The Tobacco Freedom Index

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I want to first
start off by saying that I am not a smoker, I do not like cigarette
smoking whatsoever and in fact am allergic to it. However I still
believe that smoking has become somewhat of a gauge when it comes
to liberties enjoyed by the individual and how they have slowly
diminished in this "land of the free."

Can one readily
admit that smoking is the issue here? Are politicians and corporations
really that worried about other people's health as much as they
are worried about votes and profits? It does not take a rocket scientist
to figure this one out. Over the years cigarette smoking has been
progressively pushed out of social norms and ostracized into a corner
of society which most now frown upon.

In the early
19th and 20th centuries in America, smoking
was quite popular and of course this was in fact prior to most of
the medical findings in relation to diseases caused by this activity.
However there was no legislation against engaging in cigarette smoking
in any public area as such there should not be one in what is supposedly
a free society. Unfortunately, the moral crusaders of this nation
succeeded in the 1920s with Prohibition.

Unbelievably
enough in what has been the one nation and society that has come
the closest to libertarian ideals throughout history and in the
world, the consumption of alcohol was successfully prohibited through
legislation. Clearly the consequences are now common knowledge;
the emergence of speakeasies, moonshine, bootlegging, rum-runners
and all sorts of organized crime and black markets that arose from
the passing of Prohibition. Incidentally perhaps the one interesting
enough fact to come out of this was the popularity of the mixed
drink. The reason alcohol started to be mixed more frequently with
other beverages such as juices was to mask the taste of the bootlegged
liquor since it was often so strong or tasted so bad that by itself
most patrons could not pour back even one glass of it. Even in the
face of such statism, individuals are always innovating and adapting.

Prohibition
eventually became a social engineering disaster and was lifted in
1933. During prohibition, smoking was effectively banned in 15 states
during its zenith, but by the close of the 1920s most states had
repealed their bans on the sale of cigarettes.

I digress from
my main point though. Throughout history, smoking has been banned
by despotic and totalitarian regimes, so why is it that in America
smoking bans have been passed in so many places? It seems that the
more totalitarian a regime becomes the more bans on smoking and
other activities deemed dangerous to our own good are enacted, providing
a gauge as to just how free one is to choose.

One must also
remember that if a country offers its populace free healthcare,
it is in the best interest of that country's Government to eliminate
the consumption of any products that may potentially be hazardous
to the health of the individual for their own good. In reality it
is all just propaganda because underneath its surface is the need
to cut the costs being incurred by the Government when offering
such social welfare services.

If you are
still thinking that I am arguing for smoking, I am not. It's about
freedom of choice. How is freedom of choice a radical idea in a
free society? Why does a business owner have to abide by a piece
of legislation passed by his representative banning indoor smoking
in any restaurant or bar thus cutting his profits due to a loss
of clientele? It is not up to a man in a suit 1,000 miles away to
decide such issues. It is not up to men in suits who believe they
know what is moral or immoral to legislate moral behavior. Moral
behavior is something that is nourished and developed at home, the
community, the church, synagogue or mosque, wherever such learning
needs to naturally take place.

It is not up
to an elected official to choose which portion of society gets what
sort of privilege. If an individual business owner wants to offer
his services to cigarette smoking patrons, then so be it. If he
does not, then so be it. It is after all his business and his property
so it is his decision. In this manner if a smoker wishes to go to
a restaurant or bar to smoke and eat in peace without being discriminated
against
, he may choose to go to an establishment that allows
this. This choice is consequently eliminated from both the business
owner and the individual when moral behaviors are legislated. People
are forced to conform to a set of rules which they may accept at
first but will eventually rebel against as was the case with Prohibition.

As higher and
higher taxes are levied on tobacco, smokers are turning to homemade
cigarettes which are far more dangerous due to it not being observed
by specialists or tested for certain chemicals all of which tend
to occur in a factory environment where goods are being produced
for later consumption, much like in the 1920s and 1930s when individuals
turned to moonshine. In a far out scenario which is not so far out
there if one thinks about it, perhaps if cigarette smoking is made
illegal it will become much like marijuana. It does not prevent
individuals from smoking it but they do it through more dangerous
means by engaging in black market exchanges where there is no oversight
in the production of these goods to ensure the safety and health
of the user. A new crime syndicate may arise from it and a new "war
on cigarettes" may become the next "war on drugs."

Hitler banned
smoking in Germany during his Reich; he said in 1942 “I am convinced
that if I had been a smoker, I never would have been able to bear
the cares and anxieties which have been burdens to me for so long.
Perhaps the German people owe its salvation to that fact."

This is simply
a pro-liberty argument. May I as an individual with certain unalienable
rights be allowed to make my own decisions as to how I want to engage
in my daily activities? Or should I be told how to carry on and
be told that perhaps this is for the best and for my own safety
and health? Thanks for caring, but I would rather be allowed to
choose. After all isn't the government instituted among men, deriving
their powers from the consent of those governed? That is not me
though; I'm just quoting a document that seems to be forgotten these
days here in America.

January
18, 2010

Born in Brazil, David Klein [send
him mail
] is a graduate from the University of Central Florida
school of Business. He is currently working in the energy industry,
and is a student of the Austrian School of Economics.

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