United States

In Kamala Harris, do consumers have an ally or a foe?

This week, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden revealed Sen. Kamala Harris of California as his running mate for the November general election against President Donald Trump.

Because Harris’ influence on the Biden campaign will loom large, and be important to whomever American voters choose in the fall, it’s worth looking at some of her ideas and policies and how they would have an impact on consumers.

Let’s take a dip, shall we?

HEALTHCARE

On her original presidential campaign website and throughout the Democratic primary debates, Harris was adamant about banning private healthcare insurance in favor of a Medicare For All plan. She later backed out once she was questioned by party activists.

With that in mind, considering Biden was nominated to be his party’s candidate on a platform of not seeking Medicare For All, a plan to expand the government health insurance program to seniors to the entire population, it seems there may be healthy disagreement on this point.

As I’ve written in a few outlets, the idea of a Medicare For All health insurance system would rob consumers of competition and choice, and likely lead to less quality of healthcare than we actually receive. It would mean that healthcare decisions would be placed in a complex hierarchy of bureaucratic agencies immune from market forces. That would inevitably lead to higher costs overall – no matter who foots the bill.

Harris being on the ticket doesn’t mean M4All is now on the docket for the Democratic Party, but it does mean that ideas about the government reorganizing health insurance will certainly be a part of a potential Biden Administration in the future. That’ll be something to keep an eye on.

TECH

As we covered during the debates in 2019, Sen. Harris petitioned Twitter to remove President Donald Trump from its service. Those calls weren’t central to her rhetoric on tech regulations, but they at least revealed her mindset regarding content on social media platforms, and who should be allowed to have an account. In some speeches, she’s come out as more hawkish on online censorship, which should good everyone worry.

Unlike some of her past primary opponents, she was rather soft on the question of antitrust and whether the tech giants in Silicon Valley should be broken up, which is a relief for consumers.

Most of the animus against tech companies has very little to do with concern for consumers, and much more to do with the new generation of gatekeepers using technology and innovation to provide better services. Most consumers prefer these new innovations and want them to thrive, not be broken up.

For some observers, her political career in California and proximity to tech firms mean she’ll be an asset rather than a liability on future tech regulation. The outlet Marketwatch dubbed her a “friend, not a foe, of Big Tech” and the Wall Street Journal similarly gave her praise, though with some caution.

VAPING

What isn’t a surprise to listeners of Consumer Choice Radio is that Sen. Harris is no friend of vaping and harm-reducing innovations.

She penned a letter last year accusing the FDA of being soft on vaping and for not banning all vaping products outright. That would have been disastrous for the former smokers who rely on these products.

She took it a step further by linking legal nicotine vaping products to the bootleg THC vaping devices that caused lung injuries throughout 2019, which we’ve debunked in our own work at the Consumer Choice Center.

If Harris’ worldview remains the same, vapers won’t have a friend in the potential future VP.

CANNABIS

And lastly, we come to cannabis, a favorite topic of those who dub Harris “The Cop Who Wants to be (Vice) President,” like Elizabeth Nolan Brown of Reason.

During Harris’ time as a prosecutor in California, her reputation as an anti-cannabis voice was well-known.

But as our friends at Marijuana Moment mention, she’s changed her mind over the years, from being a staunch opponent to advocate:

Though she coauthored an official voter guide argument opposing a California cannabis legalization measure as a prosecutor in 2010 and laughed in the face of a reporter who asked her about the issue in 2014, she went on to sponsor legislation to federally deschedule marijuana in 2019.

Where Vice Presidential Candidate Kamala Harris Stands On Marijuana

Since dropping her campaign to be president, she’s become more vocal, making the argument for legalizing cannabis at the federal level, though she’s

Overall, there’s a lot to digest on a potential Kamala Harris Vice Presidency. On behalf of consumers, let’s hope there’s more good than bad.

Consumer Choice Center Joins Coalition Opposed To Most Favored Nation Drug Pricing Proposal

Dear President Trump:

On behalf of the undersigned federal and state-based organizations, we write to express our grave concerns with the “most favored nation” (MFN) executive order to impose foreign price controls on American medicines.

This proposal will impose an “International Pricing Index” on drugs in Medicare Part B, tying the U.S. prices for these medicines to the prices in foreign countries, most of which have government-set prices established in socialized medicine systems.

Adopting these price controls will slow medical innovation, threaten American jobs, and undermine criticism of single-payer systems. In addition, a United States embrace of price controls will make it immeasurably more difficult to get foreign countries to pay their own way in the development of new medicines.

Your administration has repeatedly stood strong against a government-takeover of healthcare. In fact, in your 2020 State of the Union Address, you promised that “we will never let socialism destroy American health care.”

We applaud your strong stance – socialized healthcare policies proposed by some leading presidential candidates would require trillions of dollars in tax increases, would destroy medical progress, and would end healthcare plans used by 180 million Americans.

Unfortunately, an MFN policy would adopt the same socialist healthcare policies that you have promised to fight against.

Not only does this undermine the broader effort to fight against the government takeover of health care, it will also have disastrous consequences to the economy and healthcare system.

The U.S. is the best in the world when it comes to developing innovative, lifesaving and life preserving medicines. Because of this, the U.S. is leading the way when it comes to developing COVID-19 vaccines, with several promising candidates entering the final stages of testing and clinical trials.

In contrast, foreign countries have been free riding off this American medical innovation for decades through crushing price controls and other market-distorting government rules and regulations.

Adopting foreign price controls will result in the same negative outcomes to our healthcare system as those overseas—less medical innovation leading to fewer cures and healthcare shortages for American patients.

Adopting price controls through an MFN will also harm the U.S. economy because of a decline in American research and development. Medical innovation directly or indirectly supports 4 million jobs and $1.1 trillion in total economic impact, which will be threatened by importing price controls.

An MFN does nothing to fight foreign free riding of American innovation. Although supporters of MFN have claimed the concept will incentivize manufacturers to negotiate better deals, this theory is based on the flawed assumption that American manufacturers were not fighting as hard as they could against foreign price controls in past years. In addition, an American adoption of these same policies renders any future criticism of them incredibly challenging.

Moving forward, we need policies that further encourage American innovation through tax and trade policies, such as renegotiated trade deals, a competitive business tax system and a more competitive environment.

As President, you have championed vital changes in tax and regulatory policies that have allowed free market innovation to flourish. We believe a market-based approach like those that your administration has consistently supported in other policy areas will lead to economic growth and promising new treatments but adopting price controls through the MFN plan would undermine rather than build on those successes. In short, if the MFN executive order is implemented it will have disastrous consequences for both American healthcare and the American economy.

Sincerely,

Grover Norquist
President, Americans for Tax Reform

Saulius “Saul” Anuzis
President, 60 Plus Association

Jim Martin
Founder/Chairman, 60 Plus
Association

Marty Connors
Leader, Alabama Center-Right
Coalition

Bethany Marcum
Executive Director, Alaska Policy
Forum

Phil Kerpen
President, American Commitment

Daniel Schneider
Executive Director, American
Conservative Union

Dee Stewart
President, Americans for a
Balanced Budget

Richard Manning
President, Americans for Limited
Government

Brent Wm. Gardner
Chief Government Affairs Officer,
Americans for Prosperity

Lisa B. Nelson
CEO, ALEC

Michael Bowman
President, ALEC Action

Kevin Waterman
Chair, Annapolis Center-Right
Coalition Meeting (Maryland)

Robert Alt
President and CEO, The Buckeye Institute

Rabbi Aryeh Spero
President, Caucus for America

Ryan Ellis
President, Center for a Free Economy

Andrew F. Quinlan
President, Center for Freedom and Prosperity

Jeffrey Mazzella
President, Center for Individual Freedom

Ginevra Joyce-Myers
Executive Director, Center for Innovation and Free Enterprise

Peter Pitts
President, Center for Medicine in the Public Interest

John Hinderaker
President, Center of the American Experiment

Thomas Schatz
President, Citizens Against Government Waste

Leo Knepper
CEO, Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania

Donald Bryson
President & CEO, Civitas Institute

Regina Thomson
President, Colorado Issues Coalition

Gregory Conko
Senior Fellow, Competitive Enterprise Institute

James Edwards
Executive Director, Conservatives for Property Rights

Matthew Kandrach
President, Consumer Action for a Strong Economy

Fred Roeder
Health Economist/Managing Director, Consumer Choice Center

Yaël Ossowski
Deputy Director, Consumer Choice Center

Joel White
President, Council for Affordable Health Coverage

Katie McAuliffe
Executive Director, Digital Liberty

Robert Roper
President, Ethan Allen Institute

Adam Brandon
President, FreedomWorks

Annette Meeks
CEO, Freedom Foundation of Minnesota

George Landrith
President, Frontiers of Freedom

Grace Marie-Turner
President, Galen Institute
(organization listed for affiliation purposes only)

Ray Chadwick,
Chairman, Granite State Taxpayers

Naomi Lopez
Director of Healthcare Policy, Goldwater Institute

Mario H. Lopez
President, Hispanic Leadership Fund

Carrie Lukas
President, Independent Women’s Forum

Heather R. Higgins
CEO, Independent Women’s Voice

Andrew Langer
President, Institute for Liberty

Tom Giovanetti
President, Institute for Policy Innovation

Sal Nuzzo
Vice President of Policy, James Madison Institute

Amy Oliver Cooke
CEO, John Locke Foundation

Drew Cline
President, Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy

Seton Motley
President, Less Government

Jay Fisher
Immediate Past Chairman, Lisle Township Republican Organization

Doug McCullough
Director, Lone Star Policy Institute

Lindsay Killen
Vice President for Strategic Outreach, Mackinac Center for Public Policy

Brett Healy
President, The John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy

Matt Gagnon
President, Maine Policy Institute

Charles Sauer
President, Market Institute

Dee Hodges
President, Maryland Taxpayers Association, Inc

Gene Clem
Spokesman, Michigan Tea Party Alliance

Jameson Taylor, Ph.D.
Vice President for Policy, Mississippi Center for Public Policy

Tim Jones
Chair, Missouri Center-Right Coalition
Fmr. Speaker, Missouri House

David A. Ridenour
President, National Center for Public Policy Research

Everett Wilkinson
Chairman, National Liberty Federation

Pete Sepp
President, National Taxpayers Union

John Tsarpalas
President, Nevada Policy Research Institute

Scott Pullins
Founder, Ohio Taxpayers Association

Doug Kellogg
Executive Director, Ohioans for Tax Reform

Sally Pipes
President and CEO, Pacific Research Institute

Ellen Weaver
President & CEO, Palmetto Promise Institute

Daniel Erspamer
Chief Executive Officer, Pelican Institute for Public Policy

Ed Martin
President, Phyllis Schlafly Eagles

Lorenzo Montanari
Executive Director, Property Rights Alliance

Stone Washington
Member, Project 21

Paul J. Gessing
President, Rio Grande Foundation

Bette Grande
President & CEO, Roughrider Policy Center

James L. Setterlund
Executive Director, Shareholder Advocacy Forum

Karen Kerrigan
President & CEO, Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council

Paul E. Vallely, Major General, US Army (ret)
Chairman, Stand Up America US Foundation

Richard Watson
Chair, Tallahassee Center-Right Coalition

David Williams
President, Taxpayers Protection Alliance

Sara Croom
Executive Director, Trade Alliance to Promote Prosperity

C. Preston Noell III
President, Tradition, Family, Property, Inc.

Lynn Taylor
President, Virginia Institute for Public Policy

How Can We Improve Healthcare Today?

As 2019 wraps up, there is plenty of ample opportunity to discuss what should be the priorities for Congressional lawmakers in 2020.

What is top of mind for many Americans, of course, is healthcare.

It’s as much about the cost as it is about services and the ability to choose what works best for you and your family.

On the Democratic side, many presidential candidates are endorsing Medicare For All as an answer. We’d be inclined to disagree.

Others have focused just on repealing Obamacare (The Affordable Care Act). A challenge to its constitutionality is once more making its way through the courts.

Here’s a quick breakdown that we believe would empower consumer choice, affordability, and make people better off today.

👉Allow health professionals to practice in every state (reciprocity)

👉Reduce barriers to entry for health professionals, and create more streamlined license recognition for immigrants

👉Promote price of care transparency

👉Keep pharma competitive and protect IP to offer the best treatments

👉Digitize records to upgrade our systems

👉Emphasize the role of catastrophic insurance

👉Allow portability of insurance between employers

👉Allow additional tax benefits for those who save money for health costs (HSAs, etc.) and let them use where necessary

👉Allow insurance companies to offer plans and compete across state lines

Politicians are scapegoating e-cigs for harm they haven’t done

When there’s an outbreak of deaths or illnesses from injected street drugs, do public health authorities demand diabetics and doctors stop using syringes? Of course not. Yet a host of public officials — from President Trump to Gov. Andrew Cuomo to members of the Squad — are taking just that sort of approach in responding to the spate of vaping-related illnesses and deaths around the country.

Cuomo, for example, went on a tear Sunday about vaping, calling it “a burgeoning health crisis” and threatening to declare an emergency to ban flavored nicotine e-cigarettes. That followed Trump’s announcement last Wednesday of federal plans to prohibit such devices.

The dramatic sudden outbursts of concern come after six deaths and 380 severe acute pulmonary illnesses, including at least 41 in New York. The cases were linked not to nicotine e-cigarettes but to vaping THC, the active ingredient in cannabis.

E-cigarettes like Juul are intended to be used to inhale nicotine, but other types of vaping devices can also deliver cannabis-derived substances such as butane hash oils, known as “dabs.”

Scientists at New York’s Department of Health have led the way in pointing the finger at black-market THC-containing liquids, finding “very high levels of vitamin E acetate in nearly all cannabis-containing samples analyzed” in their investigation.

State laboratory test results found that “at least one vitamin E acetate-containing vape product has been linked to each patient who submitted a product for testing.” Vitamin E acetate is an oily substance used to thicken cannabis-derived vaping liquids.

Vaping devices, including e-cigarette hardware, are simply devices for delivering an aerosolized solution. Nicotine e-cigarettes, which serve as a substitute for deadly cigarettes that burn tobacco, typically contain a solution of nicotine, flavorings and vegetable glycerin or propylene glycol.

Globally, tens of millions of people have used billions of e-cigarettes without any acute ill effects. In fact, the US Food and Drug Administration has told state health officials that lab testing of unused legal nicotine vape products of the type obtained from sick patients (who likely also used an illegal THC oil) found no contaminants or ingredients suspected of causing illness.

It’s a very different story when a vaporizer is used to deliver black-market street drugs like the cannabis-derived oils that are being dangerously adulterated with vitamin E acetate.

In announcing the planned federal ban on flavored e-cigarettes in the midst of the outbreak of lung disease, Trump is being misled. Vaping nicotine is an approach to harm-reduction, and appealing non-tobacco flavors are critical to reduce the likelihood that adults will revert to smoking cigarettes.

Exposure to nicotine is not healthy, to be sure, and kids should not vape (unless they already smoke cigarettes and want to transition to a less harmful alternative). But prohibition seldom works, and data from the FDA indicate that while vaping in teens is up, cigarette smoking has fallen to historic lows.

Still, elected officials continue their attack on e-cigarettes, recommending that nearly everyone stop vaping immediately.

That might seem like an abundance of caution, but it’s really an abundance of chicanery. Linking acute lung disease to e-cigarettes is no more logical than warning people about the dangers of vaccination because vaccines are delivered through a needle, and people can get hepatitis from dirty needles.

Expansive warnings to stop vaping altogether, instead of to avoid illicit contaminated THC products, are like advising ex-smokers who have switched to vaping to return to smoking cigarettes. That puts vapers’ lives at risk.

What we need is aggressive state, local and federal enforcement against teen vaping and Drug Enforcement Administration action against illegal THC vapes that cause lung disease.

Meanwhile, why are politicians and public health officials behaving so badly? We have a hypothesis: Until now, the most prominent allegations of serious health effects (even for adults) from e-cigarettes were hypotheticals — such as that vaping would be a “gateway” to cigarette smoking — that have failed to materialize.

In fact, teen cigarette-smoking has been declining. Now, with reports of verifiable acute illnesses and even deaths, politicians are brazenly attempting to indict nicotine vaping, even though their case against the practice is without merit.

In a reckless attempt to redeem their credibility in their war on e-cigarettes, they’ve doubled down on misinformation, disingenuously implying that cannabis-derived oils, home-brewed THC vapes and unadulterated nicotine-containing e-cigarettes all pose the same risks.

They think they can get away with it because … well, virtually nobody has challenged them. It’s time more people did.

Henry Miller is a Pacific Research Institute senior fellow and the founding director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Biotechnology. Jeff Stier is a Consumer Choice Center senior fellow.

Originally published here

Trump To Put 10% Tariffs On $300 Billion More In Chinese Imports

“Trump’s announcement about additional tariffs on Chinese goods will hit American consumers the hardest,” said David Clement, North American Affairs Manager of the Consumer Choice Center, which represents consumers in more than 100 countries. “Given how interconnected the two economies are, it is ultimately American consumers who are going to be footing the bill for these new tariffs. Legislators need to better understand that tariffs on foreign products end up being a new tax for domestic consumers. Simply put, tariffs are taxes.”

Read more here

The Dow Dropped 98 Points Because Tariffs Might Finally Hit Home

Unlike the previous tranche of levies imposed since last year, the latest round will mostly target popular consumer products, including cellphones, laptops, apparel, and toys. “Trump’s announcement about additional tariffs on Chinese goods will hit American consumers the hardest,” David Clement, North American affairs manager of the Consumer Choice Center, said on Thursday after the announcement.

“Given how interconnected the two economies are, it is ultimately American consumers who are going to be footing the bill for these new tariffs. Legislators need to better understand that tariffs on foreign products end up being a new tax for domestic consumers. Simply put, tariffs are taxes,” Clement said.

Read more here

Florida Legislature Passes Bill Requiring Lottery Warning Labels

Cites Consumer Awareness

Placing warnings on lottery tickets is a bad gamble, says Jeff Stier, a senior fellow at the Consumer Choice Center and a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute, which publishes Budget & Tax News. Like all forms of gambling, purchases of lottery tickets tend to be recreational, and people realize that, says Stier.

“It’s unfortunate how highly regulated they are, but of course the irony is lottery tickets have a monopoly by the state, and they go to fund the state,” Stier said.

“When you have private sector gambling, they do usually require warnings on them, which is absurd,” Stier said. “People are aware they might lose their money, and they might go back to bet more, and they might lose again.”

There is an irony in the government putting warning labels on a product it sells, says Seton Motley, president of Less Government and a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute.

“The government makes tobacco companies print warnings on tobacco products, so why shouldn’t it meet its own requirements for their own product?” Motley asked. “Preferably, the government would just leave tobacco companies alone. Then they’d have a much stronger argument when protesting this bill.”

Read more here

On alcohol reform, state lawmakers have finally started to listen

Yaël Ossowski is deputy director at the Consumer Choice Center, which advocates for consumer choice and freedom. He’s speaking in general, but, clearly, North Carolina may well be the unavoidable target for his comments.

“In many southern states and beyond, alcohol-control laws are some of the most byzantine and backward on the books. Indeed, many have not changed in the 86 years since the end of Prohibition.

“These laws treat adults like children, stunt economic growth, deprive consumers of better choices, and drastically increase costs for everyday people who just want a drink at the end of a hard day’s work.”

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Attempts To Block Facebook’s Libra Cryptocurrency May Backfire

Consumer group: Congressional attempt to block Facebook‘s Libra cryptocurrency harms consumer choice and will backfire

Washington, D.C. – Days after Facebook announced its new Libra cryptocurrency project, federal lawmakers issued stark warnings to the social media platform, and have now requested the project be put on ice.

The lawmakers issuing the warnings were Rep. Maxime Waters, chair of the House Financial Services Committee, as well as ranking member Rep. Patrick McHenry. Sens. Mark Warner and Sherrod Brown both stated independently that Congress “cannot allow” such a project.

In response, Consumer Choice Center Deputy Director Yael Ossowski says the lawmakers’ threats are harmful to consumer choice, and will ultimately backfire.

“Overseeing regulation on Internet and financial firms is important, but the ‘regulate first, innovate later’ mentality that came in response to Libra should give every Internet user pause. If every new Internet innovation is now subject to kneejerk congressional approval, that sets a dangerous precedent for the future of consumer choice online,” said Ossowski.

“Consumers have the right to choose if they want to use cryptocurrencies or social networks, and are aware of the great risks and benefits that go along with that. People want an alternative and they’re interested in new digital tools online. That’s why there is so much interest.

“Allowing political figures to freeze future innovations and projects because of temporary partisan politics will keep millions of consumers from being able to enjoy regular goods and services they enjoy online, not to mention being able to connect with thousands of their friends and family online.

“And it won’t stop here. If these threats continue, Bitcoin and dozens of other cryptocurrencies, as well as other social media platforms that millions of users have adopted, will also face well-intended but flawed regulation.

“We must have smart regulation that encourages competition, protects privacy, and ensures consumer choice. Prior restraint of innovation would be the opposite of that,” said Ossowski.


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.

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A Recipe for A Better World; Nine Parts Innovation, One Part Regulation

“To protect the environment, our health, and promote the social good we have to live more austere lives.”

How often have we heard something along these lines? The problem is, it’s not a very effective approach. 

Tackling the world’s most intractable problems, preserving freedoms and making life better for everyone requires something often overlooked by many who are sincerely interested in making the world better. If advocates for austere living promote bleeding heart liberalism, I believe we should stand for bleeding heart market advocacy.

For a better world, we need more innovation.  

True, the world would be better off if there were more generosity and kindness. But technological innovation, usually backed by private investment, is the most important ingredient for a healthier and yes—more enjoyable—planet.

Meatless Choice

I enjoy eating meat. Although I am sympathetic to concerns about the impacts from eating meat, some more valid than others, I’m not willing to become a vegetarian. Some have gone so far as to propose a sin tax on meat to fight climate change. Whether it is animal welfare, the environment, or my own health, a reduction in my consumption of meat would only please other people. And they are out of luck. At least until now.

Patrick Brown, a biochemistry professor at Stanford saw industrial animal agriculture as the top environmental threat. “I started doing the typical misguided academic approach to the problem,” he said in a Pacific Standard Interview  in 2016. The magazine reported that “he organized an A-list 2010 National Research Council workshop in Washington called “The Role of Animal Agriculture in a Sustainable 21st Century Global Food System,’ which caused not a ripple. Not long after, he determined that the only real way to impact meat production would be to beat it in the free market.”  

Brown, now sounding like a mission-driven innovator, rather than a government funded activist, said “All you have to do is make a product that the current consumers … prefer to what they’re getting now. ” He added that “It’s easier to change people’s behavior than to change their minds.”

With seed funding from Bill Gates, Google, and other innovation-oriented investors, Impossible Foods has deployed scientists to develop plant-based meat alternatives meant to appeal not to vegetarians, but to meat-lovers like me. Unlike vege-burgers, which appeal primary to vegetarians, the goal of this new class of alternatives to burgers are meant to appeal to meat eaters. That’s why they‘ve been rolling it out it as a “plant-based meat” in fast food restaurants known for beef burgers.

The innovation has been the target of displeasure from cattle-ranchers, opposition from environmental activists, and, this is hard to believe, outrage from PETA. Leftist food elitists are also furious. Adrionna Fike of the Mandela Grocery Cooperative criticized the company for trying to switch burger lovers at Burger King because “They exploit so many workers  Think about all the migrant workers.” 

Yet the Impossible Burger and other disruptors like Beyond Meat are taking root in the U.S. market. The Food and Drug Administration recently backed the safety of Impossible Foods’ plant-sourced Leghemoglobin. The protein contains heme, also present in real meat, and is partly responsible for the taste, texture and appearance of bloody-good meat.

The burger even cleared another major regulatory hurdle in May, when it was certified kosher by the Orthodox Union.  

Consumers clearly have an appetite for meaty tasting alternatives to livestock products; The company is facing supply shortages as it ramps up production of Version 2.0, sold at fast food outlets including Burger King, even before it becomes available in the meat department at supermarkets later this year. Food behemoth Nestle just joined the feeding frenzy, announcingthe launch of their own plant-based burger in the fall.

While I may not become a vegetarian, the Impossible Burger and its technological offspring increase the likelihood that I’ll reduce my meat consumption, should I so choose. That’s good news for those who think the world will be better off if I ate less meat. This outcome won’t restrict my freedom, rather it gives me – and many like me – more choices. It is important to note that it came about as the result of private-sector innovation, timely government clearance, and no costly, finger-wagging “public education” campaigns.  

Tobacco Harm Reduction

Cigarette smoking remains a top killer around the world. Even in countries with the strictest anti-smoking taxes and regulations, smoking is still a scourge. It turns out that regulations and taxes do little to help addicted smokers quit, yet many in the tobacco control community continue to oppose tobacco harm reducing technologies, instead calling for only technology-killing regulation, as if that were the only tool in their toolbox. 

In fact, innovative products like e-cigarettes and heated tobacco can—and do—help smokers quit smoking, even though they are not without risk. As the U.S. FDA explains it, “nicotine – while highly addictive – is delivered through products that represent a continuum of risk and is most harmful when delivered through smoke particles in combustible cigarettes.”

Yet innovative companies like Juul, who create alternatives to cigarettes, are seen by many in public health as public enemy number one. But it really shouldn’t be so complicated or divisive. 

E-cigarettes are not entirely safe and they should not be used by kids. The FDA and local governments should use the regulatory and enforcement power and budgets they already have to prevent kids from obtaining e-cigarettes.  Schools and parents should use their moral authority to prevent kids from using them. And regulators should foster an environment which encourages innovation to develop a range of enjoyable and less harmful alternatives for adults who wish to use nicotine.

To its credit, the FDA recently authorized the sale of IQOS, a heated tobacco product, finding that the product is “appropriate for the protection of the public health because, among several key considerations, the products produce fewer or lower levels of some toxins than combustible cigarettes.”

Even a leading skeptic of the benefits of e-cigarettes for smoking cessation recently found it necessary to make a major course correction. In a caveat-rich policy statement, the American Cancer Society acknowledged that “switching to the exclusive use of e-cigarettes is preferable to continuing to smoke combustible products.” ACS’s Clinical Recommendations state that the organization supports “any smoker who is considering quitting, no matter what approach they use.”  

ACS now recommends “that clinicians support all attempts to quit the use of combustible tobacco and work with smokers to eventually stop using any tobacco product, including e-cigarettes.” Finally, and rather reasonably, the ACS advises that “these individuals should be encouraged to switch to the least harmful form of tobacco product possible; switching to the exclusive use of e-cigarettes is preferable to continuing smoking combustible products.”  Unfortunately, the science hasn’t gotten down to ACS’s lobbyists, who continue to call for a ban on the e-cigarette flavors adult smokers use to quit.

In the UK, government health officials estimate that e-cigarettes could already be helping at least 20,000 smokers quit annually, and that’s a conservative estimate, they say. 

Professor John Newton, director for health improvement at Public Health England said the government’s review “reinforces the finding that vaping is a fraction of the risk of smoking, at least 95 percent less harmful, and of negligible risk to bystanders.” To those who continue to sow doubt about the difference in risk between cigarettes and e-cigarettes, Professor Newton noted that “it would be tragic if thousands of smokers who could quit with the help of an e-cigarette are being put off due to false fears about their safety.” 

Who are these modern day merchants of doubt?

Big pharma, which makes FDA approved (but largely ineffective) nicotine replacement therapies and smoking cessation drugs has a lot to lose. Companies such as Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline are major backers of highly-regarded but old-school tobacco control groups including the American Lung Association, the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society, which regularly lobby to treat e-cigarettes just like cigarettes. 

Tobacco companies who don’t successfully innovate, also have a lot to lose if the cigarette goes the way of the rotary phone. No wonder some back costly regulatory schemes which serve as a barrier to entry to pesky competitors. 

Innovation-Oriented Problem Solving

Disruptive innovation is not only technologically difficult, but as Impossible Foods is learning, bringing game-changing products to market requires overcoming obstacles from entrenched interests. Those interests frequently masquerade as being in the public interest, but are often anything but.  

I recommend we shift our perspective. If we want to solve problems while protecting our enviable lifestyle we should embrace the idea that imaginative solutions, rather than reliance on ever-more restrictive regulations, are our best hope. Appropriately narrow regulation protects safety while also fostering innovation. 

Sometimes well-intentioned, restrictive government interventions are backward-looking problem-solving tools. Too often, they fail to deliver on the promises made to justify their costs, both in terms of unintended consequences and their cost to individual freedoms. Technological advances, however, are solution-oriented and can make real strides against problems that seem otherwise impossible to overcome. And in today’s polarized environment, that’s no nothing-burger. 

* * * 

Jeff Stier is a Senior Fellow at the Consumer Choice Center and a member of the Federalist Society’s Regulatory Transparency Project FDA Working Group.

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