Tag Archives: Bootleggers and Baptists

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Call Off the Anti-Fun Crusade

Paternalists don’t always have nefarious designs when they place bans on unhealthy activities, but a “take your medicine” attitude toward improving people’s health has unintended, sometimes deadly consequences. And, too often, there is an illegitimate purpose to legislating lifestyle politics: ill-gotten gains for rent-seekers.

For those who thought the baptists and bootleggers coalitions of yesteryear disappeared along with Prohibition, consider its longevity.

Bans on Popular Activities

Rent-seekers and anti-fun lifestyle enforcers (still) make strange bedfellows. For example: The State of New York taxes cigarettes at a rate of $5.85 per pack, banned Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) for twenty years, and has an Attorney General obsessed with shutting down Fantasy Sports. And in nearby Pennsylvania, century-old Blue Laws prohibit hunting on Sundays and limit liquor sales to government-run stores.

On the federal level, the FDA announced that it would begin to regulate e-cigarettes. So we have the baptist, in this case, Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murphy calling for tighter restrictions on e-cigarettes, despite the evidence that youth smoking has declined and that “[r]educing youth access to e-cigarettes appears to increase youth smoking rates.” Then, we’ve got the bootleggers, tobacco companies whose profits are threatened by e-cigarette manufacturers.

Similarly, in Pennsylvania, anti-alcohol activists, or “new prohibitionists,” joined hands with government-liquor-shop unions to halt Blue Law reform.

Only through collusion could those new prohibitionists and their legislative allies manage to keep otherwise popular activities illegal. Before the legalization of MMA in New York and the modest reform of Pennsylvania’s Blue Laws, both changes had overwhelming support.

If the politician and the rent-seeker can line their pockets while simultaneously keeping competition out of the market, why wouldn’t they?

Continue reading at FEE.

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Why Big Tobacco Is So “Concerned” about E-Cigs and Your Health

“When it comes to e-cigs, Big Tobacco is concerned for your health,” writes Martinne Geller for Reuters. Her article attempts to explain the recent trend of tobacco companies working with the US government and public-health advocates for more stringent regulation of electronic cigarettes (e-cigs).

“Why would tobacco companies want more regulation?” one may ask. Well, when we look at the incentives involved for each concerned party, this unholy alliance makes perfect sense.

Just days before this Reuters report hit the internet, a team of well-known professors of regulatory policy released a report explaining why this alliance would form. The answer lies in the familiar parable of “Bootleggers and Baptists” laid out by Bruce Yandle in the journal Regulation. Coincidentally, it is this same journal that would publish the report on e-cigarettes 22 years later.

Simply put, industry incumbents seek regulation to keep upstart competitors at bay, while moralizers (the “Baptists” in the parable, or anti-tobacco groups today) seek to regulate the industry to make selling products they dislike more difficult. Both sides seek regulation, but for very different reasons.

In this case, moralizing e-cig opponents have joined with “Big Tobacco” and government tax offices to stymie the growth of e-cigs in the market. Each group has a distinct interest in regulation. Many health advocates seek to further stigmatize the perceived act of smoking, and want to treat e-cigarettes like traditional, combustible cigarettes to achieve this goal.

Major cigarette companies seek to make moving to alternative products more difficult, further entrenching their current, dominant position. Government officials, faced with falling cigarette-tax revenues, seek to prevent further drops by either taxing e-cigarette products or shoring up dwindling traditional cigarette sales.

All these groups are doing exactly what one would expect given the incentives that they face. Note that nowhere in this conversation is the consumer, nor the independent e-cig producers. Moreover, in many cases, public-health officials who seek lighter regulations are flatly ignored.

Read the rest at the PanAm Post…