Monday 12 August 2019

Of Cinderella, vaping, and decent regulatory frameworks

Over in my Dominion Post column, I take a Peter Huber twist on vaping regulation. One of the things I love about my column over there is that they keep all the out-links. So when I note work by Huber, I can link it. 
Eighties glam-metal band Cinderella taught us we don't know what we've got until it's gone. But it can be harder to know what you could have had if you never had it at all.

We can thus be thankful the regulatory framework for vaping and reduced-harm tobacco alternatives is coming only after a lot of Kiwis have been able to stop smoking thanks to vaping. But those vapers will need to step up to ensure they do not lose what they now have.

Regulatory expert Peter Huber distinguishes between two types of regulatory agencies. Some are charged with regulating existing risks. Others act more as gatekeepers, assessing whether new and potentially risky products should be allowed to enter the market at all. Onerous regulations mean few can benefit from, or be harmed by, the regulated product. Appropriate regulation strikes a balance between benefits and costs.

Huber says agencies regulating existing risks do a better balancing act because established consumers of regulated products push back against excessive regulation.

But "gatekeeper" agencies can easily be too precautionary. Regulate too heavily against a new pharmaceutical product, and most prospective beneficiaries will never know what they have missed. Regulate too lightly, and there will be front-page headlines if anything goes wrong, and the officials who signed the approval may find themselves in trouble with the press, the public, and the minister.
So vaping went from banned to legal rather quickly – and without a clear regulatory framework.

After the ruling, vaping community pressure for the speedy establishment of a regulatory framework was risky. A regulatory framework established before the vaping community more fully established itself could too easily be too strict.
I am made to understand that I also should have linked Cinderella, as Kiwis were spared that bit of 80s music. Some argued I should have linked Joni Mitchell instead, but I just can't stand Big Yellow Taxi. Yech.

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