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Stogie Commentary: What Losing Freedom Looks Like

24 Mar 2010

Ever wonder just how quickly the tyranny of smoking bans and cigar taxes are sweeping the country? Well, there’s a map for that.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation—an anti-tobacco lobbying organization funded by Johnson & Johnson, maker of Nicorette and Nicoderm (both sold to people who want to quit smoking cigarettes)—has an animated map that shows how these anti-cigar laws are sweeping the supposedly “Land of the Free.”

In the first tab (“Smoke-free Laws”), by selecting “any of the above” you can watch how since 1998  the number of states with smoking bans has gone from 2 to 33. Smoking bans now effect over 74% of Americans, and that doesn’t include the numerous local bans on the city and county levels.

Then, if you click tab two (“Cigarette Tax Rates by State”), you can see the dramatic increases in tobacco taxes over the same period. (Note that while cigar taxes don’t always correlate perfectly with cigarette taxes, more often than not cigars are included when cigarette taxes go up.) And the map understates the situation by omitting federal and local taxes.

It’s a sad state of affairs that an anti-tobacco group like the Johnson Foundation would post this map to gloat over their success in passing legislation designed to snuff out smoking in the country. Still, it should provide a clear warning to cigar lovers everywhere.

The anti-smoking forces will never stop until the entire map is filled with smoking bans and massive tobacco taxes. They refuse to compromise and won’t stop until our cigars are taxed or banned out of existence.

Groups like Cigar Rights of America have a lot of work to do and they need your help. As Litto Gomez recently told us, until politicians feel cigar smokers—and others who respect the freedom to choose to smoke—begin pushing back, there’s nothing to stop this anti-cigar legislation from continuing to sweep the country.

Patrick S

map source: RWJF

7 Responses to “Stogie Commentary: What Losing Freedom Looks Like”

  1. Padronnie Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 5:04 am #

    Scary stuff. Especially since if anything it under counts states with smoking bans. Look at Virginia's ban, which isn't even listed.

    Join CRA!

  2. Ethan K Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 5:04 am #

    Patrick S, I am on the same side of this situation as you; so, please let another BOTL ask for balance. The foundation you refer to, does a lot of good. With $ from J&J heirs, they have built & supported hospitals, health-care for indigent Americans, etc. etc. Their perspective is simple: harm from smoking is a problelm to be addressed as any public health problem; thus, limits & prohibitions improve public health, which is their goal. Also, the map may be theirs, but the anti-smoking campaign is not theirs alone.

    Overall, the sad thing for us, is that the particulars of cigar smoking are not separated from cigarettes; and, in a recession the search for tax revenue finds anti-smoking sentiment useful.

    I think it is possible to win on one front–low taxes. If our smoking is done where it does not effect others, then there is no excuse for punitive taxes. I don't believe we can get support "to blow smoke" onto non-smokers; so, we are not going to be smoking at many restaurants, bars, etc. But shouldn't cigar lounges specifically for us be all right? And how about super-ventilation? Etc.

    We might note that about a decade ago, millions of German smokers disobeyed anti-smoking laws in a day of protest because they felt the government should not have it both ways–i.e. charging huge tobacco taxes and then restricting where smokers could use the products they had been taxed on. The protest resulted first in the removal of some restrictions, but they were reinstated. Cigarette taxes were lowered a bit w/ the return of restrictions, but were and still are high.

    I agree w/ you, we need to push, but out-numbered & outflanked, we need to be smart about it.

  3. dmjones Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 6:44 am #

    This map doesn't count restrictions, but only out-right bans. My home state of Tennessee restricts smoking to places that are "21 and Older Only" which allows restaurants, bars, & smoke shops to allow smoking, but severely restricts it, especially in the case of restaurants who have to choose if they want business from people under 21 or not.

    Freedoms are being stripped away one by one.

  4. Patrick S Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 7:04 am #

    Ethan K:

    I'm not sure what your point is about the Johnson Foundation. Sure they've done some good things (building hospitals, etc…), but they've also become militantly against smokers, and they decided to promote their position by lobbying for smoking bans and taxes. Suggesting that that they view smoking as a "public health" issue hardly changes the fact that they want to strip adults of their freedom to choose to use a legal product, and strip owners of their right to allow the use of a legal product on their property. As they say: "The road to hell is paved with good intentions."

    I would agree that RWJF isn't the only group pushing for such laws (I don't think I ever implied otherwise), and I would similarly criticize groups like the American Cancer, Lung and Heart, organizations for falling into the same trap. Instead of pursuing the noble mission of curing diseases, so many groups have been corrupted by their push for so-called "tobacco control" (and the government and pharmaceutical industry funding that goes with that agenda).

    What is particularly notable about the RWJF is the obvious financial stake its backers have in getting people to quit smoking. When the inability to smoke in bars or the high costs of tobacco taxes makes someone decide to quit, J&J is ready to sell them expensive products.

    In the world of "tobacco control" where the smallest suggestion that a portion of a study might be funded by tobacco companies is enough to disqualify it, no matter how sound the science, it amazes me that this stunningly obvious conflict-of-interest is never even addressed.

  5. Ethan K Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 9:49 pm #

    Patrick S, You make valid & well-put points here. Unfortunately, I don't think we are going to get treated fairly. Is there a chance of winning both battles: on places to smoke & no higher taxes? Should we concentrate on only one battle?

    On a lighter note, while we worry about how to take on anti-smokers and the government, some of us have completely smoke-free homes, etc. allowing our families to tell us….

    Thanks for keeping us up-to-date and working for smokers' rights.

  6. Tony Palazzolo Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 2:07 am #

    The ACS and ALA are funded in part from RWJF. That is why they push for smoking bans – because they are paid too. The early research out of the ACS showed it there was no correlation between SHS and illness.

  7. George Thursday, April 22, 2010 at 11:26 am #

    I am an avid cigar smoker. Nothing makes me happier than sitting on the front porch on a summer afternoon and lighting up a stogie. That being said, I’m also a medical student. I’ve spent years of my life learning about the potential harmful effects of tobacco. They are real. I, as an individual, have made a choice. I have decided that the benefits, the enjoyment, that I get from smoking a cigar outweighs the potential ill effects that I probably wont see until the future. This is my right. As far back as elementary school (I’m from Virginia so we have relatively conservative teachers) we were taught that our rights extend to the point that we begin infringing on the rights of others. This is the reason I can walk down the sidewalk saying whatever I want but not stand in someone’s front yard with a megaphone. The same concept can be applied to cigars. I should be able to go to a cigar bar and enjoy cooking a Churchill. I shouldn’t be able to go to a restaurant and blow smoke in some little kids face. I think Virginia has done an excellent job with their current “ban”. Cigar bars are still allowed. Restaurants can still have smoking sections, as long as they are true smoking sections with a real partition like a wall between them and the non-smoking section as well as a separate ventilation system. This should be the model nationwide. Folks, lets be the intelligent group that we are and fight in the realms where our rights are actually being infringed upon and remember as much as I love my rights we must recognize they only extend to the point where someone else’s begin.