Workers Vanguard No. 1124

15 December 2017


New York Vaping Ban

Your Rights Up in Smoke

On November 22, New York joined the growing list of states attacking the rights of electronic cigarette users. Under Governor Andrew Cuomo, the Clean Indoor Air Act has been expanded to ban vaping in workplaces, bars and restaurants. Vaping is popular not least because it allows (ex-)smokers to get nicotine without the carcinogens in cigarettes.

Yet Cuomo & Co. sell this cruel prohibition as a “public health” measure, claiming that e-cigs “carry long-term risks to the health of users and those around them.” In fact, a report by Britain’s Royal College of Physicians last year called for vigorous promotion of vaping as a way to quit cigarettes. The report noted: “Provision of the nicotine that smokers are addicted to without the harmful components of tobacco smoke can prevent most of the harm from smoking.” Describing the report, the Guardian (29 April 2016) stated that it “lays to rest almost all of the concerns over these products.” In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control also recognizes that e-cigs are the most popular way for smokers to kick the habit and are more effective than other nicotine replacement products.

The entire purpose behind bans on vaping, tobacco, alcohol and drugs is to regiment the population, especially youth. The capitalists want the workers they exploit to be docile, the better to extract profits from their labors. As far as we’re concerned, people ought to be able to read, eat, drink, smoke, and enjoy whatever consensual activities they want without cops, courts, bosses and yuppie totalitarians sticking their noses in.

The smoking bans of recent years have rested on the spurious grounds of the harm of secondhand smoke, despite there being no effective way of measuring exposure to environmental smoke. In 2011, then New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg went so far as to ban smoking outdoors in the city’s parks and beaches. Bloomberg extended the ban to cover vaping, even though vape has none of the potential hazards of secondhand smoke—because it is not smoke. The vaping ban came into effect under Democratic mayor Bill de Blasio, who this August signed a series of bills further attacking the rights of smokers, including by curtailing access to electronic cigarettes. It is now illegal to vape, or puff anything, in that patch of Central Park named Strawberry Fields in honor of the cigarette- and weed-smoking John Lennon.

Jeff Seyler, a leading member of the American Lung Association, claims that the New York State ban will help shield children from a “dangerous and often lifetime of addiction to nicotine.” But addiction to nicotine can be as safe as addiction to that other hugely popular stimulant—caffeine. Modern-day Puritans treat addiction itself as a supposed moral failing and push prohibition and stigmatization. We Marxists vigorously reject this.

The rulers of this country don’t care one bit about the health of the population. The New York City Housing Authority was recently caught out for having falsely claimed to have carried out inspections of public housing for lead paint. So much for de Blasio’s concern about health, including for children!

The Democrats, no less than the Republicans, are a party of the capitalists and Wall Street. Under capitalism, millions are killed off through malnutrition, inadequate medical care and other effects of poverty. And the capitalist exploiters then seek to deny workers even the smallest pleasures. As Marxists, we fight for a workers America—a society of material abundance and individual freedom.