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In a recent editorial discussing the FDA and e-cigarettes,The Christian Science Monitor asks:
Should the agency [FDA] assume that millions of Americans choose to be nicotine addicts, with the federal role simply to make the use of electronic cigarettes as safe as possible? Or should the FDA see this powerful addiction as inherently wrong, both for individuals and society, with the government helping people avoid or overcome it?
To the Monitor’s Editorial Board, I must ask, is it the government’s role to tell individuals and society how to live their life? Is it their role to tell us what is good and what is bad?
As an American, it is preposterous to even consider putting that kind of power and authority in the hands of a government agency which acts on behalf of whatever ruling faction is in place.
We can all agree smoking cigarettes and the general use of nicotine is a serious hazard to our health. We can assert this knowledge because it has been taught to us; we can make better, more educated decisions because of health campaigns and factual literature.
In August of 2012, Gallup’s annual Consumption Habits poll concluded one in five adults in the United States are smokers—a new all-time low, 20%.
In the same year, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) concluded 18% of adults in the United States were current smokers—down over 5% since 1997.
However, in the greater picture, from the 1950s to the mid-1970s nearly half of US adults smoked cigarettes: percentages ranged from 40-45%. In the past 30 years our cigarette consumption has declined more than 50%. What changed?
Dr. Reid Blackwelder, president-elect of the American Academy of Family Physicians, told the New York Times last month, “It’s harder and harder to avoid the message that smoking is a major health risk. It’s easier and easier to find ways to quit. Finally, it’s just becoming more expensive to keep smoking.”
The doctor expressed that he brings it up with his patients every time and that a smoker is more than twice as likely to give it up, if given advice and support from a doctor.
A study from the University of Illinois Chicago, backed by the BMJ Group, supports Dr. Blackwelder’s assertion:
Pricing and price related promotions are among the most important marketing tools employed by tobacco companies. Future tobacco control efforts that aim to raise prices and limit price related marketing efforts are likely to be important in achieving reductions in tobacco use and the public health toll caused by tobacco.
Every state, including the District of Columbia and our territories, has enacted state taxes on tobacco since 1969 and the taxation has only become more imposing.
In February of 2009, when President Barack Obama signed the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009, he also raised the federal cigarette tax to a $1.01 from $.39 a pack.
Though the Christian Science Monitor touts the label “Science” in their brand name, the content of their August 10 article ignores the science and asks for a more aggressive and more authoritarian approach to controlling E-cigarettes:
“Several countries already ban the sale of e-cigarettes, a wise course for the FDA. They see the electronic devices as delivering a drug with no use, even if it does not have all the effects of regular smoking.”
“In taking any action, the FDA must assume people do not want to become addicts to nicotine.”
“The agency should do more than prevent harm. It can also assert that each individual has a right to be free of addiction.”
That last part really got to me: “Each individual has a right to be free of addiction.”
That’s the thing about freedom—it’s all about individual freedoms: freedom of choice, freedom of thought, freedom of experience, expression, freedom.
“That’s the thing about freedom—it’s all about individual freedoms: freedom of choice, freedom of thought, freedom of experience, expression, freedom.”
If an individual chooses to smoke cigarettes or e-cigarettes or even a marijuana cigarette—it is their own free choice to do so. If you consider the endless stream of studies and reports that evidence the dangers of smoking, today more than ever it is an individual choice to smoke anything.
It is more free of a choice than, let’s say, 40 years ago, when studies and education campaigns were all but ubiquitous; when small packs of cigarettes were included in military rations produced by the government.
It is not the government’s job to control what people like, want, or do. If the government democratically (and hopefully scientifically) concludes that certain actions or behaviors exhibited by its people are a danger or harm to society as a whole, it can act as it has with tobacco: studying, educating and coordinating with local governments to dissuade the desire to use. Lead us to the stream but don’t force the water down our throat.
The same should be applied to all drugs—as we have seen horrific consequence to drug prohibition and the methods in which we’ve fought the War on Drugs.
Frivolously throwing around prohibitions and assertions that people have a right to be free from addiction, is not only ignorant, but severely misguiding; it ignores individual responsibility.
These are health and science issues that require health and science professionals—not fat cats and bureaucrats.
Nor religious zealots.
“A government big enough to give you everything you want, is a government big enough to take away everything that you have.” –Thomas Jefferson