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Do smokers have any rights?

By Alan Caruba
web posted February 7, 2005

Do people who enjoy smoking have any rights? Increasingly, the answer is no. It is essential to keep in mind that smoking cigarettes, cigars or pipes is an entirely personal choice. No one is required to smoke. Millions voluntarily stop smoking every year. People have been smoking and enjoying tobacco products for a very long time, but now they have been demonized and ostracized.

Using the power of government to tax, smokers are being ripped off at every level. Recently New York City sent letters to 2,300 residents giving them thirty days to pay the taxes on the cartons of cigarettes they had purchased over the Internet. It's the law. A single pack of cigarettes in New York City comes with a state tax of $1.50, a city tax of $1.50, and a federal tax of 39 cents. A pack of Marlboro cigarettes will cost you $7.00. A ten-pack carton will cost you more than $55.00. Purchased at an international airport's duty-free store the same carton retails for just $16.00.

There are few, if any, people that do not know there is an element of risk involved in the decision to smoke. There is risk involved when any American gets into his car and goes anywhere. Driving kills over 40,000 Americans every year. It is the price we pay for the mobility and other benefits cars and vehicles provide. There is, in fact, risk in every human activity including the enjoyment of alcoholic beverages and even the simple act of eating.

How much longer will ESR editor Steve Martinovich be able to enjoy a cigarette?
How much longer will ESR editor Steve Martinovich be able to enjoy a cigarette?

The US engaged in a hugely failed experiment called Prohibition to stop people from drinking alcoholic beverages at their favorite saloon. It took a Constitutional amendment to end it. For many years now, the same thinking that imposed Prohibition has been at work to achieve the same outcome with smoking.

It is un-American in the most profound sense of that term. In a nation founded on the individual right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, preventing people from the enjoyment of smoking runs contrary to the inherent right to enjoy this lifestyle option if you want.

Consider, however, some events in 2004. The first worldwide antismoking treaty—the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC)—was ratified and is now in effect. It is yet another example of the United Nations' intention to control every aspect of the lives of everyone on planet Earth. Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) is the lead organization in America and it has promised to "now concentrate on enforcement efforts."

During 2004 six nations imposed a no-smoking ban. Among them were Ireland, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden. These nations are notable for their liberal, i.e., socialist political agendas. Here in the US, so-called "nonsmoker's rights" became law in Idaho, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. At the local level, thirty-two jurisdictions passed comprehensive workplace smoking laws in 2004 along with "less comprehensive smokefree workplace laws.

There's more. Eleven States, including Virginia where historically tobacco was the crop that encouraged its establishment and growth as an American colony, substantially increased their cigarette taxes. Consider the example of New York City and multiply it by other cities and states, cashing in while, at the same time, banning smoking indoors and out. That is obscene.

Now imagine a similar level of taxation on a candy bar, a cup of coffee or soft drink. Think it can't happen? Think again.

ASH has big plans for 2005. It plans to "take advantage of a new ruling which now makes it possible for sensitive nonsmokers to sue states which do not provide them with reasonable protection from tobacco smoke pollution." These suits will eventually cost taxpayers millions, draining vital financial resources from serious needs such as infrastructure improvements. ASH will push for more and more bans on people who smoke outdoors on beaches and elsewhere. In California, it is already against the law to light up on the beach.

Let's say you've just bought a condo or moved to an apartment. ASH intends to encourage and assist lawsuits by apartment dwellers who object to neighbors smoking in their own apartments. In the name of protecting children, ASH will pursue laws that ban parents from smoking around their children by getting courts to issue orders to ban smoking in custody cases or by a foster parent or in a car while driving children anywhere.

All this is happening in the "land of the free and the home of the brave", as well as around the world where the UN antismoking treaty bans any advertising for tobacco products, requires health warning labels similar to those on products sold in the US, bans any secondhand smoke in workplaces, public transport, and indoor public places.

It empowers a vast law enforcement program against smuggling and there will be smuggling, leading to cartels that rival illegal drugs. There's more, but the ultimate objective is to eliminate smoking anywhere on the face of the Earth.

This is pure fascism using the power of the state to deny this simple pleasure from being enjoyed anywhere. And when the national and global antismoking campaign is successful, these same people will turn their attention to banning the consumption of meat, fish, cookies, candy, potato chips, soft drinks or anything else they decide you should not enjoy.

Do smokers have any rights? Apparently not.

Alan Caruba writes a weekly column, "Warning Signs", posted on the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center © Alan Caruba, February 2005

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