Op-Ed: Doing favors to the black market — Australia cracks down on nicotine vaping

Rima, a 27-year-old Saudi woman, holds her electronic cigarette as she vapes at a coffee shop in downtown Riyadh, a sign of the changing times in Saudi Arabia – Copyright AFP/File JOHN THYS

Australia banned nicotine vaping years ago. Now, to absolutely nobody’s surprise, nicotine vaping is getting a “crackdown” simply because the laws don’t work and youth vaping is at an all-time high. They’ve made the black market more valuable. They certainly haven’t stopped anyone smoking, all too obviously.

The arguments for the crackdown are as ancient as the logic.

  • Nicotine is addictive: …Because it’s an analog for vitamin B3. It’s oxidized nicotinic acid. You simply can’t get addicted to anything which doesn’t have a natural analog. One of the roles of B3 is as a stress manager and managing various other conditions. Niacin or nicotinamide are the natural forms of B3. It’s called nicotinamide for a reason, folks.
  • Nicotine products are polluted: So they are, inexcusably so, and they don’t have to be. Hydro-grown tobacco can be kept free of any contaminants, and any impurities in the nicotine can be filtered. (This really is bonehead-level basic chemistry.) I have actually seen “organic” tobacco, packaged as such in US imports, years ago. The mainstream market seems too lazy to do it.

Helping the black market as usual

It’s hard to imagine anything more useful to organized crime than prohibitionist laws. Pricing anything so high will inevitably lead to a black market. Tobacco has now become yet another cash cow for organized crime.

There are two things wrong with that from even the most pedantic prohibitionist perspective:

  1. You’ll unquestionably achieve the exact opposite of whatever you’re trying to achieve, as usual. The original Prohibition created modern organized crime. The War on Drugs enriched it. This is just another tranche of the same total failure. If you want to make criminals rich, make something people like illegal.
  2. Making something illegal makes it cool. Therefore the youth market wants it. However idiotic, like crack or meth, that makes it the drug of choice. Prohibiting vaping of nicotine has instantly generated a demand for it.   

Another unnecessary, avoidable issue

With the tobacco black market making billions and the health issues totally unmitigated by any sort of sanity, it’s time to think about the problems.

A few pointers:

You can completely eliminate the pollutants with basic horticulture.

No other product on the market is tolerated to contain so many pollutants.

You could at least acknowledge the basis of addiction and why so many people smoke to relieve stress. (Tobacco was actually prescribed by doctors back in the 1940s and 1950s for stress relief.)

You could stop pretending the black market doesn’t exist. This is at best delusional. Why is yet another source of money for organized crime being overlooked?

It may be possible to develop a simple form of tobacco which does the same job of managing stress without the hysteria that goes with managing anything addictive.

(It’s anyone’s guess why safe recreational drugs aren’t developed. What’s the “moral” basis? The world may be literally falling to bits, but nobody’s allowed to relax? Don’t hold your breath waiting for an answer to that question.

Meanwhile, everyone’s allowed to breathe as much and as many pollutants as they like.


The opinions expressed in this Op-Ed are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Digital Journal or its members.

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