The Humanity Priest Loves Her Nicotine-Addicted Friends

11Jun09

 

The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, as it is called, would empower the F.D.A. to set standards for cigarettes, regulating chemicals in cigarette smoke and outlawing most tobacco flavorings. …health advocates predict that F.D.A. product standards could eventually reduce some of the 60 carcinogens and 4,000 toxins in cigarette smoke, or make them taste so bad they deter users. – New York Times

 

OMG, the United States Senate found a way to infuriate nicotine enthusiasts and entertain nonsmokers. The Food and Drug Administration has received the blessing of a “landmark bill” that will allow FDA regulation of tobacco products. The plans are starting small but the day is young. Read all about it.

I am a nonsmoker. I am entertained.

Or do I have the wrong attitude? I am friends with smokers. I wish them no harm.

But dang man, it’s always funny to watch smokers react to the idea that maybe, just maybe, they have a drug habit. “GET AWAY FROM MY CIGARETTES YOU DICTATORS (puff puff puff)!” Suggest taking away their nicotine and it’s political oppression, baby. They can call up Godwin’s Law and George Orwell in the same sentence. “THOSE NAZIS AND THEIR BIG BROTHER TACTICS! YOU’LL PRY MY SMOKES FROM MY COLD DEAD HANDS* (puff puff puff)!!!”

If the federal government ever herds all the smokers into concentration camps, I will be first in line to blog my outrage. But until that day, the collective smoker freakout will be free entertainment on an otherwise slow newsday. Because it’s easy for me to find myself on the fence so far as tobacco sales themselves are concerned.

On the one hand, smokers may have a point. The law requires them to wait until they are 18 years of age to begin their habit (in reality most smokers wait until they can reach their aunt’s pack of Marlboros on the coffee table, but that’s not the law’s fault). They are consenting adults who, presumably, know what they are getting into. It’d be kind of hard not to know the effects of smoking by now. Roughly five million public service announcements later. Throat cancer! Hacking coughs! Bad skin!

SMOKERS: Yeah yeah yeah (puff puff puff).

They know the dangers. They spend their own money on one of the most expensive habits outside of competitive yachting. They are American citizens with the same constitutional rights as anyone else, and for all I know smoking is a freedom of choice issue. “MY BODY! MY CHOICE! MY LUNG DISEASES!” Okay, I’m jazzed.

Or maybe not. On the other hand, after all, the government [blah blah] studies from various universities [blah blah blah] billions of dollars in [blah] so forth, so on.

Meh, you already knew that side of the story. I don’t see the need to repeat the contents of roughly five million public service messages. There’s a third argument, and it’s on my mind when I read about imminent FDA regulation of tobacco.

A person doing something that they know darn well will make them sick in the future, sometimes to the point of terminal illness, affects everybody around them. This isn’t about medical costs. This isn’t about the estimatable burden on society.

It’s about the fact that 99.99% of the population does not live in a hermit’s cave. We have parents? Children? Siblings? The aunt who lets the kids in the family sample her Marlboros? She’s been waking up with a palpitating heart every morning of late, but that heart is in the right place. She’s not trying to hurt her little nieces and nephews. She’ll be agonized if they cough themselves to death before she does.

I have friends who are smokers.

Whether or not the human element is any of the state’s business- I’ll leave that one to the constitutionalists. I’ll only point out that the state obligates us to wear seatbelts in our cars. A law like that drips with concern for the human element. Because God knows Americans spent years going through their windshields with no ill effect on society as a whole.

It didn’t affect anyone beside parents, children, siblings, and that aunt who took up burning through three packs a day after the car accident sent her husband through the windshield.

So never mind for the moment the secondhand-smoke studies VS personal freedom. Never mind the best interests of the state VS the rights of the individual. The persuasive arguments from both sides put me on the fence.

But the human argument makes me want to see tobacco stricken from the record. For good. Right now the FDA can’t ban it outright. The day is young.

The only thing I would miss in a smoke-free world would be watching smokers have hysterics over the idea that maybe, just maybe, they have a drug problem. Free entertainment ftw.

 

*With a little Charlton Heston thrown in for good measure.

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