Nutter the Nanny

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Some of City Council’s worst ideas pass unanimously. I think we’ve seen that again.

City Council has passed an ordinance that adds e-cigarettes to its existing ban on smoking real cigarettes in public places. For those unfamiliar with the concept of e-cigarettes, they look kind of like regular cigarettes, but they are battery-powered devices that use a heating element to vaporize a liquid solution with flavoring and normally, but not necessarily, nicotine. Mayor Nutter proudly signed this bill into law.

The jury is still out as to how harmful these e-cigarettes may be to our health, or whether they are harmful at all. Even Mayor Nutter admitted that at the ceremony where he signed the ordinance into law. Common sense would indicate that if they do carry health risks that such risks will be far less than the cocktail of cancers that come with regular cigarettes. Conversely, there are those who swear that e-cigarettes were a big help in getting them to stop smoking regular cigarettes.

Against this background, with the health risks of e-cigarettes uncertain but almost certainly not as bad as regular cigarettes, Philadelphia’s City Council lumps them together with regular cigarettes. This would seem premature, to say the least. How many Philadelphians will die because City Council made it more difficult for them to use e-cigarettes and quit smoking regular cigarettes? Well, that’s probably an exaggeration, but not necessarily a question that should not be considered.

I hate being around smoking. That being said, there is no reason I have to patronize a restaurant that allows smoking or does not have a non-smoking area. And most people that I know in the restaurant industry would rather work where smoking is permitted because they think that they receive better tips. Why is the city making the decisions for us? That being said, I certainly understand the very real health risks of smoking and the risk of second-hand smoke. I see the other side of the coin. But e-cigarettes? Different situation altogether.

Thomas Jefferson is attributed as having said "That government is best which governs least." Philadelphia’s City Council certainly could not be considered the intellectual successor to our Founding Father. What ever happened to people taking personal responsibility for what they do? Why should the City of Philadelphia take on the role of nanny to its citizens?

In this case, the ban is probably just wrong, and by wrong I mean that it will create more health problems than it solves because some smokers will be less likely to quit because of restricted availability of e-cigarettes. But even if the city is "right" that something is a health hazard, they should not be the ones making the decisions. If the federal government has not concluded that something is such a great hazard that access should be restricted, why does Philadelphia think it knows better? Who do you trust to make decisions restricting your freedom to act? It is simply over-regulation.

Looking beyond this particular law, whenever Philadelphia makes a law that interferes with commerce ONLY in Philadelphia, we do more to chase businesses, taxpayers and residents out of the city. Eight percent sales tax. Slavery Disclosure Law. Philadelphia 21st Century Minimum Wage and Benefits Standard. Wage Tax. It goes on and on. Philadelphia is the poorest big city in America. And it didn’t happen by accident. It is the result of deliberate actions taken by Philadelphia’s City Council, normally with the complicity of the Mayor, to pander to special interest groups that keep them in office.

Matt Wolfe is a candidate in the special election on May 20 for the City Council at Large position left vacant because of Bill Green’s resignation to take over as Chairman of the School Reform Commission.