He’s at it again. Mayor Michael Bloomberg‘s crusade to ban unhealthy habits and vices like fatty foods and sugary drinks continues. Just last month we reported on his plan to make New Yorkers hike up stairs instead of using escalators and elevators. Now he’s turning his attention to what he considers a bane on public health: e-cigarettes.

According to a leaked drafts of three tobacco-related bills that are expected to be introduced in the City Council, the Mayor plans to regulate e-cigarettes into extinction.

The strategy behind the proposals is to get e-cigarettes classified as tobacco products thus roping them under regulation of other tobacco items like smoking bans and age minimums. Billed as an alternative to regular cigarettes, currently, e-cigarettes can be smoked indoors in public spaces like bars, restaurants and clubs. This baffles restaurant managers and patrons.

According to a professor at the Boston University School of Public Health who supports e-cigs this plan would be a disaster:

"This is a de facto ban on electronic cigarettes. Pretty much all electronic cigarettes are flavored; they're essentially flavored products. You're basically telling a bunch of ex-smokers to go back to cigarettes.

“I have no problems with this ordinance as a whole—raising the age, banning advertising. But [electronic-cigarettes] are a product that's literally saving people's lives, people who are literally at risk of disease and death, and giving them an alternative.”' 

If you’ve never seen them, they are slim little devices that heat up a liquid containing nicotine into a vapor that smokers then inhale. But they don’t include tobacco –a key factor that distinguishes them from regular cigarettes. They can be recharged and many of them are manufactured to look like paper cigarettes while others pose as pens or lasers.

Proponents say they are healthier than traditional cigarettes, they don’t stink up your clothes and are not as addictive. A recent study also finds that the supplemental chemicals in them are not harmful to users or bystanders, so no worries about the affects of second-hand smoke.

The American Cancer Society isn’t sold on these benefits saying there’s no proof that that e-cigarettes are less addictive or healthier, or aid in quitting smoking.

New York is not the only place considering stricter regulations. Ohio took up the issue earlier this year.

Like Bloomberg’s other conquests, banning e-cigarettes is another demonstration of nanny-state policymakers trying to control the behavior of regular Americans. These intellectuals think they know what’s best for society and usurp the private decisions of individuals, families, organizations and businesses. Is that the proper role of government? The Constitution may not agree.

I really scratch my head at this ban because anti-smoking advocates have always pointed to the harm of tobacco as the impetus behind smoking bans and regulating tobacco products, especially to teenagers. But if e-cigarettes contain no tobacco or harmful chemicals and there’s no concern of second-hand smoke, then what’s the harm with them?

If logic holds true that cancer, emphysema and the hosts of (terminal) illnesses are linked only to tobacco, then we should be celebrating e-cigarettes as a healthy alternative. Why then are we arbitrarily trying to treat as like a product that is unlike? E-cigarettes are square pegs that Bloomberg and others are trying to force into a round hole. It just doesn’t make sense and it doesn’t work.

It leads me to wonder what is really behind this push. Call me a conspiracy theorist but perhaps tobacco companies are really behind this. If so, that’s the smartest PR strategy since Joe Camel.