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Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Why Not Ban Tobacco?-Ben links to this WaPo piece on Surgeon General Richard Carmona coming out in favor of banning tobacco products. I know many of my fellow conservative readers will wonder if I left my common sense somewhere on I-95, but I agree with him. It's a product which helps to shorten the lives of millions of people and has no good redeeming value other than the nicotine buzz that people get from smoking, a buzz that can be replicated by non-toxic means. I've never been a fan of smoking and haven't ever even tried a tobacco cigarette; back in the peer-pressure era when most kids start smoking, I had enough allergies and upper respiratory infections to know that I couldn't afford to gunk up my lungs. I've grown a bit more militant in my dislike of smoking when I saw my Grandma Kraenzlein die of lung cancer; she had been a smoker for a half-century-plus. 1989 was not a pretty year, as the cancer and chemotherapy made her a shell of the woman she once was. I don't want to have other people die such a death or have to watch a loved one do the same. It will also clear the air in offices; even in the ones that ban smoking inside, you'll have to walk through a gray haze of smoke to get in most doors. People will have more time to spend in other forms of goofing off (or actual work) when their smoking break is no longer legal. We'll have a more productive and healthy society with a severe reduction of smoking, which will increase GDP and add to tax revenue in the long haul. So, I think we'd be doing the country a favor if we ban cigarettes and other tobacco products (1) What about the black market for cigarettes that will be created?For one thing, tobacco could only be consumed in private; that alone would cut down smoking by 80% or more. Yes, there'll likely be a black market, but it will be far less than the number of current smokers. (2) What about the precedent that it would set for other politically-incorrect products, like Big Macs?-Big Macs can be part of a well-rounded diet, as can most "junk foods." The same can't be said for tobacco. Also, junk food isn't as harmful or as addictive as tobacco. (3) It's a victimless crime; if people want to rot out there lungs, let them- The victims help to raise our health insurance rates (but lower our Social Security bills, the bean-counters will remind us) as the people get lung cancer and other ailments. Also, the families of cancer victims are harmed as well. If J. Random User has no family and no friends to mourn his passing and to share the pain of his dying days, it would be different, but there's more than the user harmed when disease strikes. (4) Can we afford to cut tobacco taxes?-On the federal level, it would be manageable, given the $7 billion in taxes in 2000. Some states would be hard hit, as California would take a $1 billion hit. I think we could plug that hole easily; increased productivity and reduced medical expenditures should make the ban pay for itself in the long haul. This kind of proposal will rankle the libertarian spirit in us, but there are times where the government is valid to step in for the common good and save people from their own stupidity. I think this is one of them.

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