Regulations are getting out of hand, as I’m sure more than a few of you have noticed at least two or three times in the last forty-five seconds or so. And I’m not just talking about E-cig regulations, but the entire regulatory environment of contemporary governments the world over. Somewhere along the way, someone must have looked at the world and said, “You know what this complex world of infinite possibilities and combinations of possibilities needs? A bunch of organizations composed of unelected officials with completely unchecked, limitless power to over-complicate this already overly-complex planet at an exponentially-increasing rate until the whole of humanity grinds to a screeching halt resulting from an inability to move an inch without violating multiple ordinances, directives, mandates, and caveats, thereby coming in direct conflict with a regulatory issue based on previous rulings by said regulatory issue’s governing agency.” In fact, I’m almost certain that is EXACTLY how the original statement was worded, to ensure compliance with preexisting vernacular regulations, of course.
Now, this is an electronic cigarette-related blog post, so I’m going to focus my attention here on the many proposed (and some already existing) regulations pertaining to the electronic cigarette industry. However, I’m going to do that via metaphor, and the metaphor I’ve chosen to employ is that of the Motion Picture Production Code (better known as the Hays Code) which was used in Hollywood as a pan-studio nationally-accepted guideline for the production of movies between the mid 1930s and the late 1960s:
Those of you who are adequately versed in the classic products of Hollywood of Yesteryear will immediately call to mind a series of favorite films released during the aforementioned time frame that are, at least by today’s loose standards, wholesome to the point of being tame. No profanity, no nudity, no extreme acts of violence (outside of a few cheesy Thompson submachine gun-related deaths in a handful of Cagney flicks), no blatant sexual innuendo or entendre, etc. We’ve been conditioned to think that this period of time was some sort of failure in terms of the grand American spirit of “free speech.” What many won’t understand about the Hays Code is this: it was NOT a system of government-sponsored regulations. It was NOT the “law of the land” by any stretch of the imagination. It was actually a privately-operated organization. Without going into too much detail, the Hays Office came about as an answer to an outcry put forth by a majority of the population, and it did a very thorough job of placating that outcry.
So what happened in the late ’60s? The Hays Office disintegrated into an acid bath of artistic expression. Enter the Motion Picture Association of America, heralded by the blessing of the Federal Communications Commission. At this point, the MPAA and the FCC undertook to over-complicate the film industry in the name of protecting civil, artistic, and free speech rights. Fast-forward a few decades and it is now quite literally impossible for parents (I speak as an authority in this treacherous arena) to protect children from knowing and watching and learning about every depraved lustful, gluttonous, greedy, violent, and otherwise licentious act of debasement known to mankind. So, what began with an oath to protect is now almost the diametric opposite of protection. The involvement of the government created more loop-holes in thousands of volumes of legalese for the passage of questionable or downright immoral entertainment than was ever allowed to grace the silver screen when the regulation was left up to the people, NOT the government.
So, how does this relate to the E-cig industry? A more accurate question would be, “How DOESN”T it?” Right now we are in the “Classic Hollywood” era of electronic cigarettes. We have our own Hays Offices, bearing the nomenclature AEMSA (American E-Liquid Manufacturing Standards Association) and CASAA (Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association). These are just two examples of the E-cigarette industry policing the E-cigarette industry, without government interference. As it stands, and with only ourselves to govern ourselves (that concept seems familiar somehow, historically speaking) there exist sensible and effective regulatory measures used by E-cigarette and E-liquid manufacturers to produce safe and efficient products. In fact, believe it or not, these standards are written with safety and efficiency in mind and they do not fall short of these goals, as has been demonstrated time and time again by honest scientific attempts to study electronic cigarette technology and the effects of that technology on human health.
What we have to ask ourselves now is this; Do we want to reach the MPAA/FCC phase of E-cigarette regulation? Bear in mind that it wasn’t until the government involved itself with the cigarette (tobacco cigarettes, not electronic cigarettes) industry that chemicals such as formaldehyde, arsenic, etc. were put into cigarette tobacco in an effort to “regulate the consistency of the product by ‘reconstituting’ the tobacco.” Before that, tobacco was just a leaf that people burned and inhaled. If they chose to burn and inhale too much, they chose to accept the health consequences. Today, “tobacco” is actually a machine-pressed piece of paper made up of dangerous, poisonous… in some cases EXTREMELY poisonous chemicals, and a few bits of ground-up, highly-processed tobacco plant material. What will become of electronic cigarettes once the government unleashes its regulatory voodoo on what currently stands as a successfully self-governed, praiseworthy industry bent on greatly reducing the harm experienced by those of us who have chosen to maintain nicotine addictions? Big Tobacco is currently lobbying the FDA to include requirements in their E-cig regulations concerning the “regulation of product consistency.” A few years from now, all of our E-cigarettes might contain, as required by law, deadly chemicals like formaldehyde and arsenic.
We’ve seen what happens when the government dips their regulatory fingers into the entertainment industry; their so-called attempts to “protect” have resulted in my inability to keep my children from exposure to absolutely everything bad for them. Protection of the populace eventually resulted in protection from free-speech lawsuits. However, when the government wasn’t involved it was up to the people to protect themselves and they came up with a system that, while arguably a bit strict, worked perfectly well without government interference. And those who wanted to see a little more sin in their entertainment went to pulp/grind houses instead. Neither Hays-complient nor non-Hays-complient entertainment were illegal or regulated out of existence. They were just naturally separated by the will of the people themselves. Let’s not make the mistake of thinking, “Well, government regulation of the E-cigarette industry will take on a different and more efficient form.” Everything that the government touches seems to not only NOT work, but to result in the exact opposite of its intended goals. Once this big government mentality invades electronic cigarette technology, E-cigs will cease to be harm-reducing alternatives to tobacco-smoking. They will no longer be composed of three or four simple, non-toxic ingredients. They will suddenly be stuffed full of chemicals and “preservatives” that only a scholar of dead languages will be able to pronounce correctly, and they will almost certainly start killing people just as effectively as their plant-based cousins.