Do you own yourself? 

Who owns your body? Are you free to choose what you eat or what car you drive? Do you get to pick where you live, the clothes you wear, what you do for fun? When you are deciding which job to apply for, do you have the right to work the oil rigs or become an accountant? 

For the vast majority of us, the answer to those questions is a resounding yes, and even posing it will cause some to scratch their heads. The freedom to make choices that impact an individual’s private life, for better or worse, is ingrained in the fabric of our society. 

Unfortunately, fear, isolation, partisanship and ignorance is slowly eating away at our ability to make choices for ourselves and our families. When people don’t understand the choices of another person, many are fearful and try to and prohibit that activity, even if it has absolutely no impact on their own lives. Paradoxically, many of the most dangerous behaviors people participate in are accepted as indispensable parts of our day-to-day lives — such as driving vehicles or consuming fast food. 

I was not surprised to see the recent rise of unfortunate vaping illnesses spark fear and confusion in so many well-meaning people. That public response has prompted politicians to use the force of government to try to enact severe restrictions on the sale of flavored vape cartridges and e-cigarettes. 

In response to the outbreak — which has been blamed for 15 deaths and roughly 800 cases of lung injuries in the U.S. — a rash of municipalities have banned the products. Massachusetts recently approved a four-month ban on all vape products. Governors like Washington’s Jay Inslee and Rhode Island’s Gina Raimondo signed executive orders outlawing sales of the devices and cartridges. Even large cities like San Francisco have prohibited sales. 

As the fear spreads, Wyoming is not immune from the movement. In August, Cheyenne’s City Council took the first steps of banning vaping products in the community. On an 8-1 vote, the council approved a measure that adds electronic smoking devices to an existing ban on cigarettes, cigars and other smoking activities in certain parts of the city. 

This is exactly the wrong response. As Wyoming moves forward and tries to diversify our economy, banning the products people can buy or sell will only harm our communities. In Riverton alone, we have three stores that any kind of vape ban would greatly harm. 

The growth in the size, scope and wealth of government has made it increasingly easy to restrict the choices of individuals. With that heightened power and force, restrictions on peaceful, law-abiding residents have become more efficient. In many cases the general public is unaware that their rights have been eroded.

When compared side-by-side, vaping is less dangerous than daily activities like driving, poor eating habits or even walking up and down stairs. Data and evidence are clearly not behind the push for prohibition. Instead, fear and misunderstandings, reinforced by Big Tobacco, have led to an outcry for more intrusive government intervention designed to take away choice from peaceful adults.

For many, vaping seems like an insignificant choice — one that most people will pay little attention to when the government steps in to regulate it. In order to see the broader implications of what this restriction of choice means, try substituting vaping with an activity or political hot topic that is more important to you. Unfortunately, almost everything we do runs counter to someone else’s preferences or interests. Leash rules, landscaping regulations and small business operating codes, for example, are often the subjects of disagreement. The result is that restrictions are routinely implemented. 

When an individual witnesses something that doesn’t fit into his or her worldview, it may seem like a sound solution to get a group of like-minded people together, pass around petitions, call legislators and get laws enacted. But those laws regulate the choices of someone else. 

What does it look like when the freedom to choose is restricted by government? The short answer is black markets and violence. Look no farther than the illegal drug trade. 

But, the implications can be much larger and more dangerous for society as a whole. While one group is working on restricting the rights of pet owners, someone a few blocks away may very well be working to restrict the rights of gardeners or small business entrepreneurs. Instead of respecting individual choices and embracing a peaceful “live and let live” attitude, society is increasingly obsessed with forcing others to live lives the way we want them to be lived.

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When fearful of something you don’t understand, consider resisting the urge to legislate. Restrictions can happen quickly and are difficult to remove. Be aware of what is going on around you. Discuss and debate with people who do not share your view. Educate yourself. Get involved with your local city council and state legislators, and speak out for the rights of the individual at every opportunity.

Join me, a non-smoker/non-vaper, in defending the rights of all Wyomingites.  

Photo courtesy of

Bethany Baldes is a community activist, wife and mother of three who has resided in Riverton, Wyoming, her entire life. After serving six years in the Wyoming Army National Guard, Baldes founded Local...

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  1. I am pleased to see a Libertarian perspective on Wyofile, even though I don’t hold to the view that no one should be limited in what they choose to do. It is nice to see the perspective and I hope to see more of it simply because it rounds-out debate.

    Personally, I would emphasize responsibility and that we all need to take more of it. If vape manufacturers would accept responsibility for what they put in their products by telling everyone exactly what they are consuming, it would be a great step.

  2. Now that the bantering if over, I would submit that the real answer is changing the legal age to purchase nicotine products to 21 years old. Not for banning but regulating … with a very reasonable tax that reflects the smoking cessation qualities of vaping. Enough said…..

  3. Theo, you are absolutely correct. Compared to burn tobacco, vaping is better, or so they say. Is it good for the lungs and does it have ingredients that are as bad as carcinogens, I defy you to show me any study that corroborates your “no harm” comment. There has been no testing, per se. Please don’t buy into the industries hype about “no harm”. They don’t know either. They do know that burn cigarettes have substantially more harmful ingredients than vaping but then again, there are hundreds of vaping products on the market….with not oversight. I also agree that THC may be the biggest culprit with respect to the deaths and hospitalizations. But again, THEY DON”T KNOW! One issue with vaping is the lack of control of nicotine dispensing. People that smoke a pack of cigarettes know when they are finished with a cigarette and start another. With vaping, the cartridge contains nicotine (and possibly other products like flavoring) and the user can inhale until its gone. There are no distinguishing characteristics to help them know when to stop….i.e. like the cigarette smoker who might wait awhile before lighting up another cigarette. Overdosing on nicotine is a concern highlighted by the healthcare folks. Agreed, some JUUL products dose nicotine and does not allow excessive use but they are an anomaly. Anyway, if the ingredient is known and if the user avoids THC and if the dosing is regulatable by the user, well then, I agree that banning is not necessary. Unfortunately, that is not the case so the hysteria will dictate until controls are implements and the risks quantified. I continue to contend that smokers, by and large, will end up on a social healthcare program paid for by the taxpayers. That notion is indisputable.

  4. “Are you free to choose what you eat or what car you drive? Do you get to pick where you live, the clothes you wear, what you do for fun? When you are deciding which job to apply for, do you have the right to work the oil rigs or become an accountant?”

    No, no, no, no, no, no and no. You can’t live in a national park, you can’t wear pasties and a g-string at school, you can’t drive a semi if you don’t have a CDL, you can’t spray paint schools because it’s fun, you can’t work on oil rigs if you smoke pot. You can burn the flag but I’m guessing the author thinks that should be illegal. There are lots of things you can’t do because they’re dangerous, unhealthy, cruel, offend people, etc.. Why is this so hard for the author and millions of adults to understand?

    1. Because it is none of your business. You have every right to burn a flag.

      We do not want to live the way you live, you clearly don’t want to live the way we live, if they aren’t hurting you, stop using force and violence to force people to behave the way you want them to.

      Mind your own business, enjoy your life, be prosperous, be kind, don’t hurt people, and don’t take their stuff.

      You seem to have entirely missed the point of the article as you advocate force to get your way.

      1. Regulating companies that make these products is not forcefully taking the product from you and who said anything about being violent?

        1. You can not ban anything without the use of force. Restricting companies is restricting people. It restricts the business owners and it restricts the consumers.

          Refusing to obey a law, no matter how arbitrary, will result in the use of force. Force is violence.

          1. Cool well that happens all the time. You live in a country that always has and always will restrict specific types of organic and inorganic compounds from being either produced, sold, or consumed. You’re willing to accept many of these restrictions but not as it pertains to vaping. That’s fine, but don’t act like you can do whatever, make whatever or sell whatever you want in this country. You can’t.

  5. Jay: Well stated. However, cancer potential in tobacco products was also once considered an anomalous occurrence, I am certain. While one understands the reciprocal knee-jerk about banning vs. regulation, the question begs when appropriate actions are acceptable interventions to your “live and let live” mindset? Given absolutely no oversight regarding ingredients and the health impacts of vaping, one has to wonder how many deaths and/or respiratory hospitalizations is couched as a liberty versus a genuine health crises warranting scrutiny. Again, and regardless of your views on healthcare costs and deliverability, data prove that smokers…and certainly the exponential skyrocketing of vaping incidents are headed in that direction…depend on taxpayer subsidization when their health slowly erodes as the result of their poor health decisions. I think we have gone full circle on this discussion. I respect your point of view but also respectfully disagree. Any way you slice it, inhaling unknown substances into your lungs while touting “live and let live” freedoms defies common sense and reflects more an obstinate and “because I can” mentality…or as you well stated, obtuse to the facts.

    1. Larson! Hello? Anybody home in there? There is plenty of oversight to the ingredients of the legal vaping products. The ingredients are printed on the bottle. Legal cannabis vaping products are tested for contaminants. Of course there is no oversight of illegal products and you can’t ban them any more than they already are.

      There is no “exponential skyrocketing of vaping incidents” that would be affected by a ban. You’re proposing a useless measure that would hurt a lot more people than it would help. I highly doubt you care about people’s health so much as you gain gratification from controlling others.

  6. “Live and let live” only makes sense when followed with “you pay your bills and I’ll pay mine”, which when it comes to smoking, is never the case. Ones liberties should not include liberating me from my income to pay for their health-be-damned choices. Baldes’ comments are reckless, ignorant of healthcare realities surrounding vaping and extend beyond common sense. Regulating vaping is not a chink in the armour of liberties any more than regulating opioids, cigarettes or alcohol content.

    1. Paying your own bills means not creating an unsustainable and cost prohibitive healthcare system. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

      Likewise, bans are not regulation, and banning something for an anomalous occurance is tyrannical and abusive. So not only are you wrong and reacting in a knee jerk way, you are also being intentionally obtuse to facts.

    2. What exactly are the health care realities regarding vaping? And what kind of vaping are you talking about: Nicotine or THC? Despite the current panic that has engulfed us, you will be hard pressed to find any significant healthcare cost related to vaping nicotine. If you find any, It’s going to look paltry compared to the cost of smoking.

      The reality is that vaping saves the lives of smokers who can use them to quit. That saves money and health all around. Banning vaping based on your current misdirected hysteria will discourage smokers from quitting. That is foolish.