House Legislation to Regulate Tobacco: put that in your pipe and smoke it

Here we go again; Representative Henry Waxman of California plans to introduce legislation that will broaden the authority of the Federal Drug Administration to regulate the tobacco industry, an effort that failed this past summer.

Rep. Waxman is not the only person fired up about this regulation, Senator Kennedy, who chairs the Senate’s health committee, plans on introducing a similar bill later this month.

One goal of this legislation is to reduce teen smoking, but the thing about teen smokers is that they turn into adult smokers – think tax crop instead of cash crop. Right now, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) is largely funded with burdensome tobacco taxes. As the Heritage Foundation pointed out last summer:

To produce the revenues that Congress needs to fund SCHIP expansion through such a tax would require 22.4 million new smokers by 2017.

What we have here is a clear example of killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. The federal government needs more smokers, not less, if they want to continue to fund their social welfare programs. This tactic is not new, however, for hundreds of years tobacco has been used to fund the States’ special projects and this legislation might be the coup de grace for the industry.

Remember those ads that said you supported terrorism if you did illegal drugs? I have a new campaign slogan: if you smoke cigarettes you support national health care.

The deeper philosophical issue with this legislation is the idea that the government can make you a better, healthier person. As Nancy Brown of the American Heart Association suggested: “Federal government oversight is necessary to hold the industry accountable” – really Ms. Brown? Who holds the individual who smokes accountable? I am not as healthy as I used to be, should the government put me on a diet?

We must reject this cancerous idea that the federal government knows what is best for the individual and return to the American principle of personal responsibility.

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