Last month, the Motion Picture Association of America announced that smoking will now be a factor in movie ratings. Yes, folks, smoking (and we're talking tobacco products here, not crack) has joined the ranks of offenses like nudity, sex, violence and vulgar language in movie ratings. The MPAA is just one more organization that has kowtowed to anti-smoking evangelists.
The whole anti-smoking movement has gone too far. Smoking has become an acceptable cause for outright discrimination. Smoking, after all, is a personal right. The war on smokers started when the government forced tobacco companies to put health warnings on cigarette packs. The next thing you know, state and local governments are demanding all businesses become nonsmoking establishments and smoking is a factor in movie ratings.
Why do state and local governments get to decide whether business owners can allow smoking in their establishments? That should be left to the owner’s discretion; they know whether their clientele wants to smoke. Government shouldn’t be able to step in and tell a business owner how to run his or her business. If politicians are convinced that smoking should be banned in their areas, then put it to a vote; let the people decide for themselves. It really shouldn’t even to be put to vote, though: If you don’t like to be around cigarette smoke, then don’t go to places that allow smoking.
I just read an article from Reuters that says “just one night in [a] smoky bar can be toxic.” I’ve never been entirely convinced by the “research” about first- and secondhand smoke. (For that matter, I’ve never been convinced by the research that says smoking marijuana is harmful. And I don’t smoke pot.) Maybe smoking contributes to lung cancer and heart disease, but I truly don’t believe it’s the sole cause. For every story you hear about someone who died because they smoked, you’ll hear another story about someone who’s smoked for 55 years and has clean, clear lungs and no smoking-related health problems.
It’s a crapshoot, really. I think genetic factors, heredity, lifestyle, pollutants, chemical agents, etc. are more to blame than smoking. Sure, combined with these variables, smoking may make someone more susceptible to certain diseases, but I just don’t believe that smoking alone kills a person.
I think governments are erroneous in declaring smoking a public health issue. Furthermore, adults are fully capable of deciding whether they want to hang out in an establishment that allows smoking. If you don’t like the smoke, then go someplace else or stay home.
The bottom line is that tobacco is a legal product. Smokers shouldn’t be penalized for using a legal product that is grossly overtaxed, which benefits smokers and nonsmokers alike. I wonder what would happen if tobacco were outlawed and the states lost all that tax revenue. I’m guessing they’d get their money somehow — probably by raising our property and income taxes. And those increases would affect everyone — even you, nonsmokers.
We need smokers — at least, we need the tax money they pay on tobacco products — and the federal, state and local governments know that, so they’ll never outlaw tobacco products. They won’t go so far as prohibition, but they’ll come close. If the government is so concerned about the “health crisis” caused by smoking, then they should take some of the tobacco tax money and put it toward smokers’ health care costs. It’s the smokers’ money anyway.
Here’s my favorite story that Nebraskans are probably familiar with: A few years ago, the city council of Lincoln, Neb., decided to ban smoking in all public places. Lincoln is a college town, so there are lots of bars and clubs where college students hang out to drink … and smoke. Even nonsmokers often indulge in cigarettes when they’re drinking. I’m sure you’ve guessed the obvious consequence of the smoking ban: The bars, clubs and restaurants have experienced a noticeable decline in business since the ban. Furthermore, Lincoln has lost millions of dollars in revenue from Keno — seems that people like to drink and smoke while they play Keno.
So last year, when Omaha’s city council decided to enact a citywide smoking ban, they learned from Lincoln’s mistake: Smoking is banned in all public places. Well, except for booze-only bars and bars and restaurants that have Keno — these businesses have four more years until the smoking ban affects them. It seems that people in Omaha also like to drink and smoke while they play Keno.
Understandably, many business owners are upset. First of all because they should be the ones to determine whether their businesses allow smoking. Second, a bar and grill without Keno must be nonsmoking, but the bar and grill across the street that has Keno can allow smoking. In essence, the city council has put a giant red X on the doors of many businesses.
Health insurance companies are following the precedent set by state and local governments, surcharging smokers because they smoke. These surcharges are usually between $25 and $50 per month and were implemented because smokers allegedly have poorer health than nonsmokers, thus costing the insurance company more.
Well, then, health insurance companies should surcharge fat people; obesity causes tremendous health problems. Alcoholics should pay more since they’re just killing their livers and other organs anyway. And what about recreational drug users? People who are promiscuous and repeatedly have unprotected sex ought to be surcharged; STDs can get pricey — the average drug cocktail to treat HIV/AIDS can cost up to $45,000 a year. Pregnancies aren’t cheap for insurance companies, and kids are always at the doctor, so a surcharge should be tacked on after the second kid. That would sure teach the breeders to use some birth control.
People who don’t wear seatbelts should be surcharged; they’re more likely to be injured in a crash. People who participate in extreme sports are more likely to suffer injuries, so surcharge them, too. A person’s risk for certain diseases can often be determined by family history, so those at higher risk for such diseases should be surcharged. And by god, if someone contracts or develops a terminal illness like cancer, surcharge them. Those treatments are expensive!
Do these surcharges infringe on your privacy and rights? Most of those activities are legal lifestyle choices and preferences. And smoking is no different.
Nevertheless, because smokers have become pariahs over the last 15 years, they’re afraid to speak up, to stand up for themselves and to band together to put a stop to the discrimination against them. It’s high time they band together with the tobacco companies, hire a team of lawyers and fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court against the tax and social discrimination against them. Until then, politicians will just keep legislating where they don’t belong.