Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Nashville news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Nashville newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Columbus news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Columbus newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Dallas news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Dallas newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

All the old vices — from sex to gambling to drugs — are quickly becoming legal, as both society and the criminal justice system rethink their values.

The big picture: This amounts to an under-the-radar shift in how society treats what have long been thought of as victimless crimes — behaviors that might not harm anyone who isn't participating, but that are considered to offend social morals.

What's happening: When the NFL season began last month, fans in more than two dozen states and the District of Columbia were legally allowed to place bets on games. Five more states are projected to allow it by the end of the NFL season according to the American Gaming Association.

  • The Manhattan district attorney's office announced earlier this year that it would stop prosecuting sex work and unlicensed massage, joining a number of other jurisdictions that have moved to partially decriminalize sex work.
  • Last November, after the passage of a ballot initiative, Oregon became the first state to decriminalize possession of small amounts of all illicit drugs, while four more states — Arizona, New Jersey, South Dakota and Montana — joined 11 others that have legalized the recreational use of cannabis.

Background: The definition of "vice" is always shifting because society's morality is always shifting.

  • Generally, part of what makes a vice a vice is that a lot of society considers it questionable, but a lot of society also participates in it.

By the numbers: An estimated 45.2 million people — more than 12% of the country — plan to wager on the NFL this season, up from 32% the year before, according to the AGA.

Between the lines: Legalizing or at least decriminalizing activities that millions of Americans engage in — and millions more tacitly tolerate — can reduce arrests and prosecutions that disproportionately affect people of color, while also freeing up police and courts to focus on crimes that harm more people.

The other side: Opponents question whether vices are truly "victimless crimes" and raise concerns about the unintended consequences of allowing activities that, if taken to the extreme, can produce both individual and social harm.

  • A 2020 study found recreational cannabis legalization in Washington state in 2012 was followed by an uptick in the likelihood that teens would use marijuana, though other research has found no clear connection.
  • Between 3% and 6% of U.S. adults are considered to have a gambling problem, and one study found the rate doubles among people who live within 10 miles of a gaming establishment.
  • Experts also have long worried that legalizing sports betting can lead to more opportunities for fixing games, eroding the integrity of the sport.
  • Sex work presents the biggest questions of all. Some experts doubt that selling sex can ever be truly consensual and fear that decriminalization inadvertently puts sex workers at greater risk from clients.

What to watch... whether legalization and decriminalization are followed by additional support for the social and personal consequences of vices.

The bottom line: 50 years after President Richard Nixon declared the War on Drugs, American attitudes toward and laws about activities that have long been classified as vices are changing — and with it, the assumption that it's the government's role to police public morality.

Go deeper

Oct 12, 2021 - Health

Poll: Most Americans aren't convinced by pharma's leading argument

Expand chart
Data: KFF; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Americans are more convinced by the arguments made in favor of allowing the government to negotiate prescription drug prices than they are by those made against the policy, which the drug industry argues would lead to fewer new drugs, according to new KFF polling.

Between the lines: Just because the measure is popular with the public doesn't mean it'll pass, and it's currently in serious hot water with moderate Democrats.

Nikolas Cruz pleads guilty to Parkland school shooting

Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz at the defense table during jury selection at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Oct. 6, 2021. Photo: Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Nikolas Cruz on Wednesday pleaded guilty on all counts for carrying out the 2018 shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 people dead, including 14 students and three staff members.

Driving the news: Cruz, 23, pleaded guilty at a hearing on Wednesday to 17 murder counts and 17 counts of attempted first-degree murder for carrying out the deadly shooting.

2 hours ago - Health

White House unveils plan to "quickly" vaccinate kids ages 5-11

Charles Muro, 13, is inoculated at Hartford Healthcare's mass vaccination center at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, Conn. Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images

The White House on Wednesday released its plan to vaccinate children between the ages of five and 11, pending authorization from the Food and Drug Administration of the first COVID-19 shot for that age group.

The big picture: The White House said it has secured enough vaccine supply to equip more than 25,000 pediatric and primary care offices, hundreds of school and community health clinics, as well as tens of thousands of pharmacies, to administer the shots.