Tobacco Legislation and The “Social Creep”

Russ Ouellette, Hearth & Home Master Blender

Russ Ouellette, the man behind the blends

We’ve all heard the truism “Give ‘em an inch and they’ll take a mile”. It’s usually in reference to children regarding self-discipline, but I’m coming to realize that it has a lot to do with government, especially legislators. Let me explain.

I remember a time, not all that long ago, when smoking pipes, cigarettes, and cigars was allowed in most places- supermarkets, malls, waiting rooms, even hospitals. Don’t misunderstand; I don’t want to go back to those days. I really have a hard time wrapping my head around lighting up outside an emergency room. I think it’s unfair to light up in confined spaces where other people are forced to be exposed to smoke. I wouldn’t want to go back to a time when an instructor would puff away in a college lecture hall, as some people have a legitimate aversion to tobacco. So, a number of years ago, some people started to campaign for certain areas to become smoke-free. Libraries, classrooms, medical facilities and the like quickly fell in line with these policies, and I don’t find them unreasonable at all. But whenever people with an agenda get their way, they want to see how far they can take it; hence, the “social creep”.

The next thing was to push their desires on stores and malls, where a voluntary compromise of establishing smoking and non-smoking areas worked for a while, but the hounds had tasted blood and weren’t going to loosen their grip. The same thing happened with restaurants and bars. But the feeding frenzy had started, and the antis became hellbent for leather. They wanted the taverns and eateries to forbid smoking entirely, but few were willing to do so for fear of offending their smoking customers and losing their business to other places. So, these members of the righteousness police decided to level the playing field. To hell with the rights of a small business owner to make decisions based upon what’s best for their survival; let’s take the choice out of their hands by legislating their options away.

Guess what happened next? Businesses failed, because people couldn’t go out and have a smoke after a meal without leaving the restaurant; they just stayed home. So employees lost their jobs, businesses closed. In areas where these laws were adopted in a city, county or state, traffic wound up going to neighboring areas where the statutes were less stringent. But, not to worry, the creep had begun, so it would only be a matter of time before entrepreneurs all over would have no options but to fall in line.

Emboldened by their victories, the next step was to push and push and push the levels of taxation on tobacco products to new heights. Federal, state and even local levies skyrocketed prices. Taxes weren’t supposed to create social strata, but that’s the de facto upshot when poorer members of society can’t afford to purchase items because the taxes are too high. But the anti-tobacco groups don’t care about equality. All they care about is their own beliefs. Forget the fact that much of their data comes from “junk science” in which the desired result is determined before the research is ever done. And because, most of their agenda is “for the children”, it’s politically incorrect to contradict them. If you disagree, you’re evil and hate kids, puppies and flowers.

To exacerbate the situation, it became necessary to demonize all forms of tobacco use, even though there’s a huge difference between cigarette smoking and the use of premium cigars or pipes. The original Surgeon General’s report from 1964 noted that pipe smokers, on average, lived 2 years longer than non smokers, yet, the antis don’t differentiate, so the message will be distorted by the details that aren’t allowed to be seen.

The mainstream media, in their attempts to appear to be knights in shining armor, have jumped on the bandwagon, pounding their messages across at every juncture. I can’t ever remember an industry that has been forced to help pay for its own destruction by printing warnings mandated by the government to convince people not to use the product they’re purchasing.

We all know people who have lived to ripe, old ages who smoked, and people who have eaten well, exercised and avoided all forms of “vice”, just to be plagued by illness. The problem is in excessive use of anything. If people drink too much regular soda, they can wind up gaining weight, destroying their teeth and increase their risk of diabetes. How long before they make our decisions about this as well? This is the way things work.

So, things can’t get much worse, right? How about not being able to smoke in parks, on beaches, on public sidewalks and within 25 feet of the doorway of a public place? How about in your own home? Even if it’s a single family residence and you own it? By doing this, they don’t have to make the product itself illegal; they just make it illegal to use it.

This will continue until it becomes nearly impossible to buy and use tobacco. Then the inevitable will happen; organized crime will step in. People will be able to buy tobacco without paying any taxes, and the government will make nothing. People who make their living by ignoring laws have no problem laughing in the face of society or the government. The upshot is that the cycle will continue.

One of the worst things about my little diatribe is that even to me it seems over-the-top, but in rereading it, I haven’t seen any reason to change anything because it’s all accurate information and part of historical record. With any luck, the anti-smoking groups will now sit back in smug self-satisfaction and decide to stop beating the drum quite so loudly, but the smart money would bet against it.

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About Russ

Russ Ouellette is the blender/creator of the Hearth & Home series of tobaccos for www.pipesandcigars.com in Bethlehem, PA. He has been a pipe smoker and blender for over 30 years, and enjoys feedback from the pipe smoking public. You can reach Russ at russo@pipesandcigars.com or by calling 1-800-494-9144.