With Its War On E-Cigarettes, The University Of California Ignores Real Crimes

Posted: Dec 20 2013, 8:34am CST | by , in News


With Its War On E-Cigarettes, The University Of California Ignores Real Crimes
Photo Credit: Forbes

By Dr. Alexandre Padilla

Starting this January, the University of California’s campuses will go smoke-free, but in an ironic twist, the smoking ban goes as far as including electronic cigarettes which emit some vaporized nicotine, but are technically smokeless. The main argument used to justify including e-cigarettes in the ban is that their long-term health effects are unknown, hence it’s better to err on the safe side by banning them altogether.

But this ban sets a dangerous precedent, putting us on a slippery slope, particularly when the argument advanced is to protect people from adopting behaviors of which the long-term health effects have yet to be proven. If we’re to follow this logic, one has to wonder what’s next on the list for the UC system.

But, even if we put aside the fact that such paternalistic prohibition sets a dangerous precedent in terms of violating the freedoms of the students and employees of these campuses, enforcing such a ban will be extremely difficult and very costly. Enforcing this ban for thousands of students, employees, and faculty won’t be easy on these campuses, particularly those set in urban areas. These are campus-wide bans, not bans in buildings or within 25 or 50 feet of the buildings where monitoring is easier. This raises the question of how the ban will be financed and at what cost.

Additionally, such a wide ban will likely lead to a plethora of negative consequences. First, while the campus police are busy chasing around the big bad smokers, they will have fewer resources to stop the real bad guys on campuses like thieves, rapists, and other violent criminals. Are we really willing to make such a tradeoff in the name of forcing people to be healthier?

Secondly, many people have switched to e-cigarettes as a cessation method, while others use them because they have fewer harmful effects than traditional tobacco products. In fact, a recent studydemonstrated that e-cigarette users often reduce or quit using traditional cigarettes and are less likely to resume smoking, at least in the short-term.

Finally, such a ban will likely have a negative impact on employee and student productivity. When people only had to step out of the building and walk 25 or 30 feet away to smoke a cigarette, the time away from working or studying was minimal. But now, people will have to either play hide-and-seek with the smoke police or walk from their offices, classrooms, or the library to the limits of the campus to satisfy their cravings. This time away from work or study will increase significantly for some members of the campus community and will certainly impact their productivity and stress levels.

While there are good intentions behind UC’s smoking ban, this paternalistic attitude is founded on unsubstantiated beliefs about the health effects of a product they know little about. At the end of the day, smoking out the smoke-free smokers will only lead to more of a headache for all involved.

Dr. Alexandre Padilla is an Associate Professor of Economics and the Director of the Exploring Economic Freedom Project at Metropolitan State University of Denver. 

Source: Forbes

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