I’m sure most of you are unaware that using tobacco is dangerous. You’ve been closeted away for the past half century, with your ears stuffed and eyes covered. So Congress is moving forward on legislation allowing the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco. Reports the Washington Post:
After 15 years of debate, tens of millions spent on lobbying and a roller-coaster legislative history, public health advocates say they believe Congress is finally ready to regulate tobacco — and their opponents privately agree.
This week, a Senate committee will take up its version of a bill that passed the House by a comfortable margin last month. Supporters say they have more than the 60 votes needed to make the legislation filibuster-proof when it reaches the Senate floor sometime after Memorial Day.
The sponsors, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), with help from party leaders, have pushed the legislation onto a fast track. And President Obama, himself a smoker who has struggled to quit, has said he intends to sign the bill — a reversal from President George W. Bush, who sought to kill it.
The legislation would give the Food and Drug Administration broad powers over the manufacturing and marketing of tobacco, a product used by 20 percent of Americans yet largely unregulated.
The very idea of tobacco regulation strikes some as nonsensical: Take a product that, if used as directed, will kill a third of those who use it and place it under the control of an agency charged with protecting public health. But advocates say FDA oversight is the best hope for reducing the 400,000 deaths each year from tobacco use.
I don’t like tobacco. Even when lots more people smoked, I wouldn’t let them smoke in my house. My grandfather was a heavy smoker, which we suspect contributed to the cancer which killed him. I wish my friends who smoke would quit.
But if liberty means anything, it is making choices and balancing risks. Lawmakers shouldn’t act like national nannies, treating us like irresponsible children. They should let us make our own decisions about our own lives.
They aren’t about to, however. Indeed, their determination to micro-manage our lives seems insatiable. Which is why these days I just laugh when I hear someone refer to America as “the land of the free.” No longer.