Moving Towards Tobacco Prohibition

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Last
week, another bill was passed and signed into law that takes more
of our freedoms and violates the Constitution of the United States.
It was, of course, done for the sake of the children, and in the
name of the health of the citizenry. It’s always the case that
when your liberty is seized, it is seized for your own good. Such
is the condescension of Washington.

The Family
Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act will give sweeping new
powers over tobacco to the FDA. It will require everyone engaged
in manufacturing, preparing, compounding, or processing tobacco
to register with the FDA and be subjected to FDA inspections, which
is yet another violation of the Fourth Amendment. It violates the
First Amendment by allowing the FDA to restrict tobacco advertising
in multiple ways, as well as an outright ban on advertising any
cigarettes as light, mild or low-tar. The FDA will have the power
of pre-market reviews of all new tobacco products, and will impose
new user fees, meaning taxes, on manufacturers and importers of
tobacco products. It will even regulate the amount of nicotine in
cigarettes.

My
objections to the bill are not an endorsement of tobacco. As a physician
I understand the adverse health effects of this bad habit. And that
is exactly how smoking should be treated — as a bad habit and
a personal choice. The way to combat poor choices is through education
and information. Other than ensuring that tobacco companies do not
engage in force or fraud to market their products, the federal government
needs to stay out of the health habits of free people. Regulations
for children should be at the state level. Unfortunately, government
is using its already overly intrusive financial and regulatory roles
in healthcare to establish a justifiable interest in intervening
in your personal lifestyle choices as well. We all need to anticipate
the level of health freedom that will remain once government manages
all health care in this country.

Actions in
Congress such as this tobacco bill are especially disconcerting
after we thought we were beginning to see some progress in drawing
down the wrong-headed and failed war on drugs. A majority of Americans
now think marijuana should be legal, taxed and regulated, according
to a recent Zogby poll and over 70 percent are in favor of allowing
medicinal use of marijuana. Bills like this take us down exactly
the wrong path. Instead of gaining more freedom with marijuana,
we are moving closer to prohibiting tobacco. Our prisons are already
bursting with non-violent drug offenders. How long will it be before
a black market in tobacco fills the prisons with non-violent cigarette
smokers?

Hemp and tobacco
were staple crops for our founding fathers when our country was
new. It is baffling to see how far removed from real freedom this
country has become since then. Hemp, even for industrial uses, of
which there are many, is illegal to grow at all. Now tobacco will
have more layers of bureaucracy and interference piled on top of
it. In this economy it is extremely upsetting to see this additional
squeeze put on an entire industry. One has to wonder how many smaller
farmers will be forced out of business because of this bill.

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June
24, 2009

Dr. Ron
Paul is a Republican member of Congress from Texas.

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