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Editorial Freedom's Future
"Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety,
deserve neither Liberty nor Safety" 
  Benjamin Franklin


   Since this is the debut editorial in the debut issue of this magazine, I think it only fair to make something very clear from the start. We are not (our publication, that is) proponents of smoking. Some of us here smoke and some do not. None of us smoke indoors. Those of us who do smoke find that it tastes better outside and sure as hell smells better afterwards inside. And when the weather refuses to cooperate, we smoke by an open window with a portable fan set to exhaust the smoke. There was a time when it was considered proper etiquette to go outside to smoke, or to retire to a smoking room. Like many of our traditions, this was mostly based on aesthetics rather than health, or environmental issues but nonetheless we have found going to a specific smoking area increases the ritualistic nature of smoking which in turn decreases our frequency of use.

   As I said, we are not proponents of smoking. However, we are vehement supporters of the rights of people who choose to smoke. So for you smokers, let me make the following clear. There are few organizations out there that are in the business of protecting your right to smoke. The few that exist are so closely aligned with the tobacco companies that their merit and, therefore, effectiveness is questionable. On the other hand there are dozens and dozens of anti-smoking groups out there, well funded and stocked with greedy and effective attorneys. And if you think the tobacco industry is guilty of misleading the public with false claims and omissions over the years (which it clearly is) you need to to take a look at the gross distortions and patent lies that these anti-smoking zealots employ, putting their excretions on their internet sites and other advertising PSM's (public service messages). There is a whole lot of money to be made fighting the tobacco industry and smoking in general so it is no wonder that it attracts the sharks it does. There is definitely tobacco blood in the water.

   The anti-tobacco lobby and that is what these groups are (lobbyists - more on lobbying later in this article) has been making a good living for 30 years, a great living for 20 years and in the last 10 have reached the status of windfall profits (not to mention how much money the manufacturers of Nicorette gum et al rake in annually). To see the anti-smoking lobby granddaddy of them all and some of the unsubstantiated claims that reside there, go to www.ash.org. Here is one of the statements on that site just to get you started: "Drifting tobacco smoke already kills more people that (their typo - probably not the only one there, especially some of their numbers) motor vehicle accidents, all crimes, AIDS, illegal drugs, etc. In other words, you are statistically more likely to be killed by your neighbor's tobacco smoke than by his car, his gun, or his AIDS virus."

   Please try to keep what you find on sites like this in perspective. This and other similar groups have been instrumental in forcing the tobacco industry to make an arguably safer product, to protect the rights of people who do not smoke, and to generally inform the population of the hazards of tobacco abuse. (Note: abuse, not use, which is our editorial point of view after all). Some of them came into existence at a time when tobacco commercials promoted unlimited cigarette smoking as, for all intents and purposes, a healthy pastime. The problem is, like with all reform groups, they go way overboard in attacking all smokers and smoking in general as if:
(1) Smoking cannot be controlled and,
(2) Everybody who smokes is or will become a 4 pack a day cancer victim.

We do not believe this is the case and that is why we are here; to try to engender a more sensible perspective on smoking much as our ancestors had. The anti-everything groups need to justify their existence and perpetuate it, and there are always a lot of Johnny-come-lately, over-zealous, and opportunistic groups who want to get in on the leavings at the table. None of these groups want to outlaw tobacco, which should be their goal if they can prove it to be as harmful as they are purported to believe. They would be out of business should that happen. No, the increasing litigation and lobbying efforts are feathering far too many nests for any of these groups to want to win and subsequently end the fight. And people who do smoke 4 packs of cigarettes a day are helping their cause.  But more on that later also. And, in the next issue we intend to cover the anti-tobacco lobby in-depth as well as the groups and businesses who support and profit by their existence.
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   Personally, I love a cigarette now and then; perhaps 6-10 per day. I make a reasonable effort, if not always a successful one, to smoke only when I really want one. Earlier dogmatic habits of chain-smoked cigarettes have been replaced by a stronger, more aesthetic desire to taste a little different flavor blend each time I light up. Although things were not always that way and a good traffic jam or computer malfunction can blow my good intentions, literally, right out the window, generally, I have learned a modicum of self-control and find the smoking experience far more satisfying for the effort.

   I truly enjoy tobacco and especially like a variety of different blends, and . . . I insist on my right to purchase and consume it without state sponsored discrimination. So this editorial really is intended as a "request" to lawmakers and voters alike to exercise care when limiting the rights of any segment our citizenry.

   It is one thing to legislate against obviously dangerous aberrant behavior and quite another to legislate against activities based on less than rigorous scientific research, opinion, or even the personal preference of either a majority or a minority. Our system has many checks and balances to safeguard our basic freedoms but that freedom is so tenuous and can therefore be eroded  in seemingly minor, innocuous ways with subtle, yet profound, far reaching and often times unforeseen social impact.

   We as smokers need to deal with the reality that smokers and, most especially, the major cigarette companies have brought a lot of the current problems on themselves and I in no way wish to defend the rude smoker who feels justified to fill a public room (or my living room, for that matter) with his/her tobacco smoke. Nor, do I wish to defend the deceptive and greedy practices of some of the major tobacco companies in years past.

   But tobacco, as a natural entity, properly and deliciously cured in more traditional natural ways and with fewer or no additives, can be enjoyed by those who so wish without nearly the negative impact that is currently suffered.

   There should be no doubt in any sane person's mind that excessive tobacco use (like most any other excessive behavior) can be very harmful. And, even if second hand cigarette smoke should one day prove to be not nearly as lethal as some "authorities" would have you believe, I personally find that the smell of cigarette smoke in a closed room is more than a little unpleasant. Pipe tobacco, maybe, but cigar and cigarette smoke, no, not in a closed room.

   Now that is, admittedly, my taste but I know non-smokers as well as many people who smoke share those feelings. So, If you don't like the smell, stay out of those areas designated for such usage. The will of the people is best expressed by the basic principals of capitalism. If enough people do not like an environment, they will not patronize that environment. We don't need to be taxed into a decision making mode.

   There was a time when it was considered impolite to smoke indoors and, like many of our traditions, part of that was based on aesthetics. Nonetheless, people who freak out if they perceive the slightest hint of tobacco smoke, bother me almost as much as the rude smoker. Balance and perspective are needed to arrive at logical and effective compromise or radical polarizing attitudes, of one ilk or other, are going to lead to far more serious problems.

   It was with this concern principally in mind that I wrote this millennium piece for RYO Magazine's debut issue. Both lawmakers and lawyers in particular seem to have a unique ability to fragment our society into opposing groups and the media, in general, seems to exacerbate any negative situation. Though extreme compromise is an integral part of the legislative and judicial system, members of those auspicious professions try to enact legislation and litigate laws want to be observed and obeyed as absolutes, leaving little room for compromise among those who have to live by such legislation. It is time that smokers and non-smokers alike realize that there is a bigger issue here whichThe BenMonster Himself the quote from Ben Franklin, at the top of this page, aptly illustrates. One must see beyond the immediate and try to accurately perceive what the true agenda of those who would drastically change our lives really is and, more importantly, who stands to profit from the situation. And in every case, full disclosure as to background, connections, and financial impact of those involved should be made immediately part of the public record.
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   Lawyers, (I, perhaps, generalize somewhat - perhaps not much after all), are after legal fees. Certainly a commonly held belief (for good reason) and though it may sound cheap to repeat,  just look at the fees amassed by the legal teams that brought the tobacco company suits on behalf of the states. Hundred of millions of dollars. There are lots of lawyers and they can't all make a living as bartenders.

   Legislators, albeit rudely obvious to state, react mainly to constituent pressure and you can almost predict a legislator's attitude on any issue by his/her geo-economic base of support - and, of course, those who contribute to his/her campaign. And most of them are lawyers, too.

   Clearly, neither group is capable of making objective decisions about habits that are a matter of personal preference. Legislation that affects the lives and habits of millions of people needs to be open to comprehensive scrutiny and moreover, need to be subjected to approval by the voter.

   It is the issue of taxation, be it local, state, or federal, that most concerns me. If our government is so truly convinced that tobacco usage poses a significant threat to smokers and non-smokers alike, then an all out effort to make tobacco usage illegal should be undertaken. A popular vote and probably a constitutional amendment, much like the 18th amendment of the 20's to outlaw alcohol, would and should be required. Now, of course, it is highly unlikely that any such fiasco will be repeated even by legislators who seemingly have little contact with the real world. So what do they do? They use taxation to rid the world of their perception of, or what is the politically correct perception of evil. Federal, state and local governments rarely ask or need the populace's permission to levy taxes because, when they do ask us, the answer is usually an emphatic, no. Could it be that they just can't sufficiently make the case for their tax revenue requests?

   The taxation of tobacco to regulate its usage is devious, and completely inequitable. The lower and middle income people end up suffering most from taxes on tobacco while the fatter cats can easily absorb the increased cost of smoking. Does government really want to send the message that the health of upper income people is less important? Do they expect all of us to believe that revenues from such taxation are really going to find their way efficiently into the medical treatment/prevention system?

   I believe the idea that government is doing us all a favor by making it harder to smoke is subterfuge. It is time that the general population exercise their right to oversight and control of the legislative process including most specifically taxation. It is high time that full public disclosure of the huge profits experienced by both lobbyist groups and litigation professionals engaged in this battle become a legal requirement to proceed. Until such time that these windfall profits are eliminated, anti-smoking activists have, for me, no more credibility than the tobacco companies. If this is indeed a fight for the public good, let salaried public officials and publicly appointed groups carry the fight.

   I repeat, (while repetition is rude, it is also effective), if tobacco smoke is that harmful then it should be outlawed not taxed. If its usage is accepted but its impact on the unsuspecting or unwilling is the issue, then make it illegal to smoke in certain areas. I can live with that. I cannot embrace a punitive tax scheme that fills government coffers while perpetuating the myth that Generic Q. Public can't grasp logical concepts or make informed decisions without government intervention.

   Finally, we smokers must be VERY considerate of those who do not smoke. Let's not exacerbate an already thoroughly divisive situation. Smoke is like music. While you have the right to enjoy your particular taste, be aware that it impacts those outside of your immediate environment. As mentioned earlier, my overriding concern in this issue is the tendency of extreme groups with the aid of public officials and the media to factionalize our society. A more positive approach with clear, open minded, public investigations into issues that truly affect our health and well being seems to be a reasonable path of government. Only if the resulting data can then be shown to the public to be accurate, and the ramifications clearly defined, should changes found necessary to our society be implemented using the public electoral process.


 

Next month we will expand on the subject of tobacco legislation with specifics on various legislative works pending or passed in numerous state and federal government sessions as well as the aforementioned information regarding lobbying groups, their practices, and their profits.

If you have information regarding pending tobacco legislation in your local or state government, please share it with us and we will, in turn, share it with all in these pages. If you want to keep abreast of pending federal legislation, go to http://thomas.loc.gov for a listing of all bills before Congress. For tobacco-specific legislation, you will have to use their search engine. Look under the Legislation column, click on 106th under the Bill Summary and Status heading. Next, Search using Word/Phrase, and when the new page comes up, type the word "tobacco" in the Word/Phrase box. Here you will find all current tobacco legislation before Congress. Of special note is #25 HR 2579 - To impose restrictions on the sale of cigars.

Hope you'll join us again.
                 -The Editor

Email us with any comments on this and/or any other issues that relate to your freedom of choice.


EDITOR'S NOTE: These reviews are solely for the convenience of people of legal age who already smoke, are trying to cut down on smoking, wish to spend less money on their smoking, want to roll their own cigarettes from high quality tobacco, and, in general, wish to have a far more satisfying, and economical smoking experience when compared with smoking pre-manufactured cigarettes. We, in no way, encourage people to smoke. Further, we prescribe to a sane, more logical approach to smoking that involves common sense as to quantity coupled with a strong desire to manage the habit until it becomes an occasional, freely chosen, diversion, that can be fully enjoyed with minimal health risks. Finally, we strongly encourage those who do smoke to take it outdoors, or to appropriate environments where tobacco can be enjoyed away from those who do not smoke, most especially children.  We do not sell tobacco or related products from this site; We distribute information about our perceptions of the quality of what is available and where it can be obtained. If you are under 18,  it is illegal to buy tobacco and you should immediately exit this site. If you do not smoke, it would seem illogical to start.

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