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E-Cigarettes And The Limits Of Regulation

Technology moves quickly and its impact can be far-reaching. A decade ago, how many of us could have predicted drones, self-driving cars, or even the iPhone?

Regulation of new products and categories doesn’t move as fast. Certainly, we need rules around emerging tech-driven categories to ensure safety and quality for customers, as well as a healthily competitive market. But the regulatory bureaucracy dates back to the industrial revolution. That was a time of much upheaval in its day, but one that seems quaint in the era of automatic software updates and Moore’s Law. When it comes to innovation – the very soul of most tech-driven industries – the regulatory process can get in the way.

The tension between innovation and regulation is why founders of tech-driven companies like mine wonder about the cost of regulation – both in dollars and in delays — in an age of accelerated technology change. With too few rules, we risk harming customers or even our business. Yet overregulation – or an overly deliberate approach to governing new industries — can stifle the pace of positive transformation. How can we hit a happy medium between bureaucratic overreach and a free-for-all?

Maybe the answer to the innovation-regulation gap lies in the very technology that the government seek to manage. The evolution of self-driving cars offers insight here. Autonomous driving is an innovation that has the potential to save tens of thousands of lives. Yet Elon Musk’s Tesla has met significant competitive and regulatory roadblocks that will inevitably delay the maturation of this game-changing technology.

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