E-Cig Prohibition As A Reflection Of Alcohol Prohibition

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In 1920, the sale, production, and transportation of alcohol was made illegal in the United States.  Thirteen years later, prohibition was repealed — but not before making criminals out of previously upright citizens, corrupting government officials, and making way for organized crime yet unseen on the American landscape.  If the FDA has its way, electronic cigarette prohibition might not be far away.

Prohibition started with good intentions from some and not so good intentions from others.  Many conservatives saw alcohol as a destructive substance offering little in return for the evils it wrought.  Primarily, prohibition started as a protestant movement against bars as dens of sin and immorality — the coordinating group behind prohibition was even called the Anti-Saloon League.  The league is credited with developing pressure politics — use of mass media and mass communications to convince politicians that its goals mirror the wants of the general populace.

This isn’t unlike the efforts against electronic cigarettes being led now by various political and scientific groups claiming that electronic cigarettes offer no benefit and merely represent a new way to addict and ensnare potential smokers.  The problem is that many of the individuals behind this effort have little to no understanding of the actual mindset of smokers.

Most citizens and even the politicians that voted for prohibition actually felt it was fairly unnecessary.  Many drinkers found the law arbitrary and often chose to circumvent it.  Famously, president Warren G. Harding actually relocated a large supply of alcohol into the White House following his inauguration only a year after prohibition started.  Instances like these led normally law-abiding citizens to view all laws with less legitimacy.

In general, prohibition undermined the legitimacy of government in general and led to the creation of the first strong organized crime groups in the U.S.  It was the first time that organized crime could have a corner on a massive market without competing with legitimate businesses.  If people wanted to drink, they had to make it themselves or buy it from the black market.

This is (or at least should be) a major concern for regulators that would consider removing a legitimate e-cig industry from the market.  FDA regulation as it stands will essentially make legally producing and selling electronic cigarettes impossible (though not explicitly illegal).  This will likely create a strong black market — one that customers are actually thankful for and loyal to.  E-cig users by and large view e-cigs as far cleaner and safer than tobacco cigarettes — whether regulated or not.  Whether this is true or not (it is) doesn’t matter.

An unregulated black market when dealing with chemicals (in this case, nicotine vaporizing solutions) is a dangerous thing.  But if e-cig users believe using e-cigs saves them from a slow, debilitating death from tobacco cigarettes, they’ll go wherever they have to to get more.

Prohibition ultimately led to a great deal of corruption within the government and among law enforcement.  Cops either chose to accept bribes or were inundated with so much “crime” they could barely do their jobs.  Politicians were alcohol consumers just like the rest of the country.  General consensus grew that prohibition was too much trouble, not enough good, and ultimately weighed heaviest on the lower class which could be arrested for one bottle of wine while upper-class sat on top of cellars full of the stuff.

The only trackable positive: Cirrhosis of the liver dropped by roughly two-thirds during Prohibition.

We can’t draw comparisons to all aspects of prohibition, but perhaps the dawn of electronic cigarettes should be viewed as an opportunity to wage a more dramatic war against conventional cigarettes.  Removing e-cigs from the market only increases the odds people return to conventional cigarettes.  Regulators could instead take this as an opportunity to strike a mortal wound to the smoking market.

Why not make smoking so impossibly expensive or downright difficult to maintain that people are forced to choose between quitting and e-cigs?  That’s a far better choice than quit or smoke yourself to death.

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  1. Adam says

    I do see a historical resemblance. Thanks for sharing!

  2. robovape says

    i don’t see an all-out prohibition of ecigs in America happening… there’s too much benefit AND too much money to be made from them… regulations could get VERY strict and taxes could get out of hand very easily, and i absolutely foresee people bootlegging and moonshining juice…

    and it’s sad that you’re right, heavy regulation could drive a lot of small businesses out of the business that they are already doing and that some of them are doing quite well…

  3. Debra Moreau says

    I have been smoke free over 2 months now..Thanks to my Ego kit.My sister and husband quit 10 months ago with these aides, been smoking 32 years and this was the easiest thing to help kick the habit. I have seen individuals pick up this new habit…benefits…not as costly, no more smokers hack and no weight gain… mom of 7 children and 4 grandchildren …I cannot see where these are gonna cause me more harm than those legal cigarettes I have been smoking for so many years!!!!!

  4. saboinia says

    scary…….vape and live…..

  5. Philippe Caron-Boutin says


  6. Steve Mitchell says

    good story, thanks

  7. Sabrina Mitchell says

    wow that’s kind of scary

  8. Nathaniel says

    ok this is scary, if i cant vape then i have to go back to analogs or try nicotine gum(haha) i hope this doesnt happen!

  9. slap_maxwell says

    Very good article. At one time I would have probably have brushed off any idea of a ban, but politicians will do almost anything to feed their powertrips and to buy themselves some votes…. Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it!

  10. malteseFalcon says

    This is what I wrote to the FDA & US CONGRESS You can use it fo format. At first I thought it would difficult but it really wasn’t. …ON A ROLL!

    I’ve been a smoker since 18. At the height of my smoking I was a 3 pack a day smoker. I almost had my leg amputated and advised not to smoke. I continued to do so against doctors advice. The anxiety of having to smoke due to stress related obstacles made me a slave to the cigarette. I felt that I had to finish it while on a break. Patches and gum never worked for me. I was allergic to patches and the cost of both were as much or more as a pack of cigarettes. The FDA ” forgot ” to mention that the carcinogens in other smoking cessation programs were more harmful than the vapor from e-cigarettes is shameful. With e-cigarettes I have been smoke-free for 8 months without side effects and only purchase the e-cigarette liquid manufactured in the USA! I Vape Eliquids with fruit and candy flavors and have all by myself gotten from high nicotine to zero nicotine. I have never felt better! What an advantage to an employer to NOT have or need to allow cigarette breaks or pay the insurance costs associated for health related incidents. Also, it does not affect anyone around me indoors or out. What a relief that I know I am not hurting or annoying anyone!

    I feel FREE in America the land of the free and the brave!

    I URGE the FDA not to propose the “deeming” regulation so as to ban e-cigarettes, increase the price, accessibility and exempt e-cigarettes from provisions of Chapter IX.

    Ecigarettes, E-liquid (or snus) are creating small businesses here in the USA! What could be better for the USA economy?

    Do the right thing and don’t let the almighty dollar dictate your decision. NO ONE needs to feel like an OUTCAST!

    Thank you for listening to my personal story and that of many more voting citizens.

    PS. I hope this helps and the FDA & US Congress do NOT screw us!

  11. Chad says

    Great article! thanks!

  12. Karla Lyle (MsV8PR) says

    Great article. let’s hope they do not ban ecigs for 13 years. I would really hate to start smoking again.

  13. Sylvie says

    great article, i like the history lesson in it 🙂
    in the last two paragraph i get what is meant but totally do not like that train of though, we do not need regulators purposely using one thing, like ecigs, to make hell for people who choose another thing, like cigarettes..

  14. GhOsT DoGg 79 says

    Excellent article

  15. Morrinb says

    Great article. Still hoping the FDA shows some sense.

  16. LiftOffToSpace says

    If I can’t vape then I may go back to smoking. I guess this might be ok for some companies. They just care about the bottom dollar. When did human beings stop caring about each other. I don’t know when, but it is ugly. I hope it all goes well and that we will not be a bunch of struggling addicts looking to find some other way to get our nicotine. If that happens a lot of people will be smoking again. Who wants to be around a smoker. I don’t! but I just might be one of those people that I never thought I would be again if this prohibition happens.

  17. Mike says

    I pray something like a prohibition does NOT happen to the ecig world. If it does though I will be one of those bootleggers making my own mods and mixing my own juice! I don’t know about some states but cigarettes are already almost at an impossible price to afford. There is no way I could smoke 3 packs a day like I used too. I would be spending like $20 a day just on smokes.

  18. Courtney says

    Great article, its scary when something can be banned when its doing more good than harm.

  19. Karla Lyle (MsV8PR) says

    I wonder how likely this ban is. Should we be stocking up on ejuice and nictine? I think I am pretty set on mods. It is the ejuice I am worried about. Does it look like this is going to actually happen? If so i will buy like 2 years of nic and store it in my freezer and just make DIY juice.

  20. mongrel says

    One thing to keep in mind is that personal production of alcohol was still legal in the united states. It actually began a tradition of home winemaking that is still very strong to this day. One of my great-grandfathers made wine for his family. And one of my great-grandmothers bought malt at the supermarket and brewed beer in her kitchen.

  21. josh says

    you really made some good points there its almost scary how its happening again and I mean smoking cigarettes are so expensive but I still do it and I mean as ashamed as I am to say yes I still smoke but that’s why I am here because I want to quit and get onto e cigs gaining points as we speak!

  22. robovape says

    also… see, it’s not that i think you’re full of it just a bit hyperbolic… how in the world do you see a ban on a product most people haven’t even heard of that hasn’t even quite been established enough to GET regulated (we’re not “legal” it’s that we’re “not illegal yet” except in SOME places) with a ban on the manufacture, sale, and consumption of a substance that has literally built empires and economies… it’s like comparing it to a ban on gasoline… alcohol is UNIVERSAL, we vapers, we’re still mostly a counter-culture crowd…

  23. hallucinoJEN says

    During Prohibition, secret clubs opened up called “speakeasies.” If e-cigs ever go this route, we can hold secret vapeasies. haha!

    Seriously though, two things are likely to happen: many vapers will go back to smoking, and for those who don’t, will buy ecigs and e-liquid on the black market.

    I’ve got quite a bit of DIY flavorings and nicotine just in case this happens.

  24. Holden says

    Vaping Is Better than smoking in every way possible 🙂

  25. Holden says

    Goodies 🙂

  26. Holden says


  27. Holden says


  28. imtheboss says

    nice article

  29. Zane says


  30. RCO67 says

    I don’t see prohibition happening. However I do see heavy handed regulation. The U.S. continues to strip away liberties of adult citizens and we have allowed them to do so unfortunately.

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