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The case for permissionless innovation in tobacco harm reduction

By Yaël Ossowski

As a consumer advocate enamored with technology, there is nothing more satisfying than seeing a new product or service providing a solution to an old problem.

The entire world of Bitcoin — lightning nodes, censorship resistance, and frictionless cross-border payments — is doing wonders for financial freedom and security.

Ride-sharing and home-sharing apps are putting dormant property to use, providing income for drivers and homeowners and rides and places to stay for tourists and students.

And when it comes to tobacco harm reduction, innovation is picking up at breakneck speed, offering new and more effective ways to wean smokers off the harms of cigarettes. At another time, this is something public health organizations would have praised.

Pod vaping devices, open tanks, synthetic nicotine disposables, snus, heated tobacco products, and nicotine pouches are offering precisely what former smokers need without the same level of risk, all varied to some degree.

It is the permissionless innovation of this entire field — entrepreneurs large and small — that provides such hope to us technological optimists and harm reduction advocates. It excites us to the opportunities that progress can provide.

But for opponents of this particular shade of innovation — whether health groups, academics, or competing lobbies —  the very nature of how these products come to be is what so concerns them.

The vast majority of vaping products and alternative tobacco products are not spawned from public grants, university studies, or government programs, but rather from the process of entrepreneurial discovery, offering solutions to problems that exist in society.

This could be a former-smoker turned vaping entrepreneur with a thriving flavored liquids business run out of his garage, a multinational tobacco firm with thousands of employees, or a group of engineering students who just want to create a cool and safer alternative to the daily pack of cigarettes.

These entrepreneurial forces are reacting to a demand in the market, namely, millions of smokers who want to stub their last cigarette. For many of us, this is a positive example of permissionless innovation. For others, it is nothing more than greed and exploitation.

One can understand that the institutions and lobby groups that oppose efforts at tobacco harm reduction are threatened by private industries providing solutions more effective than the status quo. Or perhaps they even question their intentions.

But the fact remains that millions of former smokers, driven by their own conscious wants and needs, have found an alternative that works for them, provided by firms and entrepreneurs who did not ask for the permission of authorities. That is how our market economies should work.

To that end, new lines of nicotine pouches, vape mods, and disposable vapes are debuted on the market each day, some better than others.

Many of these innovators will fail: perhaps they will create a product that fails to gain customers or blur ethical lines on their advertising that eventually send them to court. Or, as in most cases, will vastly underestimate the cottage industry of governmental lobbying that can only be navigated by the most skilled and politically-connected industries, as the US Food & Drug Administration’s byzantine PMTA process has demonstrated.

That said, we should continue to cheer the innovators that provide us with solutions. And we should support them when their interests, and by extension, ours, are threatened by burdensome regulations and bureaucratic decrees.

When legislators are fed false narratives about lung illnesses and their connection to legal vaping products, as the 2019 EVALI crisis demonstrated, or perhaps are confronted with bombastic claims about a youth vaping epidemic, we must stand up for the people for precisely the people who will be hurt by spontaneous legislation: the adult users of the drug who just want a better option.

There are real externalities that must be dealt with: youth access, dangerous products laced with other compounds, and faulty devices that endanger users.

But we cannot kneecap the permissionless innovation in tobacco harm reduction that is saving lives and giving us solutions we couldn’t even imagine. If that remains a priority for consumer advocates like myself, it will have made all the difference.

Yaël Ossowski is deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center.

Biden’s Digital Assets Executive Order Gets It ‘Mostly Right’ on Protecting Consumers and Innovation in Crypto

Washington, D.C. – Today, President Biden signed an executive order on digital assets, the first major federal executive action relating to cryptocurrencies in the United States.

Yaël Ossowski, deputy director of the consumer advocacy group Consumer Choice Center, praised the order for getting smart cryptocurrency regulation “mostly right”.

“President Biden’s statements demonstrate the federal government’s acknowledgment that Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies will play a positive role in our nation’s future, and offers some key guidance on ensuring the entire crypto economy remains competitive, transparent, and innovative for consumers,” said Ossowski.

“Protecting consumers from scams, giving legal certainty, and allowing for innovation to create new standards for cryptocurrency rules is a responsible and legitimate role for government when it comes to digital assets. We must recognize that the nascent crypto finance space is ever-changing and rapidly evolving and that overzealous regulation could cripple future potential.

“Biden echoed concerns about Bitcoin and cryptocurrency mining, but we believe the environmental benefits from accepting mining will far outweigh any negative repercussions. Crypto mining is an innovative field that strengthens networks and creates incentives for clean energy,” said Ossowski.

“Last year, my colleagues and I at the Consumer Choice Center released our Principles for Smart Crypto Regulation, underscoring the need for preventing fraud, pursuing technological neutrality, reasonably low taxation, and legal certainty and transparency.

“However, considering the toll of inflation on ordinary Americans and the civil liberties concerns related to consumers’ financial privacy, the plans to research a Central Bank Digital Currency are concerning and will need much more scrutiny in the months to come.

“Overall, we praise the administration’s efforts on keeping cryptocurrency legitimate and accessible and hope any legislation to come will follow these bedrock principles. We’re all going to make it,” concluded Ossowski.

Congress wants to sneak in an effective ban on synthetic nicotine vaping that would harm consumers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, it was revealed that several congressmen and US senators have added a provision in the upcoming emergency government funding bill that would relegate tobacco-free synthetic nicotine to the regulatory authority of the Food and Drug Administration and its premarket tobacco application process.

This would give vaping firms less than two months to file a lengthy and convoluted Premarket Tobacco Application (PMTA), which will ultimately lead to most small vaping firms and shops going out of business.

Yaël Ossowski, deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center, said this will actively harm adults who want to quit smoking.

“The byzantine process of asking permission to sell harm reducing vaping products in the 21st century is asinine in itself. But using sleight of hand during an emergency government funding bill to castigate millions of vapers and the entrepreneurs who make and sell the products they rely on is the definition of active harm,” said Ossowski.

“Only the largest and most powerful vaping and tobacco companies can afford the lawyers and the time necessary to complete the paperwork necessary to pass the FDA’s process, meaning thousands of hard-working American business owners will now be forced to close, depriving millions of adult consumers of harm reducing options. Many will be forced back to cigarettes.

“Synthetic nicotine is an innovative method of providing nicotine independent of tobacco, and millions of American adults now use these products as a less harmful method of consuming nicotine. A back door bureaucratic power move like this represents a sledgehammer to the men and women of our country who have sought out vaping devices to kick their cigarette habit,” added Ossowski.

“The method of fattening up continuing resolution bills with laws that benefit special interests, without broader democratic debate or analysis of the costs and benefits, is shameful in our modern American Republic.

“We hope our elected representatives reject this particular provision on synthetic nicotine and go back to the drawing board to offer a more permanent, sane, and smart policy on the next generation of vaping products,” said Ossowski.

41% of European consumers agree that sharing economy apps make life easier

The Consumer Choice Center commissioned the market research company Savanta to survey European consumers on four different EU policy-making areas: Consumer Choice and Government; Innovation & Sharing Economy; Agriculture & Food; and Science & Energy.

In February 2022, 500 people were surveyed in Belgium on their views on innovation, nuclear energy, agriculture, sharing economy, and government intervention in the economy.

Maria Chaplia, the Research Manager at the Consumer Choice Center, said: “The polling results are encouraging. European consumers overwhelmingly appreciate consumer choice. A wide array of agricultural regulations put forward by the EU and member states are at odds with what European consumers want.”

Key findings:

  • 69% of European consumers agree that the government should not restrict their freedom to choose.
  • 73% of European consumers think that the European Union should be more open to innovative solutions.
  • Two times more European consumers (41% agree and 22% disagree) agree that sharing economy apps makes their lives easier.
  • 69% of European consumers interviewed agree that innovation plays an important role in making their lives better.

“Innovation has made millions of European consumers better off. Thanks to platform economy apps such as Uber, Deliveroo, and many others, consumers can now choose between various delivery and transportation options. No wonder European consumers value the sharing economy apps so much,” said Chaplia.

“Platform economy apps have boosted consumer choice and given many Europeans the opportunity to work independently. Gig work provides flexibility which increases its attractiveness to many Europeans. However, in December 2021, the European Commission presented plans to regulate gig workers’ work conditions, which will essentially diminish the self-employment model. The overregulation of platforms will have spillover effects on consumer choice, and the EU should abstain from such moves,” concluded Chaplia.

Banning Flavored Vaping Products Will Do More Harm Than Good in Maine

This year, state lawmakers introduced two bills that would outlaw flavors for liquids used in nicotine vaping devices. The bills, LB 1550 and LB 1693, would ultimately harm adult users of these products, likely driving them back to using tobacco. These bills are currently being reviewed by the joint committees and will soon go to a vote.

Yaël Ossowski, deputy director at the D.C.-based Consumer Choice Center, said “enacting a flavor ban for vaping products will do more harm than good as it will push adult consumers to switch back to smoking combustible tobacco. Considering that studies have shown vaping to be 95% less harmful than smoking, ensuring that adult consumers have access to the vaping products they prefer will ultimately lead to fewer cigarette smoking-related deaths within the state.

“More than 4.1% of Maine’s adult population uses vaping products, accounting for over 54,000 consumers within the state who have switched to a healthier alternative to combustible tobacco. Banning flavored vaping products will encourage these former smokers to switch back to smoking cigarettes and will ultimately lead to increases in smoking-related healthcare costs, which are already costing (state) taxpayers over $262.6 million annually,” said Ossowski.

“If a flavor ban is enacted, then consumers will likely look towards the black market in order to get access to their preferred flavored vaping products. This presents serious concerns for public health as vapers will be purchasing unregulated products that could be extremely dangerous to their wellbeing.

“In addition to endangering public health, pushing consumers to the black market through a flavor ban will also be to the detriment of many vape shops throughout the state as many of their products will no longer be available. After already suffering through the economic hardships of the pandemic, this bill could effectively kill many of these small businesses already struggling to stay afloat. 

“Instead of implementing misguided flavor bans, lawmakers should embrace vaping products in order to protect public health, small businesses, and consumer choice throughout the state,” said Ossowski.

European consumers agree that the EU is too cautious about GMOs

The Consumer Choice Center commissioned the market research company Savanta to survey European consumers on four different EU policy-making areas: Consumer Choice and Government; Innovation & Sharing Economy; Agriculture & Food; and Science & Energy.

In February 2022, 500 people were surveyed in Belgium on their views on innovation, nuclear energy, agriculture, sharing economy, and government intervention in the economy.

Maria Chaplia, the Research Manager at the Consumer Choice Center, said: “The polling results are encouraging. European consumers overwhelmingly appreciate consumer choice. A wide array of agricultural regulations put forward by the EU and member states are at odds with what European consumers want.”

Key findings:

  • 67% of European consumers would like the European Union to embrace technologies that make food more affordable.
  • 59% of European consumers trusted farmers to use crop protection products adequately to make safe food.
  • 33% of European consumers agree that the EU is too cautious about genetically modified organisms.
  • 59% of consumers interviewed agree that the European Union often over regulates at the expense of European Consumers.
  • 73% of consumers think that the European Union should be more open to innovative solutions.

“The EU shouldn’t restrict farmers’ freedom to use the preferred crop protection tools to avoid these unintended consequences. Alternatively, the EU should consider legalizing genetic modification. European consumers trust farmers to choose crop protection tools to make food safe. Despite popular rhetoric, there is no substantial scientific evidence of the health and environmental risks ascribed to GM products,” said Chaplia.

“The war in Ukraine, one of the largest wheat exporters in the world, threatens European and global food security. At such a challenging time, the EU cannot simply afford to pursue expensive organic ambitions. Now is the time to embrace innovation over unjustified precaution,” concluded Chaplia.

Ontario makes cannabis delivery and curbside pickup permanent

Ontario retailers were granted a temporary permit to offer cannabis delivery and pick-up services during the pandemic when alcohol and cannabis retail were deemed essential businesses.

Our Northern American Affairs Manager David Clement went a step further and argued in favor of making cannabis delivery permanent. According to him “It would significantly benefit retailers. But more importantly, it would benefit consumers by expanding and enhancing their options.”

We are happy to hear that the “provincial government has permanently green-lit the ability of cannabis retailers to offer delivery and curbside pickup services”. 

This is a step taken in the right direction but more needs to be done for making the cannabis delivery process smoother. There are a strict set of rules that need to be followed to comply with approved delivery or curbside pickup, and for now, third-party delivery is not permitted. 

Delivery can only be done by a retail store authorization holder or its employees, which makes it hard to keep up with the rising demand. Retailers aren’t equipped with the capital nor the expertise to operate a fleet of vehicles. The Ontario government should allow the use of third-party services to deliver, which we already permit for alcohol. Having a chance to outsource delivery to a third-party service, like delivery apps, gives legal retailers a leg up on the black market, which is still very prevalent.

The new Pandemic Resilience Index is out, what has changed since 2021?

Covid-19 pandemic took the world by storm. Most countries’ healthcare systems proved to be entirely unprepared for a health crisis of this scale. Some countries were able to react and adapt more swiftly than others. Pandemic Resilience Index (PRI), presented by the Consumer Choice Center back in 2021, ranked countries based on their resilience to Covid-19 and other similar crises. 

The PRI examined 40 countries by several factors: vaccination approval, its drive, and time lags that have put brakes on it, critical care bed capacity, and mass testing. Israel came in first, followed by UAE, while Australia, New Zealand, and Ukraine ended up at the very bottom. 

Recently, we updated the PRI. Compared to the initial results, the change in the ranking is primarily due to the booster vaccine rollout delays. 

This year, the UAE found itself at the top of the ranking, closely followed by Cyprus. UAE was a pioneer in booster rollout, having given booster shots to about 42% of its 10 million population. Unfortunately, not all countries were quick to react to new variants and the subsequent need for additional doses. Countries like Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and Ukraine took five months longer than the UAE – the first country to start the programme – to get booster rollout up and running. 

Ukraine and India are the only countries that hadn’t rolled out the booster programme by November 30, 2021 (The PRI 2022 uses November 30 2021 as a cutoff date). According to the Ukrainian first deputy health minister, they wanted to reach the target of having at least 50% of the population fully vaccinated, before allowing for boosters shot to be administered, a goal that is yet to be reached. At the moment, both countries have acknowledged the need for booster shots and rolled it out at the beginning of this year. 

Israel, ranked number one in the PRI 2021, was demoted to 5th place, mainly due to its delay with vaccine rollout, which started 75 days after the UAE. The UAE started administering booster shots to its residents back in May 2021, while on average other countries lagged 3 months behind. 

Cyprus reached the second place mainly due to its high testing rates. The daily covid test average per capita 128 times higher than in Brazil, for example.

Greece had the most significant percentage change in terms of daily testing. Most countries saw an increase in this aspect, except for Luxembourg and Sweden, where the change was negative. Ukraine, with the second-lowest number of daily covid tests, remains at the bottom. 

When it comes to vaccination rates, Brazil has seen the most impressive improvement in vaccination numbers since the Pandemic Resilience Index 2021 was published. The number of vaccinated people in Brazil increased from 2.4% to 63% by the end of November 2021.

Availability of booster shots is especially important as not only does it provide better protection, but more and more countries are putting expiration dates on vaccines. For example, to visit France, if it’s been more than nine months since your last vaccine shot, you have first to get a booster shot. Despite delays, all of the studied countries (except for Ukraine and India) had already started offering booster shots to their population before the emergence of the new Omicron variant. 

Despite the initial one-year-long shock that everyone experienced, with restrictions getting lifted, scrapping of vaccine passports in some countries and border reopenings, it seems we are finally getting back to everyday lives. While we hope we never have to deal with a pandemic of such size ever again, countries worldwide must learn a lesson from this horrid experience and have their healthcare systems better prepared for any upcoming threats. 

Nein, Greenpeace ist nicht seriös

Letzten Mittwoch sorgte eine Schlagzeile für viel Wirbel:  Annalena Baerbock beschäftigt nun Jennifer Morgan, die ehemalige Chefin von Greenpeace, als Sonderbeauftragte für internationale Klimapolitik.

Eine offene Lobbyistin in der Bundesregierung? „Wie kann das sein?“, wunderten sich viele Kommentatoren in sozialen Netzwerken.

Die Bundesaußenministerin bekam aber auch Zuspruch. LobbyControl, eine deutsche NGO verteidigte die Bundesministerin mit mehreren Tweets. Es müsse möglich sein, Fachleute von außen in die Ministerien zu holen. Ein größeres Problem seien eher die Übertritte in die umgekehrte Richtung. Und überhaupt: Lobbyismus für ideelle Ziele sei nicht gleichzusetzen mit Organisationen, die ihn für die eigenen finanziellen Zwecke betreiben.

Immerhin gab die Organisation zu, dass Morgan künftig die Interessen der Bundesregierung vertreten müsse und nicht die von Greenpeace.

Eine Organisation, die laut der eigenen Website ein Gegengewicht zu dem immer größer werdenden Einfluss von Denkfabriken, PR-Agenturen und deren Tricks sein möchte, leugnet also das Problem. Unser Lobbyismus ist besser als euer Lobbyismus…

Doch abgesehen von dem Problem eine Lobbyistin in einer wichtigen und repräsentativen Position innerhalb der Bundesregierung einzustellen, stellt sich auch die Frage nach den „ideellen Zielen“ von Greenpeace. Ist Greenpeace tatsächlich eine Organisation, die sich fürs Gemeinwohl einsetzt? Ist Greenpeace eine seriöse Organisation, die Positives erreicht? Und ist Morgan als die ehemalige Chefin dieser Organisation tatsächlich ein Mehrwert für den deutschen Staat?

Wenn man sich die Tätigkeit von Greenpeace ansieht, erscheint die Bejahung dieser Fragen unwahrscheinlich. Seit Jahren betreibt die Organisation populistischen und reißerischen Aktivismus.

Nach Beispielen muss nicht lange gesucht werden, wir alle erinnern uns an die Bruchlandung des Greenpeace Aktivisten in der Münchner Allianz-Arena. Bei dem Qualifikationsspiel der deutschen Nationalmannschaft landete der Aktivist mitten auf der Spielfläche, nachdem er wenige Sekunden zuvor zwei Menschen am Kopf verletzte. Bei der Aktion ging es darum Druck auf den Autokonzern VW auszuüben, der dazu gedrängt wurde aus dem Verbrennungsmotor auszusteigen. Wegen der gleichen Angelegenheit entwendeten Aktivisten von Greenpeace später 1500 Schlüssel für VW-Fahrzeuge in Emden, die exportiert werden sollten. 

Hausfriedensbruch, Diebstahl, Körperverletzung und Populismus: Sieht so seriöser Aktivismus aus? 

Leider sind dies nicht die schlimmsten Aktionen von Greenpeace, viel schlechter sieht es in den Bereichen aus, in denen die Aktivisten tatsächliche Erfolge erreichen. 

So geht die Organisation konsequent gegen saubere Energieherstellungsmethoden, wie die Nuklearenergie vor. Durch die Verbreitung von Falschinformationen über die Kosten und Sicherheit von Atomenergie, beraubt Greenpeace die Welt einer sicheren und sauberen Energiequelle, die unabhängig von Witterungsbedingungen kontinuierlich Energie produzieren kann. Die Folgen davon sind gut in Deutschland sichtbar: Nach der verkorksten Energiewende, wurden die Atomkraftwerke durch wesentlich schädlichere Alternativen ersetzt: Kohle und Gas. 

Organisationen wie Greenpeace, die als eine Art intellektueller Elite „Grüner“ Parteien fungieren, tragen einen großen Teil der Schuld. Dabei sind Umweltsorgen nicht bloß eine Präferenz für saubere Luft. Am Ende sind es Menschenleben, die der Preis für die deutsche Energiepolitik sind.

Dies lässt sich relativ einfach berechnen: Laut einer eher konservativen Berechnung sterben bei der Produktion von Atomenergie etwa 0,074 Menschen pro Terawattstunde. Bei (Natur-) Gas sind es bereits etwa 2,8 Menschen, bei Kohle 24,6 pro Terawattstunde, etwa 330-mal mehr! 

Im Dezember 2019 veröffentlichten die amerikanischen Wissenschaftler Stephen Jarvis, Olivier Deschenes und Akshaya Jha einen Aufsatz, bei dem sie die Kosten der Energiewende auf etwa 12 Milliarden Euro pro Jahr beziffern. Etwa 70% dieser Kosten besteht aus einer Übersterblichkeit von 1100 Personen jährlich, die daraus resultiert, dass lokal nun statt Atomkraftwerken Kohlekraftwerke operieren. Dank der Energiewende stirbt also jedes Jahr eine kleine Siedlung – an Krebs, an chronischen Lungenkrankheiten, und anderen Folgen der Energieproduktion durch Kohle. 

Aber nicht nur in diesem Bereich konnte Greenpeace die Politik beeinflussen: Auch im Bereich der GMOs und der Gentechnik sind die Aktivisten sehr erfolgreich. 

Dabei sind die Chancen der Gentechnik immens: Ökonomisch, medizinisch und aus der Sicht der Landwirtschaft. 

Sowohl die mRNA Impfstoffe von BioNTech und Pfizer und Moderna, als auch die Vektorimpfungen von Johnson&Johnson und AstraZeneca verdanken wir der jahrzehntelangen Forschung zu GMOs und „Gene Editing“. Aber nicht „nur“ COVID-Impfungen werden auf diese Weise produziert, wie ein Eintrag in der Britannica zeigt: Auch andere medizinische Innovationen, wie die Hepatitis-B Impfung, die durch genetisch modifizierte Hefebakterien produziert wird, verdanken wir der Gentechnik.

Etwas weniger als eine halbe Milliarde Menschen leiden an Diabetes: Viele von Ihnen müssen Insulin von außen zuführen. Ohne des synthetischen Insulins, das durch genetisch modifizierte E.-Coli Bakterien produziert wird, müsste immer noch durch Schweinepankreas produziertes Insulin genutzt werden: eine wesentlich weniger effiziente und tiergerechte Alternative. 

Weitere Beispiele erfolgreich eingesetzter GMO Forschung sehen wir in der Landwirtschaft. Das wohl in dem Zusammenhang mit Greenpeace Aktivismus stärkste Beispiel ist dabei der „Goldene Reis“, eine von deutschen Wissenschaftlern entwickelte Reissorte, die etwa 23-Mal mehr Vitamin A enthält als „natürliche“ Reissorten. 

Jedes Jahr erblindet weltweit bis zu 500 000 Kinder wegen Vitamin-A-Mangels. Etwa die Hälfte dieser Kinder stirbt innerhalb eines Jahres nach der Erblindung.  Genau aus diesem Grund ist der von deutschen Wissenschaftlern Peter Beyer und Ingo Potrykus entwickelte goldene Reis eine so wichtige Innovation: Es geht um das Leben tausender Menschen.

Es ist erfreulich zu sehen, dass der goldene Reis in den Philippinen mittlerweile zum Verkauf freigegeben wird, einem Land, in dem der Vitamin-A-Mangel zu den größten Gesundheitsproblemen der Bevölkerung gehört. Auch amerikanische und kanadische Behörden bestätigen die Sicherheit der Reissorte.

Doch nicht alle sehen den Fortschritt so positiv, wie die Wissenschaft, oder namhafte Spender, wie die „Bill und Melinda Gates Foundation“. Seit der mittlerweile 20 Jahre zurückgehenden Entwicklung, führen Gruppen, wie Greenpeace eine Hetzkampagne gegen die Reissorte und gegen Gentechnik. Durch diese antiwissenschaftliche Kampagne verlangsamen die Aktivisten die Markteinführung solcher Innovationen, was vor allem für die Gebiete, die am stärksten vom Vitamin-A-Mangel betroffen sind, verheerende Folgen hat. Aber auch in entwickelten Ländern, in denen neue Innovationen entstehen könnten wird der Fortschritt behindert: Wie der Global Gene Editing Regulation Index des Consumer Choice Center zeigt, ist das Verfahren innerhalb der EU weitgehend verboten. Trotz der beachtlichen Erfolge der Wissenschaft behindern Gruppen wie Greenpeace immer noch den Fortschritt und verlangsamen damit die Lösung wichtiger Probleme: Durch Innovationen in der Landwirtschaft könnten Land und andere Ressourcen, wie Wasser, Dünger und Pestizide sparsamer und daher effizienter genutzt werden, eine große Chance für die ärmeren Regionen unserer Welt. Dabei können durch brillante Forschung auch Nährstoffmängel, wie im Fall von Vitamin-A und dem goldenen Reis angegangen werden.

Auch in anderen Bereichen, wie bei der Entwicklung von neuartigen Medikamenten und Therapien könnten Tausende, wenn nicht sogar Millionen von Leben geschützt werden. 

Zusammenfassend kann das Urteil für Greenpeace und Annalena Baerbock nur negativ ausfallen. Greenpeace ist eine durch und durch schädliche Organisation, deren Wirken für Millionen von Toten verantwortlich ist. Sie betreiben populistischen und antiwissenschaftlichen Aktivismus und Kampagnen, die innerhalb der Bevölkerung für Skeptizismus und Angst gegenüber von sicheren und innovativen Methoden sorgen. Die Einstellung von Jennifer Morgan ist nicht nur aus der Sicht der politischen Seriosität ein Skandal: Noch schlimmer ist wofür die Lobbyistin gekämpft hat. 

Die Forderung auf die Wissenschaft zu hören, ein Aufruf, den die „Grünen“ quasi zu einem ihrer Markenzeichen gemacht haben, darf nicht selektiv sein. Die Nutzung der Wissenschaft für die eigenen politischen Ziele wirkt unehrlich, wenn man in Bereichen, wie Nuklearenergie, oder Gentechnik sich einfach entscheidet wegzuhören.

Deswegen, liebe „Grünen“: Hört auf die Wissenschaft, auch auf die, die nicht ins Weltbild passt. Und lasst lieber die Finger von Greenpeace – langfristig wird das allen helfen.

Colombia’s Uber ban is protectionist and ignores consumers

While Europe is arguing over the employment status of drivers and delivery workers employed in the platform economy sector, Colombia faces an entirely different type of problem. 

After having operated in the country for six years in a legal gray area, Uber was forced out of the Colombian market against the backdrop of repeated resistance from the taxi companies and drivers. As of 2020, Uber had 2.3 million users around the country. 

Because of Uber’s popularity, Colombian taxi drivers, who have to pay extremely high fees for acquiring operating licenses, felt they were put at a disadvantage. They filed a lawsuit targeting Uber. According to an attorney leading the case, other ride-hailing apps present on the market, such as Didi, Beat, Cabify were to be sued next. Scapegoating Uber for its success doesn’t help anyone–but, above all, it hurts consumers.

The court decided that Uber had indeed violated competition rules and was ordered to cease its operations across the country.

Sharing economy platforms are innovative and adaptable – their entrepreneurial spirit is outstanding. Uber found a loophole in the court’s ruling that quickly helped them get back in the market. Renting cars is entirely legal, and Uber came up with a new business model that allowed users to rent a vehicle with a driver. The court decision was soon overturned, but Uber remains illegal. Its drivers ask passengers to take the front seat to avoid unwanted attention from the police, which could result in fines and/or having their vehicles confiscated. 

The availability of ride-hailing apps such as Uber on the Colombian market provides an alternative to traditional taxis. However, both are equally important. Both services have their target audience. Governments should not intervene by banning or creating unfavourable conditions, so drivers fear getting stopped by police and receiving significant fines. Consumers should choose to use their smartphones to arrange a ride or hail a taxi in the street.

Uber solves many problems in the Colombian market which are concerning to consumers. First, it’s safety. In Colombia, taxis have a reputation of generally being unsafe. In 2018, for example, “15% of robberies were perpetrated when the victim was using a transportation service“. Uber and its main competitor in Colombia, Didi, offering additional security features, provide an innovative solution to this problem. 

A dedicated safety support team allows you to get help or report an incident and provides a great overall customer support system. During the ride, the app enables you to share your ride details with trusted people, which adds more to the feeling of security. 

Second, Uber is transparent. When you use Uber, you are aware of the approximate charge before even ordering the ride, and if you have any doubts, the history of each ride is recorded and easily accessible. On the other hand, you don’t have the same transparency when using taxi services. Drivers could take a longer route, pretend not to have any change or round up the fee and ask for more than the meter is showing for the sole reason that “it’s Sunday” like it happened to me on one occasion in Colombia. 

The availability of Uber and other sharing economy services is an important part of Colombia’s attractiveness as a digital nomad hub. Location-independent remote workers who use technology to perform their job rely on sharing economy platforms for their accommodation and transportation needs. As an internationally trusted company, Uber is the preferred mode of transportation because of the aforementioned reasons. Dealing with taxis could be much more complicated for people who don’t speak the local language, but with Uber, you drive with certainty and security. Even if Uber can be more expensive during the rush hours, paying a little extra is worth it for other digital nomads based in Colombia and me.

Consumers’ lives have changed with the emergence of ride-hailing. Banning a preferred service by millions of consumers in the country sets a wrong precedent and puts the future of already established or currently emerging innovative services in jeopardy. Colombia should embrace innovation, encourage the entrepreneurial spirit and facilitate entry barriers for more sharing economy services.  

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