Butting-out on E-cigarette Regulations

“The state should confine itself to establishing rules applying to general types of situations and should allow the individual freedom in everything which depends on the circumstances of time and place, because only the individuals concerned in each instance can fully know these circumstances and adapt their actions to them.” – Friedrich Hayek, The Road to Serfdom

Friedrich Hayek wrote The Road to Serfdom about the government paternalism, and since publishing that book, very little has change. Aged, paternalistic governments are suffering from vision loss, and rather than fixing their sight, they are delimiting personal freedom by legislating intrusive, and often unnecessary, laws and regulations.

The proposed regulation of e-cigarettes in Nova Scotia and other provinces–which has been dominating the media cycle in the past few weeks–provides an illustration of overextended governance. Toronto’s city council legislated a ban against e-cigarettes in the workplace and other municipal and provincial governments throughout the country may follow a similar path.

Electronic cigarettes, or “e-cigarettes,” are battery-powered devices that vapourize liquid nicotine, flavouring, and other chemicals. They look virtually identical to real cigarettes, however, unlike real cigarettes, e-cigarettes do not have tobacco. These devices have created a political stir in Canada, Europe, and the United States, and more recently, in developing countries such as India, where 900,000 individuals die each year from tobacco-related diseases. Unfortunately, instead of embracing them as a smoking cessation device, governments abound are proposing laws and regulations that prohibit access to e-cigarettes.

In “Electronic Cigarettes: Review of Use, Content, Safety, Effects on Smokers, and Potential for Harm and Benefit,” published in the journal Addiction this past July, Peter Hajek, prominent tobacco researcher from Queen Mary University of London, discusses the potential benefits of e-cigarette usage and argues that “the evidence we currently have is clear: e-cigarettes should be allowed to compete against conventional cigarettes in the marketplace. Healthcare professionals may advise smokers who are unwilling to cease nicotine use to switch to e-cigarettes. Smokers who have not managed to stop with current treatments may also benefit from switching to e-cigarettes.”

Governments around the world rely heavily on information espoused by global health agencies such as the World Health Organization (WHO), however, that information is not always evidence-based. The WHO, for instance, recommended in a report that governments should consider banning e-cigarettes in “indoor workplaces and public places, and restricting their promotion to avoid initiation of non-smokers, youth, and pregnant women.” Upon publishing this document, a cohort of experts in tobacco research, and more broadly, addiction research, refuted the WHO’s claims, stating that the report “contains important errors, misinterpretations, and misrepresentations, putting policymakers and the public in danger of foregoing the potential public health benefits of e-cigarettes.” Last week, Maclean’s published an excellent editorial arguing that “public health agencies around the world [ought to] abandon their pet political crusades and efforts to control private personal choices, and instead focus their energies on fighting infectious disease, wherever it may occur.” If these agencies continue to mislead policymakers, which is the case in Nova Scotia, public policy may stray from rationality.

In 2008, roughly 5 million individuals in Canada smoked cigarettes on a regular basis and 90 per cent expressed a desire to quit. Nova Scotia’s smoking rate in 2011 was 18.1 per cent, slightly above the national average of 17.3 per cent.

Addiction is omnipresent, however, government initiatives to reduce cigarette consumption have been successful at both prevention and reduction. Moreover, as people engage with the evidence, the appeal of smoking begins to dissipate. E-cigarettes have the potential to be a serious smoking cessation device and, in fact, there is a glut of research indicating that they have aided in the reduction of convention cigarette use. In “Real-world Effectiveness of E-cigarettes when Used to Aid Smoking Cessation: A Cross-sectional Population Study,” Jamie Brown of University College London concluded that e-cigarettes are 60 per cent more successful in helping people quit their habit than other smoking cessation devices, such as nicotine patches. Bill 60 in Nova Scotia, the Smoke-free Places Act, sends a negative signal to those seeking to quit. Instead of solving the problem, the provincial government is making it harder to kick the habit by legislating regulations that do not reflect the current scientific literature.

Following consultations with Nova Scotians who have a smoking addiction, the Law Amendments Committee of Nova Scotia decided to remove a ban against certain flavours of tobacco and e-cigarette “juice.” These changes will come into effect in May 2015, and although this step is a small one in the right direction, the provincial government can do much more to make smoking cessation devices accessible to those with a smoking addiction.

Rinzin Ngodup is an AIMS on Campus Student Fellow who is pursuing a graduate degree in economics at Dalhousie University. The views expressed are the opinion of the author and not necessarily that of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies

AIMS on Campus Announces the 2014-15 Student Fellows

Following a tremendously successful year in 2013-14, AIMS on Campus is happy to announce the 2014-15 student fellows:

Rinzin Ngodup
Dalhousie University, Development Economics

Rinzin is a graduate student in development economics at Dalhousie University. Born to Tibetan parents in India, he completed undergraduate studies in economics at the University of Madras, India. He has worked as a teaching assistant at Dalhousie University and has been living in Halifax since 2010 with his cousin. In his spare time, he enjoys reading classic novels and practicing meditation.

Interests: development economics, welfare economics, environmental economics, and macroeconomic policy

Samuel Hammond
Carleton University, Economics

Samuel is a Nova Scotia-native, born and raised on the South Shore. During his undergraduate studies at Saint Mary’s University, he was Editor-in-Chief of the SMU Journal and spent over a year working as a junior economist for ACOA Halifax. He currently resides in Ottawa, where he is a graduate student in economics at Carleton University.

Interests: social choice theory, regional economic development, public finance, and growth theory

Leo Plumer
McGill University, Economics and Political Science

A Newfoundlander, Leo resides in Montreal, where he is enrolled in the joint economics and political science undergraduate programme at McGill University. He is an active member of Students for Liberty, a writer for the Mises Canada Emerging Scholars blog, and a proprietor of his own campus group, all of which has contributed to his interest in public policy. During the few breaks he takes from complaining about politics, he is an avid outdoorsman, gourmand, and metal-head.

Interests: development economics, welfare economics, social justice, international relations, and monetary policy

Corey Schruder
Cape Breton University, History

Corey is pursuing an undergraduate degree in history at Cape Breton University following two years at Queen’s University. He was previously an executive member of the Queen’s Students for Liberty group, where he was responsible for organizing the “Free Speech Wall” on campus, a contributor to the Queen’s Journal and Queen’s International Observer, and a former research assistant with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. Most recently, he was an intern at the PMO. In his spare time, he enjoys reading about economic history and spending time with friends and family.

Interests: economic history, labour policy, municipal governance, welfare economics

We’re excited to begin another year and hope to expand the success brought by last year’s student fellows!

Revitalizing Atlantic Canada

Writing for Free Exchange allowed me to examine a multiplicity of issues facing Atlantic Canada and the following are some that I have found to be of paramount importance.

The most prominent issue in Atlantic Canada is slow economic growth, which has resulted in an enormous outflow of skill labourers, young professionals, and families who have left for British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan to find work. Economic growth rates in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island, for instance, have fallen below the national average of 2 per cent in 2013. Newfoundland and Labrador, which is currently booming due to oil production, is somewhat of an exception, however, declining revenues threaten to derail the province’s path to prosperity. In addition, the three Maritime Provinces experienced declining populations in 2013.

NL’s growth is largely attributable to strong oil and gas production, which has been growing in the province since the mid-2000s. The rest of Atlantic Canada could benefit from NL’s model and the region may need to look toward the oil and gas sector. New Brunswick currently boasts an opportunity to host the Energy East Pipeline and has a prospective shale gas industry. Other opportunities include increased cooperation or shared services between the three Maritime Provinces and exploring trade prospects with emerging markets.

Another problem facing the region, and the entire country, is unfunded liabilities. In other words, public sector pensions are a significant issue that plagues both federal and provincial government. This is where Atlantic Canada can lead: New Brunswick and Nova Scotia both made changes to their pension programs and the rest of Canada could learn from their progress.

In addition, Canada’s healthcare system requires additional consideration and policymakers must look into issues plaguing it. Through the Canada Health Transfer, the federal government allocates funds to the provinces to assist them with growing wait lists, quality assurance, and a number of other issues. However, progress has been futile. The federal government has given $41 billion in additional healthcare funding since 2004, yet, in 2010, Canada ranked last out of 11 countries in terms of wait times. This is why policymakers should consider alternatives to the status quo.

There are also serious democratic issues facing the country. The Senate remains unelected and unaccountable, and the Supreme Court’s recent ruling inscribed the current structure in stone. Its ruling does not need necessarily indicate defeat, though, and the Prime Minister, in addition to supporting premiers, must take the lead and ensure reform to the Upper Chamber.

While many Canadians may agree that these issues are of great importance, there must be action. We often criticize the political sphere for not dealing with these issues adequately, however, the truth is that we, as electors, must show that they are a priority or politicians will not give them due consideration. It is our duty to ensure that ideas, such as natural resource development, prudent fiscal management, and adequate healthcare, receive fair scrutiny, rather than arbitrarily dismissing them from the outset; it is our duty as citizens to place them on the political agenda.

Randy Kaye is a 2013-2014 Atlantic Institute for Market Studies’ Student Fellow. The views expressed are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the Institute