In these parlous times, I’m wary of telling Republicans anything, aside from suggesting they defend the Constitution rather than their own narrow political interests.
But if I were New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, I’d send Charlie Baker, his Massachusetts counterpart, a case of Hopulization, a fine American Imperial IPA that is brewed in Newington, N.H., with a nice thank-you card.
By banning the sale of vape products in Massachusetts, Baker has ensured record-setting sales of vapes, gas, cigarettes, and booze in the Granite State this weekend. The governor might not be lowering taxes in Massachusetts, but he’s increasing the tax base in New Hampshire.
You think Exit 1 in Salem is bad on an average Saturday?
Try getting near the Mall at Rockingham Park this weekend. It will be worse than trying to get over the Sagamore Bridge on a Friday afternoon in August.
According to my completely unscientific survey, there are no fewer than a dozen vape stores right off Exit 1, most of them clustered along Route 28. Beyond gas, booze, and ciggies, the half-dozen Dunkin’ Donuts franchises in and around Salem will do a brisk business, too. The forecast also looks good for tattoos and piercings.
In New Hampshire, they might as well change those license plates to “Live Free AND Die.”
While the ubiquitous vape shops in southern New Hampshire do a booming business, folks who run Mr. Hookah in Methuen, YaYa Cigar & Vape in Lowell, and the Hookah Outlet in Lawrence can only look on enviously at their competitors just a few miles across the border.
By the way, I’d like to remind our vaping-illiterate readers that a hookah is not what you think. That kind of thing is still illegal, except in parts of Nevada. Not that I, ahem, would know.
So you have a business-friendly Republican governor in Massachusetts saying that public health trumps — ha, funny — the unfettered right of small shop owners to sell products that may or may not be causing health problems.
Ostensibly, that’s what Baker is doing. He’s banning the sale of vape products for four months, in hopes that in the interim some medical consensus will emerge on why so many people have developed lung problems after vaping.
I know, I know. If we employed that logic wholesale, he’d shut down every packie in Massachusetts and Chris Sununu would be forced to give Charlie a house on Lake Winnipesaukee to adequately show his appreciation.
It may well turn out that this health emergency is exactly what those in the legitimate vaping business believe: that black market products with toxic additives are to blame.
We may also learn that some people are predisposed to these problems, whether they vape or light up a Marlboro or a joint.
But, on balance, Baker did the right thing, and he did it not on a hunch or, as some marijuana legalization advocates suggest, a stealth attack on a business he’s not exactly thrilled about. He did it at the urging of serious medical people.
Doctors aren’t exactly libertarians when it comes to things that harm our health. They take an oath to do no harm, and Charlie Baker is rightfully more interested in their opinion than yours or mine or some poor guy trying to buy a pipe or the poor guy trying to make a living by selling him that pipe and the stuff that goes in it.
Government can do pretty much what it wants. Temporarily shutting down businesses selling products that are largely unregulated and untested is one of those things. Government should also compensate legitimate businesses that are being financially hurt by the vape ban.
It would be the right and fair thing to do.
And if, by some miracle, a comprehensive answer to all the health questions surrounding vaping emerges in four months, Charlie Baker deserves a prize, something a little more substantial than a case of beer.