When did they change the law?
By Geoff Cliff
When did they change the law?
“Ignorance of the law,” they say, “is no excuse.” Is there any excuse, then, for those who make make and enforce the laws to twist the law until it breaks? The law, of course, is “a ass” as one Charles Dickens knew only too well. But how well do the authorities know their own law? Pretty well, you might think, since they write it, uphold it, and enforce it.
Let us go back to a basic principle of law, “innocent until proven guilty”. Simple, yes? It is not for the accused to prove himself innocent, but for the accuser to prove him guilty. If guilt has not been proved then the defendant cannot be punished. How does that work with electronic cigarettes? Let us see.
Smoking has been proved to be harmful to the smoker. It is suspected of being harmful to non-smokers but evidence is unclear. Expert witnesses have been called for both sides, and they cannot agree. On the balance of probability, it has been decided that there may be some possibility of harm from 'passive smoking', so smoking has not been made illegal, but it has been banned in specified enclosed public places for the safety of the public by virtue of the Health Act 2006. The provisions of this act prohibit the carrying of lit tobacco products in a place to which the public has access. Note that smokers have thus been denied their basic right to carry out a legal practice in places where they have a legal right to be, when no guilt has been proved.
E-cigarettes are not made from tobacco but from metal and plastic or glass. They use a battery to heat a cartridge or atomiser to vapourise a very small amount of glycerine or propylene glycol, which usually contains a tiny drop of flavouring, none of which ingredients are tobacco products, and each of which can be found in foodstuffs, toothpaste and many products found in every home. This 'e-liquid' may (or may not) contain a very small amount of nicotine, a plant alkaloid found in tobacco, and also in many common foodstuffs of the Solanaceae family including potatoes and tomatoes, aubergines and peppers, that are not tobacco products by any definition. Typically the nicotine content of e-liquids is between 1 and 3 percent of the volume held in the atomiser, this rarely exceeding 1.2 millilitres (ml), sufficient for up 200 'puffs'. This would suggest that very few e-cigs hold more than 0.009mg of nicotine and any one puff would not contain more than 0.00005mg. Ignoring the fact that one of the first principles of law that I was taught in school was that “the law does not concern itself with trifles”, bear also in mind that e-liquids may contain absolutely no nicotine at all. Thus the question may be asked, is an e-cigarette a tobacco product within the law? And the answer must be not necessarily in every case. So should taking a puff from an e-cigarette be covered by the ban on smoking, especially since the water vapour is definitely not smoke?
Secondly there is the question of 'lit'. There is no combustion of substances in e-cigs. The vapour is gently warmed for a matter of seconds exactly in the way that a kettle vaporises water to produce steam. And steam is all that is released by an e-cig; harmless water vapour. One would think, therefore, that e-cigarettes are outside the scope of the ban on smoking, and can be used anywhere, this being the prime reason for their popularity with former smokers.
The problem is that people want to use the e-cig to replace the tobacco cigarettes they cannot smoke whilst in places covered by the ban, as is their right as citizens; to do something which is permitted by law, or not forbidden by any existing law. But the tobacco control fascists do not tolerate anyone exercising their rights, especially if it conflicts with their obsessive desire to eradicate smoking, and anything even remotely connected to it. Thus they either attempt to use the law to enforce what the law does not enforce, or to seek to extend the law even against the principles of justice. In the first instance we see bodies such as hospital trusts applying the smoking ban beyond the 'enclosed or substantially enclosed' places specified by the Health Act, in order to include car parks, roadways and open spaces within the hospital grounds, which are in no sense enclosed. Then they seek to extend their ban beyond tobacco products to include e-cigs, thus exceeding both the letter and the spirit of the Act.
The zealots wish to go further, too. They wish to extend the law that they already exceed, to cover e-cigs by declaring them tobacco products, and by doing away with 'lit' to include any means of vapourising, and all this simply to include something that has not harmed anyone! Something that has, in fact, saved hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people from the very thing that the Health Act was intended to fight, the smoke from tobacco! E-cigs are being condemned by association with tobacco, by being used by people NOT to smoke! This is similar to treating as an accessory to murder, a bystander who tried to prevent the murder taking place by removing the murder weapon from the killer! What judge could condemn in such a case, other than one who has total contempt for every basic principle of law?
The zealots argue too that e-cigs should be banned like tobacco because the act of 'vaping' is vaguely similar to that of smoking. Like a motorist driving at 30 mph is guilty of looking like another doing 120? If a man looks as though he is making a bomb, although he is repairing a clock, is he to be considered a terrorist? Is a man carrying a sack guilty of burglary, a gardener guilty of preventing a lawful burial? The 'stop-and-search' rules will need to be rapidly re-written to accommodate such changes! Justice requires evidence of guilt, not of similarity! Furthermore, it is normal before passing a law to circumscribe anything, to ascertain whether that thing has actually done any harm, and to seek evidence of the harm done. E-cigs have caused no harm.
E-cigs have been accused of the 'potential' to do harm by 'renormalising' smoking. For many people smoking is normal, whatever the purists may believe. But when did the law ever punish someone for having the 'potential' to offend, anyway? Should we condemn politicians for the potential to make war? Strike off doctors for having the potential to murder us? Punish bank managers for having the potential to rob us? E-cigs have little or no potential for harm; they have the potential to save millions of lives, and to end the smoking of tobacco, as the purists seek! The truly guilty parties are those who prevent the good doing good deeds, not the other way round.
So, when did the law change? Was it when ideologists found that natural justice got in their way. Others have walked that route, and the world was always a worse place for it, not better!