From banning certain flavors to raising the purchasing age, government regulations restricting vaping are gaining momentum across the US. But viral videos circulated on Sunday remind us of the biggest problem with such nanny-state laws that criminalize victimless behavior: they must ultimately be enforced at gunpoint. (Or taserpoint.)
“On Saturday evening on a boardwalk in Ocean City, Md., police enforcing a ban on vaping surrounded and tackled a teen as an agitated crowd gathered around,” the Washington Post reports. “Then, one officer repeatedly kneed the teen in the stomach.”
Videos show Ocean City, Maryland, police Tasering, kneeing teens while enforcing boardwalk vaping ban https://t.co/a11iYOSYJv— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) June 14, 2021
“Later, police used a Taser on another man in the crowd and battled a third who picked up a bicycle,” the report continues. “The incident, which was caught in viral videos, left four teenagers arrested.”
The police claim the teenagers were resisting arrest. In some of the cases, that may be true, but it doesn’t appear to be the case in all of the arrests.
In one video, an African American teenager who had his hands up is tased by police. He is clearly not resisting arrest, and just makes a small movement toward his backpack that officers had allegedly told him to take off. Onlookers in the video shout out that the officers are doing “all this over a vape.”
You can watch the video of the tasing below, but fair warning: it’s disturbing and it’s tough to watch the way this young man is treated. One video shows a teen hog-tied and carried away by police.
Police in Ocean City Maryland tasered a 17-year-old teenager after they accused him of vaping yesterday. pic.twitter.com/PVzagAV5i1— Rebecca Kavanagh (@DrRJKavanagh) June 13, 2021
To be fair, the full details surrounding this incident remain unclear.
But one thing is crystal clear: Resisting arrest or not, these police interactions only happened in the first place because of foolish laws banning vaping outdoors on the boardwalk. It’s a reminder that part of the problem with our police system and police brutality stems simply from the fact that we have way too many laws.
And all laws must ultimately be enforced at gunpoint. As the Cato Institute’s Walter Olson noted on Twitter responding to the incident, “Don’t pass a law unless you’re prepared to see violence exercised to enforce it. For example: laws against public vaping.”
This is why the gravity of law enforcement should only ever be deployed in protection of people’s rights and physical safety. Nanny-state laws that criminalize victimless behavior and attempt to regulate personal choice lead to needless confrontations between citizens and police. That’s how we end up with vaping teenagers tased, hog-tied, and arrested in the name of public safety.