutch children celebrated the coming of Sinterklaas (along with his controversial helper Zwarte Piet). Walt Disney would have celebrated his 117th birthday. It was also world soil day, apparently. But the 5th of December 2018 also marked a particularly special anniversary: the end of prohibition in the United States. Eighty-five years ago, […]

Local Cannabis Regulations Are Creating Pockets of Prohibition

VOICE OF SAN DIEGO: By allowing cannabis lounges, San Diego area officials could remove consumers from public spaces and boost the local economy. The black market for alcohol is nearly non-existent in California because consumers have relatively easy legal access to those products.

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