- - Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The world is full of people who think they’re smarter than you. Some of them are just blowhards, know-it-alls whose advice, freely given, is safe to ignore. Some of them, alas, are federal bureaucrats in federal agencies that regulate various aspects of the U.S. economy. They write rules and regulations that are not so easy to ignore.

Last week the bureaucrats at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration again set out to intrude in places where they have no business, issuing new rules covering premium cigars, hookah pipes, and the various devices that use vapor to simulate smoking without tobacco. That the FDA used the authority given to it under the federal Tobacco Control Act would be merely ironic if the consequences weren’t far-reaching.

The advent of “vaping,” as simulated smoking is called, has been a godsend for millions of Americans who try, and try, and try, without succeeding, to quit cigarettes. An estimated 9 million smokers have accomplished the transition to this tobacco-free alternative, which the FDA stubbornly refuses to take into account.

Now anything that was not on the market before Feb. 15, 2007 must be submitted to the FDA for its approval, which is costly and time-consuming. But time moves slowly in the federal government, where money is no object since it’s only taxpayers’ money. Getting approval from the FDA for something new costs up to $10 million per application. When this is put together with the fact most “vaping” products didn’t exist before 2007, the agency’s intrusive nanny agenda becomes clear.

This means not only depriving those trying to quit the evil weed of the only alternative that has worked for them, but putting out of business the companies that make the devices, and ruining thousands of small, independent retail shops that comprise a $3 billion a year industry. That doesn’t count the hookah bars, premium cigar clubs, retailers and others who will pay for the bureaucrat’s nanny pleasure. The premium cigar industry, which in the future must have each new cigar line approved by the FDA, estimates that as many as 350,000 workers will lose their jobs.

The new rules are so onerous and so intrusive they require tobacconists who blend pipe tobacco in their shops to register with the FDA as manufacturers. The nanny bureaucrats and their health-care allies say this is about curbing teen access to tobacco, but that’s a canard. Young people can’t afford premium cigars, and vaping is tobacco-free. This is about curtailing choice.

Congress has 90 days to prevent these new regulations from being set into law. There are various proposals moving through the House and Senate that would, among other things, change the predicate date from February 2007 to the date the rules are finally adopted. These could be attached to a bill the president likes and must sign to become law. The nannies at the FDA have reached one cigar too far. Congress should repair the damage inflicted by their misconduct.

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