Regulating a new technology

E-cigarettes are different enough from cigarettes that it's hard for regulators to figure out how to monitor their safety and use. There's nicotine, but no tobacco. There's heating, but not combustion. Theoretically, they should be safer to use than cigarettes, but nobody really knows for sure. This piece at InsideScience is an interesting look at how we manage new technologies that don't quite fit into any previously defined regulatory boxes ... and why we'd want to regulate them, to begin with.

Notable Replies

  1. "and why we'd want to regulate them, to begin with."
    Because it's not really about the harm of smoking or second hand smoke, but, rather "The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy." Or was that a rhetorical question?

  2. Or maybe chemically addictive drugs should be regulated. Because someone is making a ton of money creating and then exploiting a physical need.

  3. miasm says:

    I see that you're all over that 'somebody somewhere being happy' situation.

  4. I'm not objecting to regulations like telling the truth about what's in your product, or not selling drugs to kids. A lot of the push to regulate e-cigarettes, though, is about making sure that people can't use them in places where it's illegal to smoke. Since there's no demonstrated harm from second hand vapor, the arguments that were used to ban smoking in bars (regardless of what the proprietor or the customers want) in a whole lot of places really don't apply in this case, so the raw, reeking, puritanism of the people trying to push these regulations is shining through.

  5. If I was still a smoker I'd be all over these things. As it is, I want nothing to do with nicotine.

    Seriously though, we need to start focusing our energies on more important stuff, like cars - which kill many people on a daily basis.

    Living in a free society means having the freedom to make good choices, but also bad ones. Or it isn't free. Sure, set up some consequences/disincentives for the really bad ones (those that harm others), but an adult somewhere inhaling some semi-addictive and mildly poisonous steam is very low on my list of moral hazards in the world.

Continue the discussion

19 more replies