Tuesday, June 16, 2009

New tobacco regulations not too inconvenient for the tobacco industry

The new tobacco legislation just makes me wonder how far the hypocrisy can go. I first heard about this from the GovGab blog which posted about "Tougher tobacco laws."I have given some thought to tobacco regulation before, but this makes me wonder whose interests are being served. As of this writing, Congress passed the legislation and sent it to Obama, according to The New York Times. Let's be honest: tobacco is bad for you and continued use will kill you in the long term. Period. The medical evidence is widely available, and if you need more, this librarian will be happy to help you find it. So you'd think that the powers that be would ban tobacco products the way things like poisons are banned to keep people from consuming them. At the end of the day, this legislation is driven by special interests rather than by what might actually be good for the public.

We have the tobacco industry from the farmers to the retailers who sell the products. Don't want to put them out of work now. So we have to keep the industry working. Then you have the people who consume tobacco products. They buy the products, which keep the tobacco industry going. And since tobacco products are taxed, the government has a revenue stream. The government is not about to give up that revenue. And I could go on and throw in something about how certain parts of the medical complex probably don't really want people to stop smoking. You have to keep those doctors, and especially those insurance companies, employed too. After all, medical care in this country is for profit. I could consider that as well, but I won't for the moment, tempting as it is.

The legislation is just enough for the government to say they are doing "something." It's not something substantial or meaningful. Sure, the companies get to do some more product disclosure and are further restricted on how they can advertise. It likely keeps the people who claim smoking is some kind of personal liberty issue happy. I am referring to the people who don't want the government telling them, like a nanny, what to do or not. Sometimes I do agree with such folks; I dislike the idea of a paternalistic government, and I think people do need to take serious personal responsibility. But government is responsible for watching for the public good, and tobacco use is a public health issue, the kind of stuff that the government should be acting on. However, I know that due to special interests this kind of legislation is about the only token we are bound to see. Just enough to appease those concerned about health but without creating anything more than inconvenience for the tobacco industry.

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