Who cares? It’s just the tobacco industry and it’s just smokers. An industry pays a price for making people sick. Those who want to make themselves sick have to pay a bit more for the privilege. So what?
That’s how Washington elites are spinning the tobacco settlement, in which
companies will fork over $206 billion to grasping state governments, and
agree to further fund their own commercial destruction.
As usual, the spin is wrong at every point. The settlement is an offense
against justice. The companies agreed to settle under the threat of endless
legal harassment, against which they have no protection. It’s a form of extortion worse than any mafia’s. That cigarette companies consider the deal a relief is all you need to know. It’s also unjust to impose huge new
costs on smokers, who already suffer discriminatory taxation and imposed
strictures on their freedom.
But there is much more at stake than the fate of one industry and one group
of consumers. Markets form an intricate web. When they are disturbed, the
freedom and prosperity of everyone are made less secure. And private wealth
that would otherwise serve as a foundation for economic growth is sucked
into a wasteful and destructive government machine.
Moreover, no one’s rights are safe when a vast empire — consisting of
“advocacy” groups, predatory lawyers, bureaucrats at every level of government, and dictators in black robes — can target an industry for demolition. Rewarding this cabal of racketeers only encourages them to engage in more legal mischief.
At work here is conspiracy between two sides of America’s left wing. One
glories in controlling people’s private behavior by means of the State. One
aspires to socialize as much of the economy as possible. And there is no
rest for this coalition of busybodies and looters. Tobacco is not off the
hook. So long as there are lives to control and profits to steal, the agitators will keep their campaign alive.
Next on the list are drinkers, beef eaters, gun owners, and gamblers (except participants in shady state lotteries). And it won’t stop there.
The left hates large families and stay-at-home mothers. There are certain
websites they don’t want you to read.
That’s why the White House called the settlement “an important step forward.” Forward to what? Government control, like freedom, is all of a
piece. Extracting a massive payment from the tobacco industry puts us further on the road to the totally politicized society, where there will be
no such thing as private behavior or thoughts.
The left still holds up Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson as boogie men
determined to ban behaviors they find sinful. Let’s be clear about something: Jerry and Pat have no power and pose no threat to essential civil liberties. Most of their politics consists of trying to retain rights they
once thought were guaranteed by the Constitution, e.g. the ability of local
communities to determine their own destinies.
If what scares you is the prospect of arbitrary rule by moralizing puritans, forget the Religious Right and take a closer look at the Clinton
administration. People and institutions that just want to be left alone — Microsoft, the Branch Davidians, gun owners, rich entrepreneurs,
property owners, homeschoolers, the politically incorrect, and now smokers — have all been victimized.
Most frightful in the tobacco settlement is the use of coercion to make
cigarette manufacturers attack their own products. They are supposed to spend $250 million to get teens to stop smoking.
It’s true that young people are smoking more. A new survey shows college
smoking rising from 22 percent to 28 percent. In high school, there has been a 32 percent increase. But look more closely. Nearly half do not smoke
every day. Only 3 percent smoke a pack or more per day. This is nothing more than social smoking.
And the government calls this a national tragedy? Young healthy lungs are
perfectly capable of dealing with a Lucky Strike every once in a while. It’s when you get older that smoking becomes a health hazard. And, as the data
clearly show, not every person who smokes gets “addicted.”
The study theorizes that smoking is on the rise because of tobacco advertising, which is more curbed than ever. In fact, the federal war on
smoking has made smoking extra cool, particularly at parties and with friends.
If the youth want to engage in acts of civil disobedience to underscore
their disdain for politics, all to the good. In fact, the rise of smoking
is proof that the American spirit of independence from crazed social reformers
and intrusive government is still alive, even in the face of monstrous attacks.