Free Choice isn’t Always the Right One

There is an assault on our rights of free choice here, in the name of health care, as the government is busy making a list and checking it twice- they’re darn sure going to ensure that you are nice, because liberal busybodies that they are, they just have to get in your face with their version of “what is right” in their minds. They might be right in their intent, but we are Americans, and we should still have the option to make “bad” decisions. This is a part of freedom, as well as a necessary part of a learning curve.

One of the most persistent parts of this assault on our freedom of choice has been the battle against tobacco. Tobacco has been the boogeyman since 1964, when the Surgeon General came out with the report linking tobacco with lung cancer, emphysema, and other side effects and diseases. In addition, this product is addictive, with nicotine the primary drug in the tobacco, so it becomes extremely difficult to rid oneself of the habit.

This business, however, is legal, much as the liquor business is legal, and the tobacco business employs millions of people throughout the growing, packaging, and shipping process. People for whom tobacco has been a way of life for literally generations. It’s all they do- all they know how to do.

Lord, the whole state was built on tobacco,” Roddie Hancock, 56, a cafe owner in Bailey, said as he swatted flies buzzing over the counter where he sold bread pudding and chew bread. Hancock grew up on a small tobacco farm and picked leaves as a child. He said folks here “don’t want the government having anything to do with tobacco.”

To make this point, Sharp, who is president of the North Carolina Agribusiness Council, traveled to Washington two weeks ago. He said he was shocked to hear that people deluged politicians’ offices urging passage of the bill to highlight the health effects of smoking.

“Even in the caves of Afghanistan, they understand that cigarettes can be dangerous,” Sharp said. “Everyone knows that.”

Everyone, including Sharp. He said he quit smoking five years ago — it was too unhealthy and expensive — but still keeps a black ashtray on his desk, next to the adding machine and jar of blister-fried peanuts.

Tobacco is already taxed beyond belief, and the mindset regarding the tax is a bit troubling- people who advocate the tax say that it will cut down on smoking, and cause people to quit, which means less tax money for the government coffers- so how will they make up for the shortfall? In addition, we as a people are losing the right (some would say good to this) to make bad decisions- this is a necessary part of freedom here- not everyone is capable of making the right decision. It might even be said that what is right for one is not right for another.

While I personally have quit cigarettes four years ago, after having tried for forty years, I still have a problem with the government coming in and saying that they care about the people while taxing the snot out of a legal product.

The $89 billion tobacco industry will be required to disclose the ingredients in cigarettes and other tobacco products and will face severe limitations on how they are advertised and promoted.

The legislation stops short of allowing the FDA to prohibit tobacco or to eliminate nicotine, the addictive drug in tobacco.

Congress has been battling for more than a decade over regulating tobacco, coming close several times but faltering in the face of procedural hang-ups or opposition from the tobacco lobby or the White House. Over the years, changing social attitudes toward smoking have helped transform the suggestion of regulating tobacco from controversial to common sense.

Next, will be the hamburger and fries you like to eat, and of course, the amount you eat. What you eat will become more healthy, whether you like it or not. Obesity will be the next target, possibly with some tax on certain foods on a menu. If you exceed a certain amount of calories, you get a food tax above and beyond the present sales tax. Or if your body fat index exceeds government guidelines, you pay more for health insurance. We already have this with regards to smoking tobacco, and your obesity will play into insurance costs.

What a shame- look, as I have said, I quit smoking, but I do like to eat, and sometimes I like to eat cheeseburgers and fries- should I be penalized for choosing this legal food? We should still have the freedom to do so without governmental interference. The same should be true with smoking- yes, it is a bad even harmful habit, it is distasteful and, as my daughter observed, stinky- but it is still legal, and the free market should make the decision on this product.

Restaurants should be able to decide whether they are smoking or non- their patrons will make the decision for them, and economics should dictate what bars and restaurants do in their business. People should retain the right (or the stupidity) to make bad decisions- this is how most of us learn in life. Very few people actually learn from the mistakes of others, and so what this becomes is a constant Darwinian “learning curve”- if your mistake is not too severe, you survive and learn.If the government keeps you from making these mistakes, you might never learn from them.

And that’s no way to become adults in this world- you have to learn what it is you have done wrong, before you can do it right.

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11 Responses to “Free Choice isn’t Always the Right One”

  1. Adam says:

    Let us smoke and drink ourselves to death. That’s our stupid decision. But when we smoke around others or we drive drunk then we’re affecting the lives of others and that is no longer a matter of simple choice. The difference in drinking and smoking is that you are less likely to get addicted and it is easier to drink in a responsible manner. You can work hard to be safe smoking such as smoking outside, etc., but this is hardly the case for many smokers and 2nd hand smoke is a big problem.

    The free market sounds great on paper and in grand speeches, but in reality our society is built upon a balance between these kinds of market forces and smart policy such as limitations on smoking locations and increases in tobacco taxes that have been proven to decrease usage amongst younger Americans.

    I don’t really get the concern with tobacco tax being a source of revenue that would decrease as people quit smoking. You and Big Dog have both mentioned this. Do you think smoking going to decrease so rapidly that the revenue stream will dry up before it all pays out? Not really, so what’s the point of concern?

    • Blake says:

      If smoking decreases, there will be something that replaces it, tax- wise. Government abhors a tax vacuum.
      This has become life imitates art, as in the film “Thanks For Smoking”, where the government wants to put a skull and crossbones on the packs of cigarettes. Guess what Henry Waxman’s committee wants to put on the cigarette packs? Ta dum! A skull and crossbones.

  2. Big Dog says:

    Tobacco is a legal product. If there are concerns then make it illegal and be done with it. It is not about health with government, it is about money. If it were about health they would ban it and make it illegal.

    It is just as easy to become addicted to alcohol and alcohol abuse is responsible for more than just drunk driving incidents. It is responsible for billions in lost time from work, the break up of many families and spousal abuse.

    You cannot justify one without the other.

    Also second hand smoke, while nasty, is nowhere as problematic as they claim. If a business wants to allow smoking then it should be a business decision. If Adam and his wife do not want to go there then don’t.

    The issue with taxes is that government uses the taxes to pay for health programs. If more people quit the taxes will have to come from elsewhere and that will be everyone who pays them. I don’t think i twill dry up because government wants people addicted to pay these taxes. Remember, health is not a concern, they do not care. They want the money but it will be impacted by those who do quit and the fewer people who use tobacco the fewer dollars they have for their “programs” which means they will tax others. Remember, these government programs will not be going away even if all smokers do.

    Folks, buy from the Indian Reservations. Cheaper and no problems. Support the Indians, not the government.

  3. Adam says:

    I don’t want to get into a debate over whether or not tobacco should be illegal or whether 2nd hand smoke is as bad as they say, or even why the government doesn’t ban it all together. My point is simply that Blake compares government restrictions on smoking to a slippery slope of drinking and eating fast food and I find that comparison faulty.

    Drinking and eating fast food is still something you can do responsibly without affecting others, while smoking is something that affects those around you often with the most careful of smokers.

    Slippery slope is often a logical fallacy anyway but that is a debate for another day…

    • Blake says:

      Is my argument faulty? When Hussein is touting his “healthy lifestyle” Government- run healthcare system, I do feel that fast food is next. There are already places in Cal. that have banned fast food places, and of course, no trans fats.

  4. Adam says:

    To clarify more, my point is simply that I find faulty Blake’s argument that it is about the government deciding for us something we should be allowed to decide our selves. So saying that first the government does this with smoking and then fast food is next isn’t reasonable considering how profoundly different smoking is for those around us compared to eating unhealthy food.

    • Blake says:

      My point is that our decisions are being taken from us- whether they are bad decisions are not is not really the point here- it is having the freedom to make those decisions, both good and bad that matter, and it should not be the government that tells us like government is our mommy, that the things we do are not good for us.
      Informed decision and intelligence should be the deciding factors in what ever we do. If we choose to engage in bad behavior, bad things will result.
      Example- I have been a carpenter for 35 years- should I have been surprised then if, after all that time, I get melanoma? No- nor should it be a surprise if, after forty years of smoking, I get some kind of cancer from the cigarettes, despite my having quit for four years.
      Cause and effect- but the thing is, people need the freedom to make the decisions they make.
      I knew a man who was 80 years old, who would drink four cups of coffee, eat three eggs, six pieces of bacon, two pieces of toast (with jelly), and light up a Lucky Strike after all that. He smoked two packs a day, and lived to be 86.
      e died in bed. Who knows what will kill us?
      I know of people who died at 26 from cancer, and they had never had a bad lifestyle.
      It is all about the freedom to make your own way in life, not to have the government restrict you any more than is necessary.

      • Adam says:

        You are really missing my point. It’s not that the government always takes your choices away because they are bad for you. Hardly ever, really. The government takes choices away from you because it’s bad for other people when you make those choices, like smoking on airplanes and in restaurants.

        I don’t expect much movement on the restriction of fast foods past restrictions like trans fat as you mentioned, and other ingredients that are practically poisons to our bodies. It would be like selling mercury candies and saying let the market decide if they will sell or not.

        At some point some things just don’t make sense but a fast food chain isn’t going to change very much unless it is force. Americans in general love brand loyalty. Few people even understood the dangers of trans fats, let alone were seeking out and avoiding purchasing products containing them. We were going to just keep on buying the products and brands we’ve always bought regardless.

        This is similar to minimum wage in some sense I think. I don’t think you’d argue the government has taken away our right to work for very little pay. The government has taken the minimum wage choice away from our employers in order to product employees. Minimum wage is as debatable as tobacco taxes or smoking restrictions still but I think it’s a good parallel.

        • Big Dog says:

          Minimum age depresses wages because they mandate how much must be paid even to unskilled labor. Let the market decide what to pay. Trans fats are bad and so are many other things but the govrnment does not belong forcing people to give them up.

          If you cut out every bad item you will still die.

        • Blake says:

          Minimum wage would be a good thing if Congress had opted to tie the rise in MW to the yearly inflationary rise which averages around 3.3%- but if that had happened, beginning in 1970, it would be approximately 21.50 per hour now.
          Then gas prices and everything might not be as bad on our wallet.
          But the Congress (both houses, both parties) cowardly decided not to do this, which has opened the door to many problems- illegal immigration, division of poor and middle class, and the disappearance of many blue collar jobs.
          No, I would argue that our government has given ( not taken away) us the skewed pay system we now have with regards to the minimum wage.
          Do remember, everyone’s wages are tied in some way to the minimum wage, if only by comparison.

    • Blake says:

      Also consider that the government is not reasonable- it is a bureaucracy.