Outright prohibition of psychoactive substances has proven futile, time and again. The disastrous consequences of U.S. prohibition of alcohol (1920 to 1933) and marijuana (ongoing) are well documented (examples here and here ). Zealous prohibitionists have now targeted nicotine, using a strategy I call Tacit Incremental Prohibition - Tobacco Elimination, or TIP-TOE. Their aim is to employ an escalating series of legislative and regulatory controls in order, over time, to remove all tobacco products from the marketplace.
TIP-TOE has been promoted by a cadre of individuals using the cover of reputable organizations, including the Mayo Clinic ( here ), the American Cancer Society ( here ), the American Heart Association ( here ), the federal Centers for Disease Control ( here ) and the National Cancer Institute ( here ). The principals believe that a world without nicotine is both desirable and achievable, yet they are not courageous enough to demand outright prohibition. Instead, they’ve implemented the subtle TIP-TOE strategy of chipping away at consumer rights and industry initiatives. Several elements of their campaign were in view in recent weeks.
On February 15, Senators Frank Lautenberg (D, NJ) and Dick Durbin (D, IL) urged Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig and players’ association director Michael Weiner to ban smokeless tobacco in their sport. At the obvious prodding of TIP-TOE advocates, the senators pressed for a “solution” to a “problem” that doesn’t exist, as I discussed in a previous blog entry ( here ).
Another TIP-TOE initiative is the move to ban flavored tobacco products, an issue I addressed over a year ago ( here ). A bill in the Washington legislature (HB 1246, here ) would ban flavored smokeless tobacco products and all dissolvable products. A Utah bill (HB 170, here ) would ban flavored smokeless tobacco products and electronic cigarettes.
These TIP-TOE bills are especially egregious. They would ban tobacco products that are almost risk-free, while assuring continued market dominance by vastly more hazardous cigarettes.
Using TIP-TOE tactics, tobacco prohibitionists are sprinting toward a public health disaster.