Friday, September 25, 2009

Freedom is a Clove Cigarette

This week, the government overstepped its bounds yet again in the private lives of its citizens here in what we still like to think as the land of the free.

A federal ban on flavored cigarettes went into effect. This did not affect all flavored cigarettes, but only a marginal few, including clove cigarettes.

The rationale behind this ban is that flavored cigarettes are more appealing to children. Society was not always this paranoid about protecting children. I remember being able to buy cigarettes as a teenager growing up in the suburbs. Only a real asshole of a cashier would card someone for cigarettes. Now it’s commonplace to deny smokes to teenagers. The police conduct sting operations on convenience stores using real teenagers as live bait.

For all its good intentions, the effort against smoking has gone way too far. Now even adults who want to cannot buy flavored cigarettes. Interestingly, the ban does not cover the more popular brands nor does it outlaw miniature cigars (cigarillos), which are part of the larger tobacco companies’ domain.

I’m all for discouraging smoking. I’m very glad I never got into that habit. As a non-smoker, I enjoy the relatively smoke-free environment that is possible thanks to the indoor smoking ban in New York City. But being a beneficiary, I still see that it is wrong.

Businesses, like homes, should be able to determine for themselves if they want to be smoke free or not—though some businesses where smoking would be dangerous or harmful to others, such as gas stations, hospitals, etc. should have such a ban for safety reasons and already outlaw smoking on their own anyway. Some bars and restaurants would be smoking-friendly; others would be smoke-free. The choice would be yours. That, albeit in a small way, is what this country is supposed to be about.

We should have the freedom to buy clove cigarettes. They smell much better than regular cigarettes anyway.

“It’s a free country,” used to be a common phrase in the U.S.A. You don’t hear it much anymore.

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