San Francisco is leading the way for questionable cell phone regulations that will cause a cost and a headache for retailers around the city.
The first ever cell phone radiation law recently took effect, and now the city is being sued on First Amendment grounds.
The trade group behind the lawsuit represents cell phone manufacturers and service providers fed up with a requirement to display warnings about radiation coming from the phones and hand out fact sheets regarding exposure risks.
The main problem? The medical risks associated with cell phone radiation are merely theories at this point. In reality, they’ve only been classified as a “possible risk” by the World Health Organization (WHO). According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), studies “have not shown a consistent link between cell phone use and cancers of the brain, nerves, or other tissues of the head or neck.” But regulation-happy Mayor Gavin Newsom doesn’t seem to care much about the facts.
While San Francisco is the only city taking these precautions so far, other cities could follow suit and become paranoid about health risks as well. Jumping the gun on regulations—when there are already way too many holding businesses down—is the wrong way to go.
As Heritage’s Diane Katz and James Gattuso wrote recently, “The regulatory burden on Americans has continued to increase during the first half of FY 2011, with $5.8 billion in new annual costs and $6.5 billion in one-time implementation costs.”
These cell phone regulations may not cost billions, but they add to an already over-burdened economy. In addition to the NCI, the WHO and the International Agency for Research on Cancer have both said that there is no concrete evidence linking cell phone radiation to cancer. While they admit to a “positive association” between exposure to the agent and cancer, they also said that chance or bias “could not be ruled out with reasonable confidence.”
Similar positive associations have also been identified between gasoline, coffee, and other elements. But you don’t see fact sheets and warning signs at gas stations and coffee shops.
Nonetheless, San Francisco would rather err on the side of caution, which could be a disturbing trend line to start.
According to the regulation paper work, the city of San Francisco relies on the Precautionary Principle, “which provides that the government should not wait for scientific proof of a health or safety risk before taking steps to inform the public of the potential for harm.”
The Precautionary Principle is often used to justify needless regulations and leaves the door open for all kinds of open-ended regulation that could do significantly more damage. In implementing it, San Francisco is merely repeating the mistakes of many other government entities.
Gattuso and Katz point out that in the past two years, the Obama Administration has imposed 75 new major regulations with a price tag of $38 billion.
As red tape rises within every inch of our nation’s private industry, where will the government intrusion end? Until there’s a concrete reason to warn cell phone consumers of radiation risks, retailers definitely shouldn’t be forced to deal with these precautionary measures.