Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Common Sense About Smoking

New York has some of the strictest anti smoking laws in the nation. Even restaurants are not allowed to create separate areas for smokers. Some places such as San Francisco even prevent pharmacies from selling cigarettes. The most grating feature of these laws is confiscatory taxes that have cigarettes approaching ten dollars a pack in New York City.

I am a former smoker. I feel that the vast majority of those who currently smoke tobacco would do well to quit. Despite this, the current attitude towards smokers seems preachy and condescending. Any decision for personal betterment is best founded on an inner sense of resolution. I have quit smoking and adjusted my diet to the needs of middle age. Both take discipline and a sense of priorities. I can't count the number of times I have stuck with a bad habit because I chose to react to sanctimonious nagging. Any lasting changes in my life have resulted from contemplation and personal decisions.

What should the government do about smoking? It is undoubtedly a health hazard. Health education and providing assistance in quitting should remain high priorities. But there should be a limit to "sin taxes."

The most persuasive argument for any tax on tobacco is that smokers generate more health care costs due to smoking related illnesses. This would seem to justify a tax on tobacco. The only thing tobacco taxes should pay for is supplementing health insurance premiums. If a smoker's risk profile justifies a higher insurance premium, tobacco taxes should be a source of funding for the difference. Beyond this, there should be no hike in the taxes on tobacco. The idea of using taxes to punish people into making the right choices is a slippery slope. People should clean up after themselves. People with dogs should pick up after their dogs. Construction workers should pick up the debris left over from construction. And smokers should pay for the damages caused by their habits. Such costs should be calculated honestly and not by nanny state bureaucrats. Smokers are citizens too.

Tobacco is a major industry. Tobacco has medicinal and industrial potential. There should be research into its usefulness in areas other than smoking. Additionally, there are other plants that could be grown for medicinal purposes in tobacco states. The entire field of ethno-botany is devoted to the discovery of such plants. If tobacco farmers were encouraged to participate in crop substitution programs, the change to more remunerative crops might make for a welcome change from the current adversarial approach between the government and the tobacco industry. It is even likely that there could be an increase in good paying jobs that are connected to health related herbs and tobacco.

Smokers are tax paying citizens. I find the preaching, nagging and sanctimony directed towards them to be as noxious as the thickest haze of second hand smoke. I sincerely believe that non smokers who preach drive up the blood pressure of those around them. There are times I wish they could be required to sit in a separate "nagging section" on buses and in restaurants.

Most of us are trying to shed our bad habits and take on a few good ones. This is a part of life. It should within the bounds of common sense remain a personal matter. Whether it is done by a university elite or the "revolutionary vanguard of the proletariat", nanny state micromanagement of our private lives is deeply offensive to human dignity. There is a natural desire to cling to life that can be channeled into wise health choices. People should be allowed the pleasure and pride of struggling on their own for self betterment. If parents need to let go of their children, even more so should the government stand back from the lives of its citizens. On more than one occasion I have told my children "Don't make the same mistakes I made.. Go out and make your own. " It is time for our government to stop child proofing the universe and to let us go out and make mistakes on our own. Sphere: Related Content

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