~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I O 93 93/93 I O ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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Location: LaGrange, Kentucky, United States

The opinions and interests of a husband, analyst and Iraq war veteran.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

My libertarian nightmare

I'm hard pressed to think of even one bill to come out of Congress in the past four years that made me proud of the excellent and needful work of the legislature. Not one.

I can think of plenty that made me embarrassed or angry, though. And now this abomination:

Cynicism and Big Tobacco

A bill expected to be voted on soon would impose new restrictions on marketing, raise cigarette taxes, and police the ingredients in tobacco products, including nicotine levels. Any reckless FDA policy is bound to be popular, and sure enough, the bill has 220 co-sponsors in the House and 54 in the Senate, including all three Presidential contenders.

This is all phenomenally cynical, even for Congress. Since the 1964 Surgeon General's report, the health consequences of this hazardous if legal product have been ubiquitous, which no doubt accounts for the 58% plunge in smoking among U.S. adults. The FDA tobacco gambit is explainable only because the politicians have dumped public health for public revenue.

The editorial goes on to point out that this scheme protects Philip Morris and the other biggies in the industry from future shakedowns by giving them a list of rules to follow. They will be able to point to scrupulous record keeping (read those words while imagining the sarcasm fairly dripping off the screen) and avoid all future prosecution. Naturally they love this proposal. It's protectionist in other ways, as well. Any new product would require extensive (and expensive) pre-market testing and approval thereby starving smaller competitors.

And mandating "safer" products completely contradicts the point of Congress' attack on tobacco in the nineties:

Initiated by Janet Reno and continued by the Bush Administration, the federal suit argued that the industry committed fraud by falsely implying that light or low-tar cigarettes were healthier than standard smokes. Now Congress wants the FDA to mandate less nicotine and tar – the very practices it once claimed to find so odious.

I've written before here and on other blogs about how silly this country has gotten over tobacco. It's the modern day "demon rum." We've turned its use into a synonym for "weak moral character" and that has opened up a plethora of shallow excuses for un-American behavior. Big companies turn to unethical business practices in order to protect their market share in the face of whithering extortion attempts by moralizing health nuts. Government, prone to meddling anyway, jumps onboard with sin taxes and regulation, and as the above editorial points out, incoherent and cynical regulation, at that. Local and state governments impose blanket bans in public instead of encouraging the real solution to second hand smoke; proper ventilation.

I tell you it really rankles me that a plant (a simple freakin' plant!) has become the excuse for so many humans to inflict so much pain and suffering on their fellow Americans. I guess it's just further proof there's a dark side to human nature.

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