Unlike many libertarians, and for that matter many smokers, I do not consider the passage of a law allowing the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco to be a major affront to my freedom.
Or, for that matter, my smoking habit.
I do not self-indentify as a cigarette smoker. I am not proud of the habit, which I wish I'd never taken up. I smoked occasionally, socially, in college and law school at parties on Friday nights and the like. Infrequent smoking provided a head rush, a pleasant buzz that lasted for about five minutes and no longer, and many of the cool kids in the social circles I moved in did it. I knew it was foolish, but to paraphrase, "Foolishness, thy name is young man."
Of course, as happens to many infrequent smokers, I ran into a stressful period (studying for the bar examination), and smoked more frequently to alleviate that stress. Passing the bar, as it turned out, was easy. Dealing with the addiction to tobacco that resulted?
Well, I'm still a lawyer, and I'm still smoking. And I'll continue to smoke until I can't bear it anymore, no matter what the Food and Drug Administration has to say about it.
I've heard from many that quitting smoking was easy, or that it should be easy. For some it is, I'm sure. For others, people of a certain personality type or perhaps neurochemistry, breaking the tobacco habit is anything but. A jury trial, an appellate argument, is far less stressful, for me, than trying to go a day without a light. So far the gum and the patch haven't worked, and I'm self-aware enough to know that I'm not a good candidate for hypnosis or wackier treatments.
And while I wouldn't support a prohibition of cigarettes, just as I don't support any other drug prohibition, cigarettes are indeed a drug, just as alcohol is. Like alcohol, the only thing that keeps tobacco legal in a country where possession of a few joints can send you to prison is that tobacco was discovered (by white men) 500 years ago, rather than 50 years ago. Even in its newest form, the cigarette, tobacco is an old cultural inheritance.
An inheritance which is sold in convenience stores (or vending machines if you live in the right state), and whose sole purpose, at least as far as the companies that market it are concerned, is to get the consumer addicted to the point where, like me, he cannot stop without a herculean effort, or hearing "I'm sorry to tell you this…" from someone wearing a white coat. I'm afraid I just can't get too worked up about the free speech rights of cigarette companies to advertise their products unfettered by the heavy hand of government.
First they came for RJ Reynolds…
Considering the many more stringent impositions government makes regarding victimless crimes, activities which are substantially less likely to kill me than smoking, such as driving without using a seatbelt or getting married at a farm, I'll abandon principle. I'll save my libertarian outrage for some other threat.
For instance, the fat nazis, who are already grinning in anticipation.
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