The Food and Drug Administration’s commissioner Scott Gottlieb has announced the agency will introduce new regulations to curb nicotine addiction associated with cigarettes. The FDA’s plan is to force tobacco companies to reduce the amount of nicotine in cigarettes while simultaneously delaying regulations on e-cigarettes or other vaping products. Gottlieb claimed the nicotine regulations are part of a comprehensive plan to eventually wean smokers off conventional cigarettes and steer them toward less harmful alternative forms of nicotine like vaping. Although the repeal of vaping regulations will benefit vaping companies and its consumers by eliminating time-consuming and costly bureaucratic rules, the new regulations on nicotine in tobacco products will create unintended consequences.

E-cigarettes have proven to be the most effective way for many smokers to wean themselves from cigarettes and all the carcinogens it contains. However, vaping is not an effective form of cessation for all cigarette smokers. The American Journal of Preventative Medicine found in a study that out of 222 participants that tried e-cigarettes 31% had successfully stopped smoking cigarettes after 6 months. This percentage is significantly better than the success rates of nicotine chewing gum and patches, which had an 8.4% and 8.2% respectively, but still leaves many smokers hooked on cigarettes. So, who will benefit from this legislation?

If I am a smoker and I am normally able to satisfy my nicotine addiction with a pack of cigarettes throughout the day and suddenly the amount of nicotine in each cigarette is reduced, it will now drive me to smoke more to get my fix. This means that more smokers will be inhaling more smoke than they would if tobacco companies could continue choosing the level of nicotine in the cigarettes they produce. The people trying to quit their smoking addiction will lose, they will suffer from more respiratory diseases, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other morbidities linked to cigarettes. The tobacco companies on the other hand win, because they rake in larger profits from the excess cigarettes consumed by smokers.

It is also possible that a black market will be created to sell cigarettes with the current amount of nicotine, which will inevitably lead to police crack downs on lawbreakers. A similar scenario already happened in New York City following the city’s absurd tax increase on cigarettes that resulted in the death of Eric Garner in July of 2014.

Tobacco companies are already required to print warning labels from the Surgeon General on packs, so that anyone can see the dangers of smoking, as if they are needed. For many years we have known how detrimental smoking can be to a person’s health, meaning people choose to do it anyway. The state cannot legislate good health or solve sociomedical challenges. This big government policy benefits career politicians and their cronies, allows unelected bureaucrats to create unconstitutional laws, creates a larger police state, increases wasteful spending and achieves nothing good. The taxes used to enforce these types of laws robs the people of their buying power or their choice to spend money where it is most useful. It could instead be allocated into the hands of proven problem solvers in the free market like Hon Lik, the inventor of e-cigarettes.