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Commentary: Don’t Underestimate the Enemies of Cigar Freedom

26 May 2015

FDA-cigars-large

As a whole, cigar smokers are an amiable bunch that, with the exception of a few curmudgeons, tend to assume good intentions of others. That’s a good way to deal with most people, and exactly how you’d have most people treat you.

But when it comes to politics, it can be very dangerous to underestimate you opponents. This is very much true with the opponents of cigar freedoms.

There are lots of people with various views on how our laws should deal with tobacco products. When it comes to where smoking is banned or permitted, at what level cigars should be taxed, and to what extent cigars should be treated the same as other tobacco products, there a wide variety of views. A proud, freedom-loving cigar smoker should welcome informed debate.

That said, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact there is a well-funded group of professional anti-tobacco activists for whom any adult choosing to use any tobacco product anywhere is a problem that needs to be solved by a law. Attempts to reason or negotiate with these people are not only a useless; any energy expended on them is counterproductive.

These “tobacco control” activists, as they call themselves, are funded to the tune of billions of dollars a year (much of it by our taxes) and extremely politically connected. Look no further than the U.S. Senate, where a small group of anti-tobacco senators continue to push for more aggressive anti-smoking measures, no matter how hypocritical or illogical.

Earlier this month, Senator Blumenthal of Connecticut called for the FDA to accelerate the rulemaking process to, among other things, regulate cigars. The senator even said if the FDA doesn’t issue a final rule soon enough, he would introduce a law demanding that it rush the final rule. Never mind that anti-smoking activists have called for the FDA process to proceed uninterrupted and without the influence of legislation like the Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Jobs Preservation Act. Suddenly, when the supposedly independent rulemaking process isn’t proceeding fast enough, here is a senator moving to intervene.

Similarly, Blumenthal is one of four senators who recently introduced a bill to increase taxes on most tobacco products, including almost doubling most tobacco taxes. That may be unsurprising, but their reasoning strains reality. According to a press release issued by Senator Dick Durbin, the bill is necessary to stop smuggling and black market tobacco products. Of course, anyone with a basic understanding of how taxes create black markets realizes this bill would be counterproductive to its supposed goal.

But pointing out to Senator Blumenthal and his ilk that it is hypocritical for them to interfere with the FDA process, or that excessive taxes only encourage smuggling, would be a waste of time because their real goal is removing tobacco as a choice that informed adults can make for themselves.

So I’d like to suggest the following: Instead of just focusing narrowly on the text of whatever legislation the anti-tobacco forces are championing next, lets also remind Americans (who I still think are mostly reasonable on these issues) that every time they cast their lot with politicians and professional activists who just want one more tobacco tax or regulation or smoking ban, they are siding with folks who reject the basic American premise that adults can make choices for themselves.

Cigar smokers, and all adults who choose to use tobacco, don’t want children smoking, nor do we demand the right to smoke everywhere whenever we want. Mostly, we just want to be left alone and not picked on for our choices by a powerful special interest group that seeks to control a centuries-old behavior by consenting adults.

Maybe I’m too optimistic about Americans. But I think enough people agree with those basic principles for the underdog (and that’s exactly what we are) to ultimately prevail.

Patrick S

photo credits: Stogie Guys

Drew Estate

One Response to “Commentary: Don’t Underestimate the Enemies of Cigar Freedom”

  1. Mike Wednesday, May 27, 2015 at 1:26 pm #

    Durbin and Blumenthal co-sponsor tobacco tax increases and general anti-smoking legislation at any opportunity. Fortunately, their current bills are unlikely to move.