by Rafid Moga
Michael Bloomberg’s “big gulp ban” was widely ridiculed for being what it was: local government choosing to micromanage the most personal choices of New York City residents.
Well, it looks like the uncontrollable urge of local politicians to micromanage what we eat, drink and consume is making its way back to San Diego. This time the target is “e-cigarettes” the tobacco-less cigarettes that local government is deciding to treat as…tobacco.
The scientific jury is still out on the long term health effects of e-cigarettes. But we do know that they contain no tobacco, and none of the hundreds of potentially harmful chemicals in tobacco that cause an array of health problems over time.
Now, the same city government that should be focusing on problems in its police department, joblessness, homelessness and other pressing issues is taking time to move San Diego one step closer to Michael Bloomberg’s vision of local government that controls just about every choice we make about what we consume.
Specifically, on Monday the City Council will consider extending existing rules on tobacco advertising to e-cigarettes, even though, again, e-cigarettes by definition contain no tobacco at all. This includes: no displays near certain items in stores located in certain places, or below four feet from the floor, or in the window, etc. You get the idea.
Once the precedent is set that such restrictions are no longer limited to just tobacco products, it’s just a matter of time before we see some future council come back to “strengthen” the rules by extending them to…energy drinks, sodas, candy, foods with transfats, etc. At some point we must draw the line somewhere and say: enough, this is not the appropriate role of government.
Local retailers are integral parts of our neighborhoods and owners have a strong incentive to be good stewards of the community. The proposed restrictions imply local shopkeepers cannot be trusted to find the right balance in how merchandise is configured and marketed in our stores. The heavy hand of government must instead intervene.
Our local businesses cannot just pick up and move elsewhere like so many other employers in California have done. The steady layering of more and more restrictions and micromanagement of our shops and businesses erode our ability to stay in business at all.
The issue coming before the city council has nothing to do with tobacco products. It relates to whether government will take on the power to decide just how any food, drink, or smoke it, at the moment, deems undesirable can be further regulated and then enforced by the city with its police powers.
Tobacco products have been proven harmful, making existing regulations acceptable. Extending those regulations to products that have not been proven harmful at all crosses the line, and should be rejected.
Rafid Moga is owner of a tobacco retail shop in San Diego.