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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Blowing Smoke

Sometimes I read the paper and get the feeling that I'm supposed to be outraged or indignant, and yet I just can't get myself all worked up.  So it was today upon reading a front-page article about how cigar manufacturers entice the young and impressionable (i.e., the stupid) by peddling tobacco products in a variety of flavors that would make Bertie Botts proud (just google it).  Grape cigars! Cherry cigars!  Chocolate cigars!  If my stepfather--a true cigar aficionado--were alive today, he'd be rolling over in his grave at such sacrilege--or at the very least yuckiness.

The point of the article, though, was that cigar manufacturers were finding ways to sidestep federal laws against marketing tobacco products to minors by selling Wonka-esque cigarillos, which are not subject to congressional regulation.  The FDA has discretion to regulate such products, and the agency has promised to introduce new rules, but as yet no such rules have been promulgated.  And frankly, I just don't care.

As a lifelong non-smoker, I have no love for the tobacco industry.  I would certainly discourage people from smoking.  At the same time, I just think the government has more important things to do than pass ever more laws protecting people from their own self-destructive behaviors.  By this time, everybody knows smoking will kill you.  If people choose to do it anyway, isn't that their business?  Why does the government need to get involved?

Laws against smoking in public places make sense: They protect the innocent bystander from the toxic effects of other people's personal behavior.  But it seems to me at best hypocritical for the government to say, on the one hand, that a product is perfectly legal, but, on the other hand, that the makers of this product cannot attempt to sell it to the broadest clientele possible.  And after all, if you own a business, and the product you sell reliably kills a large portion of your customers, then you need to do all the marketing you can.  That's just the American way!

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