May 12, 2015
“If vaping came close to overtaking cigarette use, it would be one of the most remarkable disruptive public health technologies of modern times.” Clive Bates
There may be a number of folks reading this that are not familiar with the phrase “Bootleggers and Baptists”. It dates back to the early 1920’s when the 18th Amendment to the Constitution passed making it illegal to manufacture, transport or sell booze – aka “prohibition”.
The amendment was supported by both bootleggers and Baptists, for entirely different reasons.
Bootleggers were in favor of it because it greatly expanded their market and exponentially increased the prices they could charge. The infamous gangster Al Capone reportedly built a $60 million fortune on bootlegged alcohol and places for customers to enjoy it – aka “speakeasies”.
Baptists supported prohibition on moral grounds. Alcohol was seen as the root of all marital and family evils. The so-called “temperance movement” was at its height of popularity in the early 1900s. Baptists strongly favored outlawing the demon alcohol in all forms.
Perhaps you’re starting to see the parallel to today’s e-cigarette debate.
Today’s bootleggers are Big Tobacco. BT has openly, and probably not so openly, supported regulations imposing restrictions on e-vaping products. The more the better. The higher the cost the better.
The grandfather date in the Tobacco Control Act would be the ultimate prize for BT. In one fell swoop, 95% of the competition from small vape shops would be eliminated. Leaving BT as the undisputed dominant force in the market. And in a position to charge just about any price they choose. Bootleggers can do that when they’re the only game in town.
And the modern day Baptists? Public Health organizations. They object to vaping products on the moral high ground – protecting our children.
Vaping products are an adolescent gateway to smoking combustible cigarettes. Vaping products contain nicotine that may be addictive. Vaping products are not harmless. Vaping products will renormalize smoking. Vaping products will destroy all of the hard work that went into reducing, by almost 50%, smoking prevalence in the U.S. Vaping products are just BT’s latest ploy for addicting the next generation of smokers. Hallelujah brothers and sisters!
So bootleggers BT and Baptists public health are once again on the same side. And once again, for diametrically opposing reasons. Bitter enemies for decades. Now united to defeat this new threat.
Of course there is a third player in our saga – the politicians. They’re in it for the money. E-cigarettes are nothing short of a gift from the universe. The timing could not be better. Cigarette sales are declining. And cigarette tax revenues right along with it.
Then out of nowhere, technology delivers the perfect solution to their problems. Handed to them on a silver platter. Impose the same sin taxes on vaping products that they do on the real tobacco products.
Public Health loves the politicians because they’re “protecting the children”. BT loves the politicians because they’re protecting their market dominance. The politicians love Public Health and BT for giving them the perfect, politically popular excuse to increase taxes. It’s a win-win-win.
Fifty years from now a blogger will be telling a new version of an old story – “Bootleggers, Baptists and Bureaucrats – United Once Again”.
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Dave Coggin has a Master’s Degree in business and spent 35 years in corporate America. He is a co-founder and partner in DIYELS. He has spent the last five years actively researching and following the evolution of the e-cigarette industry. He is a strong proponent of e-cigarettes as the most promising option currently known for tobacco harm reduction. He may be contacted directly at firstname.lastname@example.org .
The opinions presented here are exclusively those of the author. Vaper’s Vortex is offered as a service to our customers and followers. Anyone considering e-cigarettes as an alternative to tobacco cigarettes should seek qualified advice from a medical professional.