Opinion

The Great Debate

Cool, refreshing legislation for Philip Morris

June 12, 2009

– This article by Paul Smalera originally appeared in The Big Money. The views expressed are his own. –

Indulge me in a thought experiment. Pretend that drinking something called “lethalcoffee” has been found to cause cancer. There are five or six kinds of gross-flavored lethalcoffees that hardly anyone drinks, like chocolate, cherry, banana, and vanilla. But there’s one flavor, mint, that 30 percent of all lethalcoffee drinkers are hooked on. And there’s one particular group of lethalcoffee drinkers—let’s call them investment bankers—who drink mint lethalcoffee like there’s no tomorrow.

Allow 40 years for several million lethalcoffee-related deaths to pile up before the pandemic is taken seriously by the government. (Try to put aside any negative feelings you harbor about investment bankers.) Finally, Congress introduces a Lethalcoffee Safety Act that has a chance of becoming law. Would you imagine that law would:

A) Order the FDA to regulate lethalcoffee but withhold from the agency the power to ban it?
B) Ban every flavor of lethalcoffee except mint, the one most people drink?
C) Make it really hard for people to sell badcoffee, a new but much less hazardous cousin of lethalcoffee?
D) Be co-authored by Starbucks (SBUX)?

How about “E,” all of the above? Because that’s what Congress is proposing to do in the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, probably soon to head to President Obama’s desk for a signature. Mint-flavored lethalcoffees are menthol cigarettes. The 80 percent of investment bankers who prefer menthols are African-Americans. And the bill was largely shaped by Philip Morris (now called Altria), which sells more cigarettes than nearly every other American tobacco company combined.Cigarettes

“It is a dream come true for Philip Morris,” Michael Siegel, a professor at the Boston University School of Public Health, told me. “First, they make it look like they are a reformed company which really cares about reducing the toll of cigarettes and protecting the public’s health; and second, they protect their domination of the market and make it impossible for potentially competitive products to enter the market.” Other tobacco companies have taken to calling the bill the “Marlboro Monopoly Act of 2009.”

It’s hard to fathom where Congress is finding the political cover necessary to pass an industry-sponsored love letter like this one. But it’s coming from Philip Morris’ partner in crafting the legislation: a nonprofit anti-smoking organization called Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

As early as 1998, Philip Morris executives were worried about the continued existence of their industry. Big Tobacco was locked in a battle with Congress over advertising and product regulations. And it was reeling from the $264 billion settlement in the lawsuit brought against it by 46 state attorneys general over Medicare costs for smokers. The future was hazy, and the tobacco companies’ ability to fight costly legal battles for the indefinite future was in doubt.

So, as Roll Call recounts, Philip Morris executives made a huge shift in tactics. Rather than beat back every attempt at industry regulation, they initiated the secret Project Sunrise, an effort to help craft those regulations. Part of the strategy was to work with the very anti-smoking groups they had fought for years. Big Tobacco decided to sue for peace in order to win at the negotiating table.

Philip Morris found a willing partner in the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. It was among the more moderate anti-smoking groups, and some of its top staff had worked for Sen. Tom Daschle, so they were well-versed in the art of legislative compromise. The existence of an agreement between Philip Morris and the Campaign is how Rep. Henry Waxman, the bill’s main sponsor, has justified the perverseness of Philip Morris’ support for a supposed anti-smoking bill.

“Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good,” has been the old saw the administration uses to admonish interest groups dissatisfied with compromise legislation. But opponents of this bill on both sides are asking, What’s the enemy of terrible? Isn’t it this bill, which is racist, protectionist, cynical, and misguided? And barring an improbable veto, it will soon become law. Nowhere is the bill’s perfidy more obvious than in its failure to ban menthol cigarettes.

The National African American Tobacco Prevention Network released a statement on the bill last May that read, “Tobacco legislation that treats menthol differently from other flavoring additives is incomplete.” This is in response to studies showing that menthols are far more addictive then other cigarettes and far harder to quit, no matter what race the smoker is.

And last July, the Harvard School of Public Health released a study showing that tobacco manufacturers carefully controlled the menthol content of cigarettes to maximize its masking of harsh tobacco smoke, even creating new brands for longtime smokers who require increasing amounts of menthol to maintain its numbing, cooling effect.

Menthols accounted for a quarter of the roughly 370 billion cigarettes smoked domestically in 2006 and are more popular here than anywhere else in the world. So far, neither Waxman nor Sen. Ted Kennedy, who shepherded the Senate version through his Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee last week, has specifically defended the exclusion of a menthol ban. Waxman notes that after an FDA study, menthol could be banned as well but didn’t explain why menthol merited a study period and chocolate cigarettes did not.

By the numbers, the menthol exemption practically paints a bull’s-eye on the lungs of African-American smokers. So you might presume that African-American Congress members have an interest in exposing the bill’s shortcomings. But of the 42 voting members in the Congressional Black Caucus, 20 are co-sponsors of the bill. Philip Morris’ parent company has donated more than $1.5 million to the caucus since 2002 and thousands more to individual members, including James Clyburn, the House whip, and Edolphus Towns, chair of the House committee that favorably reported the smoking legislation. Towns has been dubbed the “Marlboro Man,” thanks to his long-standing relationship with Philip Morris. And donations must have been easy for Philip Morris to file; a CBC advisory board member, Shuanise Washington, was treasurer of the organization while she was also Altria’s (MO) vice president of government affairs. The tobacconist and the caucus even share a graphic designer.

Ten of the remaining, nonsponsoring CBC members hail from tobacco-producing states that oppose the bill primarily because it puts their home-state tobacco companies at a huge disadvantage to Philip Morris. That leaves 12 African-American Members of Congress who withheld their names from the bill, despite menthol cigarettes’ being linked to 14.6 percent of all African-American deaths in 2006. And there are, of course, 217 other co-sponsors, mostly white, ignoring the fact that despite menthol’s cultural identification with 4 million African-Americans, double that number of white smokers also partake in the minty tobacco.

The next most popular flavored cigarette, clove, accounts for .09 percent of the market. Those cigarettes will be banned under the bill. Indonesia, which provides 99 percent of the clove cigarettes to the U.S. market, has complained to the U.S. trade representativeabout the disparity with menthol. If Indonesia brings a protectionist complaint to the World Trade Organization, it would compel our government to prove cloves were banned for health reasons. Namely, the United States would have to show that the flavor of cloves enhances cigarettes’ addictive properties. If it can’t, the ban could be considered a trade violation.

It’s a lose-lose proposition. If the United States proves it banned clove cigarettes strictly for health reasons, it would be admitting that menthol cigarettes, manufactured domestically, are getting a free pass despite their clovelike increased health risks. Which puts the FDA, as the tobacco regulator, in the position of justifying a ban on cloves but not menthols. This is the type of case Siegel refers to when he told me the bill lets “the tobacco companies produce and market the cigarettes and the FDA approve them. The ramifications of this bill go far beyond tobacco control. The bill completely undercuts and undermines the entire system of federal public health regulation in this country.”

In other words, the United States will have two choices in the above scenario, both hairy: protect the FDA’s independence by admitting it banned cloves but not menthols only to protect Philip Morris’ market share or let the FDA manufacture an explanation, contrary to recent studies, by which menthol cigarettes, which are used to lure children to smoke, are just as safe as unflavored cigarettes.

Click here for a longer version of this article.

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(Top right picture: Cigarettes are be seen in a tobacco shop in New York April 1, 2009.  REUTERS/Lucas Jackson.)

Comments
26 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

The entire premis is wrong.It is one thing to keep children from having easy access to tobacco. It is a totally different thing to use the excuse of “saving the children” to try and force adults to quite smoking. Taxes and now this. I have no problem with the FDA ensuring the Purity of tobacco products. In fact I encourage it but, that is not what this is about. This is about forcing the industry to put BIGGER warning labels and to curtail products that they claim are aimed at younger smokers (not necessary children though). This is one group of nannies trying to make another group do what they think is best. This is a direct assault on the very freedoms this country was based upon. Taxes that are against specific items like alcohol and tobacco are discriminatory in nature and should be abolished. This is no different than if they were to place a tax on the hair care products of black Americans. The only difference is that there is enough of them to cause a big ruckus on Capital hill while smokers have shrunken to the point they have little voice in Congress. The health issue is moot. If we were to tax or outlaw everything that was not healthy there would be no candy, red meat, or McDonalds; no motorcycles, skiing or sky diving. The health issue is again one group trying to control another. If there were more vegans in this country who could convince congress that “for the good of the citizenry” they should tax beef we would be paying $49 per pound of beef like we are paying today for tobacco. The people of this country are to ignorant to understand or make the connection that tomorrow it could be something they like that is taxed or outlawed.STOP Nanny Government! Our freedom is at stake.Do we, as free adult citizens, have the right to control what goes into our bodies? Should the government have the authority to restrict that right?

Posted by B.Free | Report as abusive
 

Sounds like protectionism to me!

 

“Isn’t it this bill, which is racist, protectionist, cynical, and misguided?”Protectionist – yes, misguided – certainly, cynical – maybe, racist? Um, explain to me how it is racist again? Because it doesn’t ban the cigarettes that blacks tend to smoke more??? Come again? If anything, it is showing preferential treatment towards blacks by not banning the flavor of the cigarette that they tend to like. After all, all the other flavors are banned.”If Indonesia brings a protectionist complaint to the World Trade Organization, it would compel our government to prove cloves were banned for health reasons. Namely, the United States would have to show that the flavor of cloves enhances cigarettes’ addictive properties.”Ok, time for more made-up science. Maybe you should ban the ‘salt and vinegar’ chips cause, you know, that flavor is making them really addictive.”Allow 40 years for several million lethalcoffee-related deaths to pile up before the pandemic is taken seriously by the government.”You’re using the word ‘pandemic’ as if to imply that cigarette smoking is some kind of a virus that spreads from person to person (maybe it’s that evil tertiary smoke that is behind this) with the victim unable to help getting infected. Smoking is a choice. Sitting on the couch eating french fries and getting fat is a choice. Eating lots of salt is a choice. There are plenty of unhealthy choices that people make, this just happens to be one that is currently being picked on (perhaps due to a weak opposition due to a dwindling number of smokers). Let’s see the public reaction when these “public health advocates” start mandatory running programas for those who weigh over X lbs.One final thought. I would like to call Phillip Morris a bunch of traitors for turning like that on their customers (those who knew about the dangers of smoking, knew them before they started, and still chose to smoke). But it is the customers themselves that were only too eager to sign up for class action lawsuits, crying about how the cigarette company made them smoke so much. I guess it’s payback time.

Posted by Andrew | Report as abusive
 

To all those that oppose these limits and restrictions, or claim that it’s nanny government:Please pay up the medical expenses that I have to pay (in taxes) to support your nasty habit. I shouldn’t have to pay for your bad choices. And as I do have to pay for your bad choices I say we make it impossible for you to buy ciggies.Thank you.John Q. Non-smoker.

Posted by Aeronaut | Report as abusive
 

As for this bill being racist, of course it is. it implicitly says: “It’s not ok for white kids to get hooked on cigarettes, but those black folk who love menthol, well let them get cancer and die.”As for medical expenses, why is the government paying medical expenses for peoples mistakes, eg. smoking, driving with no seatbelt etc. The freedoms we are supposed to have in this country are freedom from government interference, not freedom from our own stupidity.Everyone has known for decades that smoking is harmful, why should we start controlling it now, the only reason is because of the socialization of our society, our freedom has been compromised.

Posted by Carlos Roldan (non-smoker) | Report as abusive
 

To those of you claiming that you have to pay “for our nasty habbit” (or some other variation on that theme) – you don’t have to pay for my nasty habbit. I’m not on medicare. I have my own health insurance. But speaking of medicare – no I don’t think anyone should pay for other people’s health costs. So if you don’t want to pay for others – shut down medicare/obamacare/etc.Furthermore, if now tobacco/nicotine is under FDA control, why is alcohol not? and why not caffeine?Bottom line is these people don’t like smoking and they are hell bent on stopping anyone else from doing it (money and lobbying from insurance and health care industries dont hurt either). However, the reasoning these people are using sets a very dangerous precedent which may come to haunt us (by us I mean those who have any sense of personal liberty left) in the future. Fat-camps will be next.

Posted by Andrew | Report as abusive
 

You know they want stop smoking…the government will go broke without it’s taxes……smokers stop worring

Posted by rich | Report as abusive
 

“Do we, as free adult citizens, have the right to control what goes into our bodies? Should the government have the authority to restrict that right?”Do we, as free adult citizens, have the right to force second-hand smoke down the lungs of others? Should the government have the authority to restrict that “right”?Don’t start saying smoking is a choice when your polluting a public place I should have equal access to isn’t MY choice.

Posted by obscurans | Report as abusive
 

Obviously, the bill is an attempt from Philip Morris to use the government to create a monopoly and protect its business, while endangering the life of many Americans. However, the writing in this article stinks. lethalcoffee? Please, even an 8 year old can see through this poorly constructed allegory for cigarettes.Also, as a black man, it is sad to see people think mentholated cigs are for blacks. Once this psychology is in place, it is very hard to break.

Posted by Tyrell Reed | Report as abusive
 

Hmmm, by the logic of “it’s your choice, so I shouldn’t have to help, pay, support, etc” I would like to ask that the armchair patriots please “pay up” and really pay the true costs of all their choices, including free speech. Oh, wait that price was paid for them by someone else. I gave four years of my life in service to this country, as did my father. Unfortunately, I incurred disabilities as a direct result of my service that have made my life extremely difficult and cost me tens of thousands of dollars in uncompensated medical expenses and lost income every year. Some of my buddies weren’t so fortunate and they paid the ultimate price. It is so sad that the ME FIRST culture in this country gets worse every year. Blaming people different than yourself for everything you dislike eventually leaves you either alone or surrounded with clones of yourself still consumed with hatred of your fellow man. We have become a culture overrun with selfish man-children that spout off high ideals, but treat each other poorly indeed.

Posted by USMC-89-93 | Report as abusive
 

Great article. In my opinion tobacco should be banned on the basis that it is addictive and causes serious health issues. Some things are difficult to see because they so obvious.And I wonder if ideas like personal liberty offered up by a previous commenter would be used to defend cocaine and heroin use, ostensibly less addictive drugs.

Posted by Pete Dixon | Report as abusive
 

I believe that anytime the “race card” is played the player thinks he is dealing with the poorest educated lowest paid people in the world. This writer’s statement “menthol’s cultural identification with 4 million African-Americans, double that number of white smokers also partake in the minty tobacco.” Puts the lie to his whole rant. That is a shame ’cause tobacco needs to fall.

Posted by Al | Report as abusive
 

The answer is that the government shouldn’t be adding regulations and expanding the power of the FDA. I say this on principle, since I don’t smoke, myself.And to John Q nonSmoker — the government should get off the path to socializing health care as well. This would solve your cost problem and then smokers wouldn’t have to pay for your health problems (whatever they are) either.If somebody (maybe Obama) came and taxed you more so they could ration equal water to everyone in the US, but then found that some people consume alot of caffeine, a diuretic, which leads to more toilet flushes and drives thecost of “the system” up, what would you recommend? There are essentially two choices: A. increased liberty with increased responsibility; or B. increased government with increased regulation.I like the idea that in general people should be responsible and enjoy lots of liberty.

Posted by jd | Report as abusive
 

The answer is that the government shouldn’t be adding regulations and expanding the power of the FDA. I say this on principle, since I don’t smoke, myself.And to John Q nonSmoker — the government should get off the path to socializing health care as well. This would solve your cost problem and then smokers wouldn’t have to pay for your health problems (whatever they are) either.If somebody (maybe Obama?) came and taxed you more so they could ration equal water to everyone in the US, but then found that some people consume alot of caffeine, a diuretic, which leads to more toilet flushes and drives thecost of “the system” up, what would you recommend? There are essentially two choices: A. increased liberty with increased responsibility; or B. increased government with increased regulation.I like the idea that in general people should be responsible and enjoy lots of liberty.

Posted by jd | Report as abusive
 

Andrew wrote: “Furthermore, if now tobacco/nicotine is under FDA control, why is alcohol not? and why not caffeine?”When part of a food or beverage, alcohol and caffeine are regulated by the FDA, as are caffeine pills for drowsiness. For instance, this is why in the US, you can’t get “real” absinthe, only varieties with negligible thujone levels.This legislation closes a loophole that existed because people don’t eat or drink cigarettes.I suppose those alcohol inhalers are currently out of FDA jurisdiction, but for the most part, alcohol and caffeine products for human consumption have been under FDA regulation for a long time. It’s only because of the huge tobacco lobby that tobacco has avoided FDA regulation for so long.I should also point out that the legislation doesn’t ban the unflavored cigarettes popular with white kids. I imagine the menthol ban is a good 5 years away, it’s just not politically tenable now. 25% of smokers up in arms that menthol cigarettes are banned would be much different than less than 1% up in arms that cloves will be banned. Also, the clove smokers I know are all smoke them casually, which isn’t the case for the menthol smokers I know.The sad thing is that we subsidize tobacco farmers, then tax the cigarettes, rather than encouraging farmers to grow alternative crops.

Posted by kmag | Report as abusive
 

I REALLY THINK THAT THIS BILL IS VERY GOOD,I STARTED SMOKING AT THE AGE OF 15 AND SMOKED UNTIL I WAS 50,I NOW HAVE COPD AND IT IS SOMETHING THAT I DO NOT WANT YOUNG PEOPLE TO GO THROUGH,NOT BEING ABLE TO BREATH IS VERY SCARY

Posted by jean perry | Report as abusive
 

It is funny how some add to what I said above. I never stated anything about smoking in public establishments. As for second hand smoke and the political maneuverings surrounding it, all I can say is I hope you are as concerned about the other air pollution because if you live within 200 yards of a highway, it isn’t second hand smoke that is giving you cancer:“The {cancer} risks are significantly elevated in pockets of industrial pollution – and skyrocket within about 200 yards of highways, says the long-awaited study by state and federal scientists.”http://www.seattlepi.com/l ocal/374066_badair08.htmlTo be rabid about second hand smoke and not what is spewing off our vehicles makes no sense. To bad the politics don’t see the vehicle pollution as pressing as second hand smoke. Really the only attention given vehicle pollution is “Global Warming”, “Green House Gases”. But, cancer is a very real and present danger but people are side tracked by second hand smoke. Isn’t politics something?For those who want a government that creates black markets to fund criminal activity, I say we have more than enough with the War on Drugs. Making tobacco illegal does not solve the problem. It creates huge problems like we see today where a substance that is in high demand is outlawed. So much good has been done with education. You will never get rid of the use of tobacco completely but you can continue to educate people and reduce the impact.As for someone paying for my healthcare, please, give me a break. I pay for my healthcare. And if we go to a socialized type of health care you sure as hell never want to get into a discussion over what should be paid for. If you do then people will say I don’t want to pay for the healthcare of those that are injured while playing certain sports like skiing, skydiving, skate boarding, bicycling or mountain climbing. Or, if they are doing a dangerous activity like motorcycle riding, eating McDonalds burgers or any red meat especially if you grill it. You will get lobbyists that will want to sell stuff or reduce costs and “for the good of society” and “to reduce health cost to tax payers” you get things like seatbelt laws. Now I am all for wearing seat belts. It is the “smart” thing to do. But let’s face it why do I have to wear a seat belt when we allow motorcycles on the road? It is a LAW! The state and city get income from fines and the insurance companies get a double hit with raised rates and lower claims. Yes it is smart to wear a seat belt and education should make that very clear to every driver. But a Law? Be very careful. The list would be endless. You do not want to start down that slippery slope at all. In fact, you may want to scramble back a ways and get these social engineering laws off the books.Everyone in this nation needs to understand that with freedom comes Risk and Responsibility. You never want to give up a freedom because someone tells you it will make you safer. As long as the activity does not infringe upon another’s rights it should not be outlawed. I have no problem with society stating that someone must not smoke in a public establishment. I find this perfectly reasonable and not even from a health standpoint. Not everyone likes the smell of burning tobacco. And anyone who cannot wait until they get outside obviously has addiction issues and needs help. To me this is similar to telling people they cannot drink and drive. You are not telling them they cannot drink, just be responsible when you drink.

Posted by B.Free | Report as abusive
 

@Bfree…sure it should be perfectly legal to put anything you want in your body. should it be legal to put things in the air for everyone else to breathe?

 

So when Mr. Paul Smaler says he wants to add menthol cigarettes to the list of banned flavors, isn’t he saying that african americans need the same level of protection as children? Now who is the racist? The intent of this law is to ban candy-flavored cigarettes aimed at getting kids hooked on nicotine before they are old enough to know better. Once someone is of legal age, if they want to kill themselves, fine. Your body = Your choice. (Just don’t make me breath your 2nd hand smoke!) But saying Menthol isn’t being banned because they don’t care about african americans is ridiculous. This is about kids, not adults of any color.

Posted by Sherry | Report as abusive
 

Tony, I find it hard to believe that you are worried about tobacco smoke polluting the air when there are so many other industries polluting the air with much more toxic substances and in much greater quantities. Any organic substance that is burned produces carcinogens. Here where I live you are allowed to burn trash. One forest fire produces a lot of carcinogens in the air. However, the earth has mechanisms to clean the air of these kinds of pollution. But asbestos dust and diesel particulate are substances that take nature a very long time to clean up. Being concerned about smokers puffing smoke into the air when it isn’t even significant just doesn’t make sense. But I am sure you drive a car which dumps nastier toxic cancer causing pollution in the air than a thousand three-pack-a-day smokers. I bet you have flow in a passenger jet and have eaten out of season fruits and vegetables that were trucked in from far away which cause diesel particulate pollution to be dumped into our air, again at rates that make smokers look really insignificant. So if you want to discuss clean safe air, you need to look at what is causing the pollution. You need to look at what is causing the cancer and other illnesses.I do agree that in enclosed public places smokers should not smoke. But when the government starts putting social engineering (Sin) taxes on tobacco and now eliminates flavored tobacco (I notice they didn’t touch pipe tobacco or cigars) and tries to over regulate it just to make it difficult and costly to smoke, well this is abuse of power. This is the majority riding roughshod over the minority. This is what the Senate is supposed to stop.I took myself out of the economics of tobacco use years ago. I simply grow my own. I grow “organic” tobacco and naturally cure it. And I just grow enough for me. But, I have sat back and watched as the tax on tobacco (cigarettes and rolling tobacco only. Congress won’t touch cigars. That is their preferred smoke) has grown to more than the tobacco is worth. I have watched how the government has made law after law to try and stop black market purchases and internet purchases. I have even watched states violate the US Constitution and tax tobacco purchased in another state and from Native American Reservations after the fact when the purchaser is back in their state or purchased the items over the internet. Few are standing up and fighting this. Why? Because it is tobacco. This is the slippery slope. I wonder what is next. Maybe alcohol or red meat. I guess I could put together a still and raise my own beef. Hell, then they will get me for the carbon dioxide I produce from my still and the cow farts.The law does not ban flavored pipe tobacco or cigars. Flavored cig tobacco was not selling anyway. No flavored tobacco tastes like candy, not even when they add honey. This issue has nothing to do with children. It is about control.Too many laws do not make a free state. The majority abusing the minority is certainly not consistent with a free state. To bad the NannyFeds couldn’t leave this issue to education and took it upon themselves to slap the hands of the minority because they think they are not competent enough to choose the “right” course of action. To bad so many people buy into their fear mongering and the misuse of power.

Posted by B.Free | Report as abusive
 

Plain and simple, there’s no reason tobacco shouldn’t be legal. As someone pointed out, we should have the right to choose what they put in their own body. HOWEVER, nicotine should not be legal. If you believe that nicotine should be legal, then logically, you should support the legalization of heroin, cocaine, and any other highly addictive drug. Once a person becomes addicted to nicotine, they no longer have the “freedom to choose” what they put in their own body- their addiction to nicotine causes their brain to choose to for them. I know, because I’m a former smoker who struggled mightily to quit. Despite my best intentions, my own brain worked against me. I’d find myself rationalizing having a cigarette within days or hours of having committed to quitting.In addition, to those who claim that they’re choice to smoke does not impose a financial burden on non-smokers, because they purchase their own private health insurance, I’m assuming you don’t know jack about the insurance industry. Insurance companies operate to make a profit. That means for every one test, procedure, treatment, etc. that you will undergo because of your “choice” to smoke, your insurance company will have to find a way to make-up the cost. That means that EVERYONE’S rates go up, not just the smokers.And quit whining about taxes on smoking. I don’t care if you have your own insurance, many smokers do NOT. If you can find a way to convince the government to stop footing the bill for those who do not have insurance, I’ll support a cessation of taxes on cigarettes. In the mean time, if you, a smoker, don’t like paying for other smokers health care, then quit smoking.To those, like Andrew, who actually seem to think leaving menthol out of the ban is BENEFITING African-Americans- wow… really? We’re not talking about beneficial products here, we’re talking about something that kills or disables the majority of people who use it. And the only exception to a ban on additives that make it harder NOT to use these products, is an additive that is by far preferred by African-Americans (Sorry Tyrell, nobody is saying that menthol cigarettes are ONLY for African-Americans, but ONLY African-Americans have anything close to an 80% preference rate). Nobody is saying they need to protected like children- if that was the case, their would be a bill that banned ONLY menthol, but left the other additives alone. And to the person who thought that twice as many Caucasian users of mentholated cigarettes as African-American users meant that the assessment of stronger preference in African-Americans was flawed… go take a statistics class or check your population figures. African-Americans make up 10% of the population in this country. Caucasians make up 72% of the population. In other words, for the numbers to match, there would have to be 7 times as many Caucasian users- not twice as many.To B.Free- Cigarettes are NOT the same as candy, red meat, motorcycle riding, etc. EXCESSIVE amounts of candy or red meat are bad for you- any amount of smoking is harmful and potentially cancer causing. Candy and red meat are not highly addictive- cigarettes are. I’ve been eating candy and red meat since I was a child. I can go for days, weeks, months, years, without having candy or red meat, without suffering any adverse reaction. How many lifetime smokers do you know that can go even a few hours without having some kind of “nic fit”. As for motorcycles and other dangerous activities… again, not even in the same realm as cigarettes. Motorcycles are not, in and of themselves, inherently harmful to my health and well being. Motorcycle ACCIDENTS are, but then again, ALL accidents are harmful to health and well being. Motorcycles don’t cause accidents- people using motorcycles get into accidents because of their own carelessness, the carelessness of others, or acts of God.What ARE cigarettes like? Well they’re like the asbestos dust you mentioned. Except, of course, we’ve banned asbestos already because it’s a cancer causing agent. As we have with every other substance that has been shown to have a significantly high chance of causing cancer in those exposed to it- well, except for tobacco… but then again, perhaps if the asbestos industry had been as profitable and politically connected as the tobacco industry, we’d still be using it.Also, banning tobacco will create a black market for it, making the problem worse? Wow… by that logic, we shouldn’t make ANYTHING illegal, if enough people like it. So, should we legalize murder so as not to create a black market for hit men? Part of why cigarettes are so popular is their availability. You can walk into any gas station, supermarket, convenience store, etc. and pick up a pack of cigarettes. Cigarettes aren’t some sort of highly potent drug. They give an extremely mild feeling of euphoria for about 5-15 minutes. People go to black markets for drugs like cocaine, heroin, marijuana- drugs that have extremely potent affects on the brain for periods of hours or days. Many black market users of these drugs seek to maintain a constant state of “high”. That constant state is IMPOSSIBLE with cigarettes. Your body simply cannot handle enough tobacco smoke to keep a constant state of nicotine high. There would probably be something of a black market, at first. Why? Because over 100 million people in this country are already addicted to the product. But 100 million people are not going to look for black market cigarettes, many of them will simply quit. Besides, do you understand how the pricing in a black market works? Smokers ALREADY complain about the high cost of cigarettes because of taxes. How many smokers do you know that will be willing to pay $20 a pack? Oh, and as for your “Education has done wonders” theory… if education has been so great, why are there more smokers now than ever before? Could it be because the levels of nicotine in cigarettes have been steadily increasing at the same time that cigarette marketing has become one of the largest advertising areas in the country?By the way, everyone one of you bitching about your loss of freedom… show me where in the Constitution, Bill of Rights, or Constitutional Amendments you have a right to smoke? Heck, I’ve been willing to grant a right to put what you want into your own body, because I like the idea- but show me where it’s MANDATED that you have that right? Face it, you don’t have any right to smoke cigarettes. This country does NOT guarantee you the right do whatever you want, it guarantees certain rights, like the right to bear arms, freedom of speech, trial by a jury of your peers, etc. You can smoke cigarettes, because the Tobacco lobby is so powerful, they have managed to stop the normal government process to prevent severely harmful products from reaching the market, NOT because you have some sort of right to slowly kill yourself, while wasting billions of tax payer dollars and jacking up health insurance rates to drag out a few extra years of life that you probably would have anyway, if you weren’t smoking.

Posted by Jim | Report as abusive
 

Hello Jim. I do feel for your body’s extreme addiction to nicotine. Yes, it was wrong for tobacco companies to increase the nicotine levels given the effects it has on many people. But not all smokers have this problem. It has to do with individual biochemistry. And many times addicts get a double hit when their personality leans toward what psychology calls an addictive personality. With these individuals even after the nicotine is flushed from their bodies and years later they still have urges to smoke. Addiction is both physical and psychological and is not limited to addictive substances. But your call for outlawing nicotine is not logical.In your first paragraph you stated: “Once a person becomes addicted to nicotine, they no longer have the “freedom to choose” what they put in their own body- their addiction to nicotine causes their brain to choose to for them.”You never lose the ability to choose. This is a symptom of an addictive personality who believes that a substance controls their life. You can choose not to smoke. Your mind will real against that choice. Your body will feel the effects both actual and psychosomatic, both of which are just as real to the addict. This is a big sign that psychological treatment is needed. My brother, who is a psychologist, has seen a lot of success using hypnotherapy in these extreme cases.In your second paragraph you stated: “That means for every one test, procedure, treatment, etc. that you will undergo because of your “choice” to smoke, your insurance company will have to find a way to make-up the cost. That means that EVERYONE’S rates go up, not just the smokers.”This is no different that all the other choices we make. I see you didn’t get that point from my rants. We own cars that cause cancer, injury and death. We eat out of season vegetables and fruits which need to be trucked long distances that pollute our air and ground with cancer causing substances the inflict cancer, injury and death. We eat red meat that causes cancer, injury and death. And, for your information, once upon a time I tried being a vegetarian for 5 years and I never got over the desire for a burger or a steak. There are so many choices we make every day out of desire and convince that cause cancer, injury and death. Not maybe but proven. Life is risk and insurance companies use actuarial analysis of a population to determine rates. Should insurance companies dictate how we live? If that was truly the case our lives would be very boring, very controlled and very expensive. Do not think for one minute that if tobacco was banned health insurance would be cheaper. That is like saying that since seat belts were forced upon the populace car insurance has gone down. In the broad actuarial analysis of the population these events would not significantly alter the costs associated with health care. Over the last 30 years smoking rates in this country have decreased by half (google it). Yet:“The average employee contribution to company-provided health insurance has increased more than 120 percent since 2000. Average out-of-pocket costs for deductibles, co-payments for medications, and co-insurance for physician and hospital visits rose 115 percent during the same period.”Quote from: http://www.nchc.org/facts/cost.shtmlOne can conclude that smoking does not significantly affect insurance rates. Why? It is insignificant compared to everything else in our environment causing illness and injury. So we can put that argument in the trash where it belongs.Your third paragraph again missed the point on the taxation of tobacco. If the taxes were actually being used to fund the social effects of smoking I might even agree with them but they do not. These taxes were placed on tobacco as a punishment or Sin tax. It is called social engineering. It is wrong. It is costing us more that it is going to earn. I mentioned the multiple laws that have been enacted to stem the black market these taxes have created. This means ATF and other law enforcement agencies from federal to local needs to staff up and enforce these new laws. Just how much do you think that will cost? As for the costs associated with smoking please see the above paragraphs.The Fifth paragraph was dedicated directly to me. First I never stated cigarettes were candy. What I said was “No flavored tobacco tastes like candy, not even when they add honey”. Again you missed the point because to you your addiction is a debilitating evil that you cannot control. The point is that life is a dangerous activity and there are many activities that cause illness, injury and death. Your assumption is that since you are addicted you have lost free will and, as I addressed in my first paragraph, that is just not true. You need help. But because you need help does not mean that tobacco (nicotine) should be banned or punitively taxed in some ill conceived effort to prevent or stop smokers from smoking. The examples were used to give a perspective on the issue of social engineering and where such acts can lead.In the seventh paragraph you stated: “by that logic, we shouldn’t make ANYTHING illegal, if enough people like it. So, should we legalize murder so as not to create a black market for hit men?”I hope you see the flaw in this statement. I would guess that most people do not like murder. As for the first part of that statement Yes exactly! You should never create a black market by banning something many people want. That just causes bigger problems. And No Heroin, cocaine and Marijuana should not be illegal. Many countries are working today to remove this from the legal side of society and place it on the health side where it belongs. Education is still the best way to deal with these kinds of issues. Look at the good done with smoking over the last 30 years. Smoking has been cut in half through education. Unfortunately you will always have addicts. If not nicotine then something else and these people should not be thrown in jail they need medical and psychological help.As for how black markets work. I know exactly how they work. I am an Economist and an Accountant and did my thesis on Black Market Economies. I also am very aware of the damages and the social costs these black markets cause. Do you know how much tobacco cost to grow? Do you realize that 50Kilos of tobacco from Indonesia costs between $5 and $8 US dollars. Today a pound of rolling tobacco goes for almost $50 US dollars in the states. You can’t see how a black market can undercut the white market Price and make huge profits? There is already a black market in packaged cigarettes along the Mexican boarder. And when Canada put that huge tax increase the US Indian Reservations had truckloads of cigarettes ready to ship to Canadian reservations. That last move is legal. Today you can walk onto a reservation and buy tax free cigarettes. The problem is some states are violating the Constitution and taxing them after the fact.Ah and that last paragraph. No, the Constitution or Bill of rights does not say Smoking any where in it. What is says is that I have the right to not have the government in my personal business unless I am violating someone else’s rights. The Justice department understands this very well. The Treasury is another story. As with Marijuana, the first law was a tax law. Then it hit that slippery slope. Please everyone do them selves a favor and read the transcripts from the state and federal hearing on the banning of marijuana, heroin, and cocaine. The amount of racism will shock and astound you. The premise for banning them boils down to controlling groups of people. It morphed over time to protecting society to protecting your health to now “saving the children”. All of which were political spin. If you can explain how it took a Constitutional amendment to outlaw the sale alcohol and how the same would not be needed for the current banned substances including your idea of outlawing tobacco (nicotine), I and all the rest here would sure like to hear it.

Posted by B.Free | Report as abusive
 

Some long winded replies. Impressive. Smoking is falling out of favor in the US. We are a point of diminishing returns. This legislation is pointless- another distraction. Racist? You must be kidding. Kids pick up smoking from parents/relatives. Like you learn shopping for food. The author obviously did not come from a smoking family. I do not commend, btw.The real story is how tobacco is using its old techniques in the third world. Everyone smokes in poor countries. Europe (particularly France) is another matter.

Posted by Matt T | Report as abusive
 

First off, I am a FORMER smoker, not a current. I’m one of the very rare few who actually managed to quit cold turkey- no patches, no assistance. It was possibly the hardest thing I’ve done in my life, and I’ve done many difficult things. I’m guessing you’re not a smoker, or you’d know how foolish you’d sound arguing that there is no physical addiction. I’m very aware of the differences genetics can have in addiction- Obviously you’re unaware of the fact that by FAR the majority of people who try smoking cigarettes become addicted to them. It is the extremely rare few who can smoke occasionally, without graduating on to full blown addiction. You need to go to an AA or NA meeting and explain your theory of addiction to them- I’m sure they could use the laugh. I can just imagine a society where heroin can be purchased at any convenience store. Should we allow them to market it to children as well? If not, why not? I’d hate to think we were socially engineering… If you really believe that drug or alcohol addicts have the free will to stop whenever they like, go to a local clinic and watch someone undergoing detox. People DIE of the DT’s- Do you think they’re just choosing not to live?I did get your point- and then I rebutted it, which you seemed to have missed, since THAT is what I was talking about when I said cigarettes are not like candy. Cars, candy, red meat, and all the other things you mention do NOT cause cancer or other health problems at a rate even remotely near what cigarettes do. They also do not cause emphysema or any of the other many medical problems attributable to smoking. More importantly, cars and red meat serve a USEFUL purpose, cigarettes do not.The fact that insurance companies gouge their clients for everything they can doesn’t mean that they AREN’T also raising rates to offset the costs of treating smokers- it just means that, in addition to raising their rates to offset their costs, they ALSO raise their rates because they can. Car insurance didn’t go down, true. But that’s because the price of cars has gone UP, the incident rate of accidents has gone UP, the speed and size of vehicles has gone UP, which increases the severity of the damage done. Oh, not to mention inflation of course.I seriously question your education as an economist- If you truly new what you were talking about, you would know that it doesn’t matter if the money taken in from sin taxes goes DIRECTLY to funding the treatment of the health effects caused by smoking, drinking, etc. We have X amount of expenses and Y amount of income- regardless where the money originated, we DO spend insanely large amounts of money providing public health care to smokers- If we DIDN’T have the money coming in from sin tax, the money that is spent treating people would not be available for other programs. In addition, black markets do not generally function by undercutting the white market, except in cases where something is LEGAL, then they undercut because it’s the only way the can compete. Who would pay more for an illegal product when you can buy something cheaper legally? However, when there IS no legal product, there is no market force controlling the prices set by black marketeers, other than what people will pay. Do you know how much money it costs to grow marijuana? A few cents to a few dollars a POUND- Think the black market price for it matches that? Of course not, that’s why the narco-regimes in Mexico have lavish lifestyles in massive villas.”What is says is that I have the right to not have the government in my personal business unless I am violating someone else’s rights.”Really? Where? It says you have the right not to be subject to improper search and seizure- it doesn’t say that you have the right to do what you want, unless you violate someone else’s rights. If that were true, there would be no prohibition against attempting suicide. And yet there is. Physician assisted suicide? Both parties consent, right? Which “rights” of others does public intoxication infringe on? How about public nudity? Are you saying that people have a constitutional right not to see you naked? Better yet, how about your right to drive your vehicle as fast as you want? If you don’t get into an accident, how have you affected anyone at all? Good luck convincing the traffic court judge to dismiss your reckless driving charge on constitutional grounds. Face it, the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and subsequent Amendments grant you SPECIFIC rights- you do NOT have a carte blanche right do as you see fit, so long as it doesn’t interfere with the rights of anyone else to do as THEY see fit. Shoot, how could a system like that even function? If there’s only swing at a park, and I’m using it, aren’t I interfering with YOUR ability to do as you want, if you want to use the swing?Of all the laughable stuff you’ve written, by far the funniest to me is your notion that anything should be legal, as long as the majority support it. First off, how do we define the majority? Considering that the majority of people in the Southern States didn’t want slavery to be made illegal…. should it only be if the majority of the people in the nation think so? Wait a minute… what about State’s rights? Should all political bodies below the national level be forced to legislate based on the national attitude? How about civil rights? If the white majority in this country had no problem with racial discrimination, should it be legal?Finally, you want to hear why we should be allowed to ban drugs without a constitutional amendment, though we had an amendment banning alcohol? It’s very simple: WE NEVER NEEDED AN AMENDMENT TO BAN ALCOHOL IN THE FIRST PLACE. Alcohol could have been made illegal at any time through direct legislation, and still could. Now it’s your turn, explain to me where in the constitution it grants a right to use any substance you choose, unless made illegal by a Constitutional Amendment. Explain to me how we make alcohol illegal for minors, without an Amendment, if, as you say, we actually need one?

Posted by Jim | Report as abusive
 

Have I lost my right to choose as an american what I put in to my body? Will you tell me next I can’t have starbucks? Why can all cigarettes just be sold in cartons or make a register of clove smokers so us adults and those of indo-american culture can enjoy the kreteks of their home land via mail order so we don’t all become criminals and import cloves illegally after the 1st of september. Why not let clove smokers register and mail order their poison or just sell all cigarettes by the carton. This is a violation of constitutional rights. If you ban my cloves then ban obama’s menthols. They are way more attractive to kids since everyone wants to be a rapper. My best friend from indonesia.. You just took a huge part of his culture away and now he will be a criminal who has them shipped from his family. Just today we were honest business men and now we count the days until we are criminal clove importers. Now that obama banned my cloves and I have to order them like a criminal! I wonder if Obama would sign a ban that included his cigarettes now that I am scrambling to get a bunch of djarums shipped before september 1st and find a resource to get them after the ban. These cigarettes are $8 a pack and $70 a carton. Why don’t we sell flavored (or all cigarettes) in cartons? Then only smokers who are dedicated can buy them, children and the poor people who can afford a single packs but not health care will have to quit. I thought I lived in america, a free country. Where as an adult I have the priveledge to make a decision if I want flavored tobacco or flavored liquor. Flavored liquor is way more desirable to teenagers than flavored cigarettes. Flavored cigarettes are not affordable but any kid can get flavored liquor for a few dollars. We already have a law that prevnts minors from smoking, it is really the obligation of the parent. Not the government. Surely we wouldn’t ban menthol or whatever brand Obama smokes anytime soon. These cigarettes I have been legally smoking since college are now illegal. I may as well smoke pot, they’ll legalize that and tax it but won’t let me enjoy a clove with my coffee. These guys get $210 a month from me for a pack of djarums a day and $2500 a year. Kids can’t afford that. Middle class men and women can barely swing that. Especially these day, kids don’t really smoke like they used to. People look at you like you have a disease when you smoke. Kids and the poor are going to smoke whatever they can afford. Most kids start on the brands there family and friends smoke (marlboro,camel,newports) menthols being especially popular with kids durinf the rise of hip-hop/pop culture. They are easier to smoke. A lot of people won’t even smoke cloves because they are harsh and heavy. I gave my cousin who has been smoking reds for 30 years a clove yesterday and he almost choked to death. Way too much for the average smoker. These clove cigarettes are more cigarish and elitest with their high prices and taxes. Which is weird why in a recession that we take items off the shelf that provide such high tax revenues. Cloves and even other flavored cigarettes are smoked by the college type, the intellectual, coffee shop goers, musicians, goths, eccerntrics and other berkely types. These enjoyable smokes help me relax, review and reassess while I enjoy a cup of coffee. My friend likes them once or twice a month when drinking. My friend from indonesia smokes them daily like I do except the difference between me and him is you are depriving this man of his cultural right when america is suppose to embrace the ideas of different ethnic groups. We let the jewish go to temple, we let the middle eastern folk go to mosque and put curry on everything, the russian’s get their vodka and the asians get their rice, rotten eggs and dog. My friend can’t ever again smell the clove scent of his country, he and I went from being successful businessmen to having to become illegal clove importers just to enjoy our lifestyles. Just for my friend to enjoy is culture and feel athome with how he was raised. Almost all clove cigarettescome from indonesia and so it really disrupts their market regardless of what the upper brass thinks. This is protectionism. This is a violation of my amendments and rights. This law gives the fda way too much control and makes us a big brother country where the government raises the children since we allow the parents to be incompetent. I am an american who has been stripped of constitutional rights. I will do what I want, this will not stop me from getting my cloves nor will the lack of the 1% of cloves in the market will not curb kids from smoking. Most kids don’t smoke these days. It’s not cool to smoke you get treated like a leper. Like I said, sell cigarettes by the carton only and tax them to death. The real smokers will buy them. The drinking smokers will bum them and the kids and very low income will not be able to afford them. I mean what’s next? Take away my flavored mouthwash? What about super sweet apricot beer that kids love. Kids die from alcohol, not cigarettes, more kids die from fraternity activities. Kids who smoke generally have family that smoke. No one wakes up and says I think it will be cool to pay for bad breath and cancer just to hold this cool stick. Leave us free adults alone. Regulate the parents and do not let the administration and the fda turn america in to a dictatorship and make us 1% of smokers live a harder life of luxury. To much control. Iv’e always leaned more democrat but honestly these liberals need to leave me alone with their whole foods infested berkelyish veagan ideas that say I can’t eat meat or ill die, or transfast because ill die or oxygen because ill die. Don’t worry we will all die soon enough and if you don’t let smokers and drinkers kill themselves then you have population control to deal with. Well let’s just let the fda put mercury in our dental fillings, and hormones in our babys milk and not let us smoke the brand of cigarettes we enjoy. Protectionsim, loss of rights. Damn is the apocolypse comming? I hope indonesia sticks their foot sideways up the behind of the WTO and fight for my rights as an american before I have to move to a country that is a little less motherly. This is how I feel and most people agree. The new ban is stupid.-david

Posted by Djarum Dave | Report as abusive
 

Smoking should be cast, and no matter what it is cigarettes. With or without menthol. Just take and throw. Cigarettes cause cancer, why provoke it? Contrived about his life.

 

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