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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Cigarettes: Safe, Legal, and Rare

posted by on October 26 at 14:26 PM


Dominic Holden, local drug-reform movement superstar (and occasional Stranger contributor), emailed me this morning about a disturbing new poll. According to Zogby, a growing number of Americans support a federal ban on cigarettes—not a ban on smoking them in public places, which I support. But a ban, period. A whopping 45% of Americans said yes to a ban on cigarettes. Among younger voters—those between 18-29—support for a ban on cigarettes clocks in at 57%. Says Dominic…

Jeepers, this is a creepy poll… It shows that Americans are increasingly supportive of prohibiting cigarettes.

I think cigarettes suck and smokers are suckers, but arresting them seems a bit much. Not to mention that it would carry the same consequences of the drug war, only multiplied several times over. I mean, if people think dope-heads are fiendish, imagine trying to curb the black market for tens of millions of jonesing tobacco smokers.


Hello, America?

The War on Drugs has been a total failure—drugs are cheaper now, and easier to find, after decades wasted, billions spent, and countless lives ruined. A War on Drugs? What we’ve got is a war on minorities (they don’t use drugs at higher rates, but they’re prosecuted and incarcerated for drug use at higher rates), pleasure, and ultimately reality. You can’t ban a product that people want—remember when they tried that with booze?—without creating black markets, violence, and huge profits for criminal networks. The only rationale solution is to legalize all drugs—and to keep cigarettes legal—and apply the standards to all drugs when it comes to their use. Namely, use `em at home, in privacy, and be discrete about `em when you’re out in clubs or, um, hanging in the mayor’s office.

I hate cigarettes—no one hates `em more than I do. (Ask any of my long-suffering, cigarette-addicted co-workers.) But I am dead-set against banning them. Holy crap, what a bad idea. I don’t want people smoking in bars, near kids, or anywhere near me. But I think that smoking should be safe (at least for non-smokers who aren’t forced to breathe second-hand smoke), legal (just as pot will hopefully be one day), and rare (because it’s such a stupid fucking thing to do).

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Kyle Mills wrote a book about this exact subject. It's called "Smoke Screen". He's not a great writer, but the book is pretty amusing.

Posted by dewsterling | October 26, 2006 2:45 PM

Maybe it would finally blow down the Potemkin walls of the War on Drugs if they banned cigarettes too.

If they ban cigarettes, will they ban elaborately-shaped fantasy knives with naked ladies and wizards painted on the handles, too? Because that would drive smoke shops out of business.

Posted by Fnarf | October 26, 2006 2:45 PM

The war on drugs, the war on terror.

Both are wars that can't be won because the war feeds its own enemy.

mmmmm, pot.

Posted by monkey | October 26, 2006 2:46 PM

Oh yeah, and Thank You For Not Smoking is freakin' awesome (dispite Mrs. Cruise).

Aaron Eckhart, so yummy I'd let him blow smoke in my face.

Posted by monkey | October 26, 2006 2:48 PM

So can we admit that the loosely enforced (at-best) 25 foot rule is as useless as the War on Drugs and repeal that part of the ban already?

Posted by Gomez | October 26, 2006 3:11 PM

Also, Dan, you had to realize that this was what most of your fellow 901 rah-rahers wanted all along: a complete ban.

Posted by Gomez | October 26, 2006 3:12 PM

And yet in another poll, 46% of Americans said they think states should be allowed to legalize marijuana.

Issue polls are stupid--what someone says in their underwear at home while trying to get back to watching America's Next Top Model is not what they'd do in the voting booth.

Posted by Seth | October 26, 2006 3:20 PM

Here's the thing about a ban on cigarettes.

They're really not interesting enough to start up 'smoke-easies'. It's not like smoking (without drinking) loosens up inhibitions and gets people laid. It's not pot, it doesn't get you high. From everything we've heard, it's just a straight up health hazard, and it's going to kill us right?

Most of us smoke because we got hooked, and funny enough, you can buy cigarettes pretty much anywhere. Most every smoker I know *wants* to quit, but never does because it's not inconvenient and a jones for a cigarette is taken care of by a 1 minute walk to the nearest convenience store.

If cigarettes were illegal to sell (not illegal to smoke), my guess is 90% of the smokers would quit. Maybe the rest would grow tobacco in their closets or something, but I doubt it.

Posted by Matt Westervelt | October 26, 2006 3:26 PM

Agreed that a ban is an incredibly stupid idea. However, the Gov't should tax them at about $40 per pack to help defray some of the massive health care costs that all of us are forced to shoulder.

Posted by taxpayer | October 26, 2006 3:31 PM

The people in that picture are teh c00lest ev4r

Posted by laterite | October 26, 2006 3:39 PM

You're probably against the proposed ban on hydrogenated oils too. Sure, it's a health hazard, but tell a restaurant that they can't poison people slowly? ridiculous!

We should just tax hamburger eaters higher because of the medical costs down the road.

Posted by Matt Westervelt | October 26, 2006 3:39 PM

I was pro-indoor smoking ban, and anti-25' rule. But the restaurant industry lobby bought that on themselves by being so unwilling to discuss any kind of compromise.

But outlaw smoking altogether? Over my nicotine ravaged body!!!

Posted by Smokey McSmokerson | October 26, 2006 3:40 PM

Prostitution - that's another ban that's worked out great.

Posted by Noink | October 26, 2006 3:40 PM

Look, I've smoked for over 20 years. I LOVE smoking. I hate it too, but mostly that's because all I ever hear is: THAT IS GOING TO KILL YOU.

Fine. It's a health hazard. I'm not going to argue with all the science.

But come on. Lets stop fucking around.

Ban it like lead paint and all the other toxic chemicals that we loved and then found out were killing us.

What's stopping us? The fact that we're addicted to nicotine or that some companies that built their fortunes on it, lied about it's effects, and market it to children don't want it banned?

(in my high school, the local cigarette shop passed out free 5 pack samples of marlboro reds)

Posted by Matt Westervelt | October 26, 2006 3:47 PM

Namely, use ‘em at home, in privacy, and be discrete about ‘em when you’re out in clubs or, um, hanging in the mayor’s office.

You mean discreet. Otherwise, couldn't agree with you more.

Posted by oye como va | October 26, 2006 4:02 PM

Ban massive global pollution, too.

The two things combined will have a huge positive effect.

Posted by Lloyd Clydesdale | October 26, 2006 4:13 PM

First, they came for the smokers, but I didn't speak up, because I wasn't a smoker...

Posted by COMTE | October 26, 2006 4:20 PM

There's a big difference between banning cigarettes and banning lead paint or other toxic stuff. Consumers really want cigarettes; lead paint - not so much.

Enforcing cigarette prohibition would entail long jail terms and broken families, and require lots of police resources and tax money. But it would all be for naught because cigarettes would always be available for die-hard addicts who demand the supply.

If a person is harming only themselves, it isn't the government’s job to nanny smokers who can't deal with their own addiction, particularly if doing so would result in a tragic and expensive faliure.

Posted by Dominic | October 26, 2006 4:43 PM

"First, they came for the smokers, but I didn't speak up, because I wasn't a smoker..."

That sounds like this retard in my office. He was going on and on about the smoking ban and "erosion of our liberties" but, being a Bush supporter, the thinks the whole torture bill thing is fine because "I'm not doing anything wrong"

Americans get peeved over the perceived "loss" of little "rights" but gladly bend over to give up their real rights.

Posted by Paranoia Will Destroy Ya | October 26, 2006 4:53 PM

You've obviously never talked to anyone who used lead paint. It was awesome.

Make it illegal to sell cigarettes. Not smoke them. People want and own switchblades too, but you can't sell them at every corner store.

And it IS the government's job. In case you didn't notice, there are tons of things that are illegal for people to have and use because they will do them harm. Just because you believe it isn't the government's job doesn't make all of those go away.

It certainly isn't the government's job to make the nicotine addicted a tax cash cow.

Posted by Matt Westervelt | October 26, 2006 5:02 PM

Just say No! to Nanny Government.

Posted by him | October 26, 2006 5:14 PM

Gomez, you do know that we were against 901?

The 25 foot rule was our only beef, though. As for banning smokes, not gonna happen. Hopefully. I mean, we've done stupid things before, and we will again, but hopefully we won't do anything this stupid.

I agree with the comment about how stupid polls like this can be. When they were asked about legalizing pot, they said that was a good idea because they've seen the harm prohibition can do. When they were asked about banning cigarettes, they said that was a good idea because they've seen the harm that cigarettes do. They didn't make the logical leap to: A ban on cigarettes will ultimately do the same harm that the ban on pot does.

Posted by Dan Savage | October 26, 2006 5:18 PM

Personally, I'm glad all the cigarette smoke is gone. It's fun to go to bars now, instead of having to take a shower afterwards.

Posted by Will in Seattle | October 26, 2006 5:34 PM

Agreed, Will.

Posted by Dan Savage | October 26, 2006 5:36 PM

Anyone who thinks it's the "nanny government" who pushes things like this is naive, to say the least. It's the insurance companies behind most of the "wrap the people in cotton wool" horseshit like this, and there's some Puritans and well-meaning-but-fuzzy-minded liberal types who invariably sign on, without realizing who it is that ultimately benefits.

Follow the money. Who benefits most from "nanny state" laws preventing people from smoking, riding motorcycles without helmets, eating McBurgers? Insurance companies.

Posted by Geni | October 26, 2006 5:45 PM

Oh, and while I should mention that I'm as rabidly anti-smoking as anyone else - shit, I get a headache if I see a cigarette on television - I think people have the right to do anything they like to their own bodies in private, which includes the privacy of their own cars. (Yes, oh Man-Who-Was-Masturbating-at-the-Red-Light, that includes you.)

Posted by Geni | October 26, 2006 5:47 PM

Hm, I didn't realize Allstate was the one sending defoliation spray down to Colombia to eradicate drug sprays. I forgot that State Farm is the one who busts pot smugglers coming from Canada. And who can forget Mayor Greg "GEICO" Nickels and his profit-motivated push to "clean up" night clubs and push out strip clubs? Insurance companies may love, and even push for, these bans (not to mention the big pharma companies that want to ban weed but sell you Marinol), but it's politicians who want to be re-elected with the "I'll clean up the city/state/country" image who really campaign for these things. Even if the insurers wrote these laws, it's the government that enforces them. Ergo, nanny government. Color me naive, but that's what I believe.

Posted by him | October 26, 2006 5:58 PM

Him, I wasn't saying that politicians don't become the front men for this kind of thing, nor that some well-meaning individuals don't get sucked in by the idea of making everyone perfectly safe from everything at all times. What I was saying is that most of what people attribute to the "nanny government" benefits the insurance companies, and they are the force behind the push to ban everything. I wasn't including the War On (some) Drugs, though. That's a neo-Puritan weirdness all wrapped up with purveyors of legal intoxicants and their powerful lobbyists (alcohol and pharma is what I'm thinking here).

What I was specifically referring to are things like smoking bans, helmet laws, seatbelt laws, stuff like that. Sure they save lives. And they take away personal liberties. And for some reason, the vast majority of people manage to blame "the liberals" for it, probably because the liberal wish to make everyone safe is easily misused.

Posted by Geni | October 26, 2006 6:16 PM

Before we ban cigarettes, how about we ban meat? It's much more unhealthy to users, much more costly to taxpayers, much more damaging to the environment, and it isn't even cool.

Posted by Sprince | October 26, 2006 6:17 PM

I'm pretty sure cigarettes are decidedly more dangerous than meat. Although I've gotten my share of "THAT'LL KILL YOU" when diving into a steak, I tend to believe them when it comes to the cigarettes. Besides, if I was *stuck on an island* or *in the desert*, I'd much rather have steaks than smokes.

Posted by Matt Westervelt | October 26, 2006 6:28 PM

It would be much easier to just tax the fuck out of them til they pretty much cease existing.

Posted by Gitai | October 26, 2006 8:21 PM

That doesn't work either. Although a certain amount of increased cost does yield reduced consumption, consumption of certain substances is relatively inelastic...meaning that too much of a cost increase merely creates opportunities for grey and black markets.

States and countries that increase cig taxes too much, sometimes actually see a decline in revenues as people turn to either directly smuggling themselves or purchasing from smugglers.

Increase the price enough and impose legal sanctions and you see rising crime rates...just witness what happened in the US after heroin and cocaine became illegal. Or prohibition. Object lessons in utterly failed social policy.

Posted by gnossos | October 26, 2006 10:57 PM

Or strike a deal where smokes are bannded and at exactly the same instant universal health care is instituted.

Posted by Lloyd Clydesdale | October 26, 2006 11:00 PM


Posted by jonny | October 27, 2006 1:40 AM

Ah yes, Dan, I remember the SECB coming out against 901, though IIRC you were in favor of an indoor ban. That said, you probably didn't like the 25 foot rule either.

That said, many proponents of an indoor smoking ban do really just want to eradicate cigarettes period, noble and all but not a smart decision. Those many, indeed, don't understand that a ban doesn't stop smoking, but instead creates a black market for it.

Posted by Gomez | October 27, 2006 9:17 AM

The Red Hot Chili Peppers are leading the way at this years MTV Europe music awards with four nominations...

Posted by Maddox Marin | November 12, 2006 6:49 AM

The Red Hot Chili Peppers are leading the way at this years MTV Europe music awards with four nominations...

Posted by Maddox Marin | November 12, 2006 6:50 AM

William Styron, whose Holocaust novel Sophie's Choice became a film and an opera, has died, aged 81...

Posted by Blaze Oconnell | November 12, 2006 12:44 PM

Classical singer Russell Watson postpones his forthcoming UK tour after undergoing brain surgery...

Posted by Conner Baines | November 16, 2006 7:04 PM

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