The war against tobacco has been fought vigorously by the European Union. Lately, the European Commission has been pushing for changing the Tobacco Products Directive, in an even more restrictive sense. To dissuade young people from picking up smoking, health warnings will cover 65% of the front and back of all tobacco packs. Here you can find an interesting gallery of “cigarette packaging through the ages”.

Tobacco regulation is an interesting issue because governments are waging a crusade against cigarettes under the banner of public health, but at the same time they are the main beneficiaries of this very trade, as excise tax counts for roughly 60% of a cigarette pack’s price.

How should then governments consider alternatives to cigarette smoking? As a threat to precious fiscal revenues, or as a way of “nudging” smokers out of their old habits? The Daily Telegraph reports that there are talks in Brussels of banning “by 2017, e-cigarettes that produce levels of nicotine above 20 mg per ml, those with refillable cartridges or those designed to taste like tobacco. Suppliers say that all e-cigarettes currently available would fall foul of the prohibition”.

For the Telegraph, “Brussels officials fear that there is a ‘risk that electronic cigarettes can develop into a gateway to normal cigarettes'”.

In Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand writes:

I like cigarettes, Miss Taggart. I like to think of fire held in a man’s hand. Fire, a dangerous force, tamed at his fingertips. I often wonder about the hours when a man sits alone, watching the smoke of a cigarette thinking. I wonder what great things have come from those hours. When a man thinks, there is a spot of fire alive in his mind – and it is only proper that he should have the burning point of a cigarette as his one expression.

I am not so sure that this – the pleasure of taming fire like Prometheus, but at a much lower cost – is the main motivation behind smoking. I fear somebody in Brussels is taking Ayn Rand too seriously, for once.