The Nation's Pulse

The State of the Smoker

Ghoulish government scare tactics naturally make smoking more appealing to teens.

By 8.23.11

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Four major U.S. tobacco companies filed suit last week against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration over a new federal mandate scheduled to go into effect on October 22, 2012. The rule, as part of Obama's 2009 Tobacco Control Act, will require tobacco companies to feature gruesome photographs of blackened lungs or people with respirators on every pack of cigarettes sold in the United States.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit include major North Carolina tobacco companies R.J. Reynolds (responsible for the Camel, Winston, Salem, and Pall Mall brands), Lorillard (member of the National Black Chamber of Commerce and producer of Newports), and the Liggett Group (Chesterfield, Eve, and Pyramid), as well as an R.J. Reynolds subsidiary called Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company and a Kentucky-based producer called Commonwealth Brands (Davidoff, Sonoma, USA Gold).

Along with the FDA (which, per internal policy, does not comment publicly on pending litigation), defendants include FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius -- both longtime anti-tobacco crusaders.

Their latest industry-stifling regulation lacks common sense. To ninth graders, these photographs will only make cigarette packs look like punk-rock album covers. The square kids will be socially castigated for smoking anything less than a hole-in-the-throat pack.

Teenagers don't smoke out of ignorance, but, rather, out of an admirable anti-authoritarianism. When I began smoking regularly at age fifteen, I had already been exposed to a decade of intense anti-smoking propaganda in suburban public schools and knew full well the health dangers of my new pastime. But bravely, heroically even, I scoffed in the face of those dangers and chose to partake in one of life's great joys: the inhalation of toxic chemicals into my tender pink lungs, for no greater purpose than my own leisure and the cultivation of my self-image.

Liberal elites cannot possibly understand the satisfaction that comes from taking the first drag on a new cigarette after a hard day's work; namely, because they have no idea what a hard day's work feels like.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking prevalence among adults is highest in the Midwest, particularly in Kentucky and West Virginia. While only 11.1 percent of college graduates and 5.6 percent of people with a postgraduate degree smoke cigarettes, over one-third of all mere high-school graduates and over 49 percent of those with a GED diploma regularly smoke. Many of them got hooked before elitist government reforms raised the average price per pack into the $8 range. Now they have to fork over a greater share of their incomes to late-night gas-station attendants than they ever thought reasonable.

Studies have shown that the greatest drop in smoking rates occurred immediately after new taxes made smoking unaffordable. So those brave souls who continue to smoke -- anxiously rebudgeting as we go along -- aren't going to hang up our BIC lighters simply because we see some rotting-teeth photographs. At this point in tobacco history, when smokers get cast outside bars and nightclubs every night like criminals, only the true diehards remain.

The injury to our wallets has already been done. These photographs, then, are just insults -- sent directly from the liberal elite to everyday Americans. From the cooler-than-his-town fifteen-year-old emulating Jim Carroll in his high school parking lot to the smalltown factory worker too proud to give in to left-wing do-gooders, the message here is the same: The government knows better than you, and you're not pursuing liberty the right way. We cannot allow these new reforms to lower nationwide smoking rates. If we do, then the FDA will see vindicated.

Death is a human inevitable. With our jobs disappearing and our hopeless public schools making us drop out before our lives even begin, the government can at least let us smoke our cigarettes in peace. And then, a few years premature, let us rest the same way.

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About the Author

Patrick Howley is a staff writer for the The Daily Caller.