Practical liberalism promotes consumers’ free informed choice by allowing for the existence of viable options. Expanding consumer choice is a crucial economic issue, because it is closely linked to promoting better standards of living. It is accomplished through dismantling the heavy restrictive regulatory network and promoting innovation, which makes possible the production of cheaper, more consumer-friendly and less harmful alternatives.
Concern of implementing practical liberalism when conducting policy is often focused on social issues, surrounded by controversy and debate. One such issue is the attempt at tobacco harm reduction by promoting the use of e-cigarettes, which has seen a variety of attempts at regulation, including the EU's pervasive Tobacco Products Directive.
Despite the existing restrictions, placed on tank sizes and refill containers, as well as the limitations on nicotine strength, Britain has one of the most progressive regulatory environments, which accounts for the e-cigarette market experiencing the largest growth in the UK. Consumer demand is driving innovation in a variety of flavours, according to a 2017 EY report. Furthermore, for several years the UK government has tried to actively promote e-cigarette use by marketing it as a safer, less harmful substitute of cigarettes. As a result of these liberal regulatory policies, in the UK vaping has achieved astonishing results in getting smokers to switch to the, as per Public Health England's report, 95% less harmful electronic cigarettes.
It is clear that Britain has the potential to become a global leader in tobacco-harm reduction. What the UK has to do is take the liberal approach and disregard the ideological and moralistic opposition surrounding the issue. In order to accomplish this, it has to further relax its regulation framework. Not allowing for endorsement by health professionals, as well as inability to feature advertisements of nicotine-containing e-cigarettes in popular media channels is restricting the potential of vaping to become an even more well-established alternative to smoking. Doing so endangers the health and lives of many smokers, who are deterred from switching to e-cigarettes because the heavy restrictions prevent the supply of information consumers need in order to make an informed choice.
Brexit offers a further opportunity for liberalising regulatory measures, as in some post-Brexit scenarios, the UK will no longer be obliged to implement the Tobacco Products Directive, which gives it the opportunity to further expand consumer choice, end prohibitions and black markets and reduce the harmful effects of smoking on people’s health.
Adelina Fendrina is the winner of the 18-21 category of the ASI's 'Young Writer on Liberty' competition.