The Tobacco Freedom Index


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smoking was effectively banned in 15 states during its zenith, but by the close of the 1920s most states had repealed their bans on the sale of cigarettes.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

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