by Carl V Phillips
My post about damaging battles among supposed THR advocates, and its unplanned follow-up, were among the least read posts on this blog lately. I think this is sad and, frankly, a little embarrassing for our community. Sure, I read the news as much for entertainment as enlightenment as much as the next guy. But the sharp contrast is troubling, between the few hits on those posts that include actionable thoughts about what those on our side need to do differently, compared to posts about silly liars that are, for knowledgeable readers, frankly just entertainment (they serve a critical practical purpose as a reference to direct honest undecided or not-fully-informed people to, of course).
I have a feeling that this third entry in the unintentional series will change that (though I wish that were motivated by genuine reflection rather than the hatred that is brewing over this one).
[UPDATE: The response to yesterday’s post about NCI’s “tell your quit smoking story” page has included over one hundred tweets and retweets (counting just those that linked to the page or were sent to me, as of 11:30 am Eastern Time today), as well as FOIA filings and proposals to create a competing site. That is great, but you know what: It just doesn’t matter much! It might prove embarrassing enough to NCI that they have to just take down that page (which is what they will do). It will provide a footnote we can maybe mention in some contexts. But it is not like that page was really hurting THR. What I am talking about in this series is hurting THR.]
Today, TVECA, one of the U.S. e-cigarette industry groups, along with European partners, sent a letter to members of the European Parliament supporting the EU’s latest proposed regulation of e-cigarettes. This was quickly followed by some prominent calls to boycott TVECA members and other companies who supported this move, because it is generally agreed among knowledgeable THR and vapors advocates that the current proposal is a very bad thing. Clive Bates reprinted the letter and excoriated TVECA (within hours of it being submitted) here, and also reprinted his observations that presented the consumer position. He points out the contempt and scorn TVECA et al. direct toward the real consumer advocates and their lobbying efforts.
(Note that CASAA does not consider itself expert enough on the EU law and process to become directly involved in this fight, thus the somewhat neutral language of this post. We are expert on the U.S. law and process, and do not want to play the half-informed dilettante pundit game, as people do when they try to opine about everything in the field. Personally I trust Clive as the leading expert and best advocate on EU regulation.)
By all appearances, this is a classic case of industry supporting a regulation that gives them a competitive advantage (it hurts the competition more than it hurts them), and while they pretend it represents concern about the consumers, it clearly hurts consumers. That lack of concern about the consumers also translates into: they do not really care about THR; this is all just making money to them. It looks no different from NRT merchants wanting to eliminate other low-risk tobacco products, big e-cigarette companies (mostly, but not entirely, the cigarette companies) favoring stringent regulations that only they can meet, or Kind Consumer lying about current-tech e-cigarettes.
I trust this will be properly disillusioning for some of you. There are genuinely caring people in companies in all of these sectors, and thus units of companies of all sizes and business models that are genuinely pro-THR. Because of this, sometimes the entire company is genuinely pro-consumer and pro-THR. But it is the nature of business (and government) that sociopaths — those who are naturally born and those who evolve those traits through seeing what is successful in business — tend to rise to the top.
The post is summed up best in the comments:
Q: Are they nuts?
CB: The short answer is ‘yes’. It’s hard to see the public affairs logic of such a crude intervention. … It takes an especially divisive talent to do it as badly as TVECA, and they have yet to explain why they think their companies will benefit from agreement to all the things they list in their letter.
So they might be shooting themselves in the foot too, because they do not understand what they are saying (see above points about dilettantes). But it seems pretty clear that while they might have accidentally hit their own foot, the fact that the consumers took a direct hit from this was no accident.
On a brighter note from Europe, comes this story about how one smokeless tobacco manufacturer released a product that avoids the ban on snus. It has long been the case that some Danish manufacturers produced smokeless tobacco products designed for dipping (which is banned) but were able to sell them because they declared them to be for chewing (which is not). The recent move takes this one step further, creating a minor variant on standard pouched snus and marketing it as pouched chew (yeah, right!).
Now that is the right way to deal with bad laws: Figure out how to let people reclaim their liberty in spite of the law. Those who favor tightening laws for their company’s — or their personal favorite products — advantage, please take note.