Brandon Arnold

A handful of Democratic Senators are up in arms about the Golden Globe awards. No, they’re not upset that Breaking Bad beat out House of Cards for best Television Drama Series. Instead, they’re fuming about a few actors using electronic cigarettes during the award show broadcast. They’ve fired off a strongly worded letter to NBC Universal and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for “glamorizing” the use of e-cigarettes. And now they’re going even further in advocating for a ban on these products in the U.S. Capitol.

Banning consumption of electronic cigarettes in public has become a troubling trend of paternalistic lawmakers across the country. Such prohibitions have been passed in big cities like New York and Chicago, relatively small towns like Petaluma, California and Somerset, Massachusetts, and even a few states, like New Jersey and North Dakota.

These nanny-state bans, which typically forbid the use of e-cigarettes in public places and workplaces, have grown in popularity despite evidence that e-cigarettes can help reduce tobacco related illnesses and deaths by more than 98 percent, according to data from the R Street Institute. In fact, a researcher at Cancer Research UK recently said that e-cigarettes could save millions of lives. Even the editorial board at the Washington Post acknowledged that “e-cigarettes might be a useful tool to reduce harm rather than a gateway to a life of smoking.”

This promising development isn’t slowing down these Senators, including Richard Durbin (D-IL), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and their push for a ban on e-cigarettes at the U.S. Capitol. Such a wrongheaded move would be based on little, if any scientific support. In fact, the Senators acknowledge the paucity of evidence in their letter and suggest the ban should be implemented as “an appropriate precautionary step.” This type of “we have to ban them to figure out what’s in them” mentality makes little sense – especially given the potential of e-cigarettes to improve public health.

Brandon Arnold

Brandon Arnold is Vice President of Government Affairs for National Taxpayers Union where he oversees the organization's advocacy on both the federal and state level.