The ripple effects of anti-tobacco legislation
The Food and Drug Administration recently announced plans to ban the sale of menthol, a cooling agent found in cigarettes. Anti-smoking laws such as the menthol ban sought by the Biden administration follow decades of success in government regulation of cigarettes. What began in the 1960s as warning labels on cigarette packs soon metastasized into nationwide measures targeting smokers. To date, 554 cities and counties retain smoke-free outdoor dining laws, with 82% of the U.S. population covered by smoke-free provisions in restaurants or bars.
At the hands of elitist interest groups, the promotion of anti-tobacco laws was met with little backlash while also having a dehumanizing effect on smokers. Separate sections in restaurants have all but disappeared. Today, smokers indulge their habit outside as pedestrians stroll by with disapproving stares. Most concerning is that laws against tobacco advanced in tandem with the relaxation of drug regulations, with states like Oregon decriminalizing small amounts of cocaine and heroin. Recreational marijuana is now legal in 19 states, with Connecticut approving its use most recently. As a result, Democratic-run cities such as Denver and New York have become open-air drug dens, with addicts freely using their drug of choice as locals are confronted with syringes, drug capsules, and feces strewn across their neighborhoods.
The medical science behind the harmful effects of smoking is irrefutable, and while my personal choice is not to smoke, for the first 15 years of my life, I grew up in a Marlboro red haze with a father and grandfather who were rarely without a cigarette in hand. Both men received a high school education and worked in the construction, restaurant, and dry-cleaning industries. They represent the blue-collar workers for whom the subversion of individual liberties comes easily to liberal intellectuals. The CDC readily admitted that higher rates of tobacco use were found among people of "low socio-economic status." If approved, a ban on menthol cigarettes would primarily impact minorities, with 77% of African-Americans and 47% of Hispanic smokers preferring menthol cigarettes over non-flavored tobacco products.
Serving as heir to the war on nicotine, minorities and lower-wage earners were most directly impacted by stringent COVID restrictions. The ongoing lockdown policies peddled by the left evolved into "nearly half of all black-owned businesses" closing and millions of children, many of whom come from underprivileged communities, falling behind in learning.
The late president Ronald Reagan remarked that "[g]overnment is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." Unfortunately, many failed to heed Reagan's advice and faced the governmental power-grab involving tobacco with tacit acceptance and a shrug of the shoulders. As a result, anti-smoking laws gained a foothold in almost every facet of American life and helped shape government intervention and attitudes during the COVID pandemic.
Irit Tratt is a freelance writer who resides in New York. Her work has appeared in the Jerusalem Post, The Algemeiner, and Israel Hayom.
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