The Corner

The Town that Billy Sunday Could Maybe Shut Down

Over at Reason, Jacob Sullum notes that Chicago now looks as if it is set to follow the lethal example set by New York City and ban the use of e-cigarettes in public places.

Jacob reports:

[T]he proposal backed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, encountered what the Chicago Sun-Times called “a surprise outpouring of opposition” from critics who cited the dearth of evidence that e-cigarettes pose a hazard to bystanders and worried that treating them like the real thing would discourage smokers from switching to a much healthier alternative. While those points remain valid, they are no longer dissuading Chicago’s aldermen from imposing the same restrictions on vaping that currently apply to smoking. Yesterday, by a vote of 15 to 5, the city council’s health and finance committees  approved a bill adding e-cigarettes to Chicago’s Clean Indoor Air Act. The full city council, where a total of 26 votes are needed to pass the ordinance, is  expected to follow suit tomorrow.

As in New York, supporters of the ban say vaping looks too much like smoking to be tolerated. E-cigarettes “normalize smoking,” complained Alderman Will Burns, a co-sponsor of the ordinance. “They make it seem OK to smoke.”

Alderman Ray Colon, an opponent of this dangerous and irresponsible piece of legislation, had this to say:

You’re making people go outside. . . . You’re treating it just as you would [a] tobacco cigarette. You’re lumping it together in the same category, even though you don’t really have any proof that it has any harm. You’re saying, ‘We’re going to regulate first and ask questions later.’” Although New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley claims regulating out of ignorance is the only responsible approach, that’s true only if you ignore the costs of regulation. Alderman Brendan Reilly told his fellow council members he has “friends and family members who are using [e-cigarettes] to quit, to get away from combustible tobacco that kills people.” If pushing vapers out into the cold deters such harm reduction, which seems likely, it will endanger people’s health instead of protecting it.

The alderman is talking sense but missing the point. When a cult — and that’s what the anti-tobacco jihad is evolving into — insists on absolute purity, there is bound to be some collateral damage. It’s not a bug, and may even be a feature.

And Jacob’s reference to Health Commissioner Farley?

Oh, he had been involved in the New York debate, as Jacob explained here:

The New York Times  called the meeting during which [NYC councilman]  Vallone expressed his dismay at metal tubes that resemble cigarettes “one of the most scientifically vague and emotionally charged health committee hearings in recent memory.” New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley supplied the scientific vagueness, admitting there is no evidence that e-cigarettes pose a threat to vapers themselves, let alone bystanders. Still, he said, “I certainly can’t guarantee that that is safe.”

Okey dokey.

While we’re on this topic, it will probably be of no surprise for anyone around here to learn that another front has been opened up in the war against e-cigarettes. Naturally, it involves “the children.” I have written about it over at Ricochet.