Buying Cigarettes
I came - I saw - I bought

Smokers of the World Unite!

"If I know better than you know what I am up to, it is only because I spend more time with myself than you do." ~ Daniel C. Dennett, Freedom Evolves

I was appalled. Not only had the young lady behind the counter in Sainsbury's sniggered at my request for a pack of Vogue Menthol's, but what was truly shocking was the prison gate she had to open in order for one to witness what cigarettes this store had to sell.

Upon asking I was informed this was the new governmental legislation that was implemented at the beginning of April.

This is part of the moral crusade against smokers, which logically will lead to a war on drinkers and fast-food eaters as well - Essentially anything that the state does not wish an individual to do!

Writing in On Liberty, John Stuart Mill claimed:

"Each is the proper guardian of his own health, whether bodily, or mental or spiritual. Mankind are greater gainers by suffering each other to live as seems good to themselves, than by compelling each to live as seems good to the rest."

From this logic, a smoker, just like a consumer of alcohol or fast food has the absolute authority to be the gate-keeper of their body, without governmental interference. However, the puritanical crusade against smokers violates this fundamental principle.

The next potential move from the government is to end any form of advertising on cigarette packets, meaning all packets would be a plain, grotesque white.

Smokers today are unable to light a cigarette without being reminded of unpleasant images from the potential consequences of their actions, yet we do not treat our drinkers or sweet eaters in such a manner - proving that this is a moral crusade. After all, cigarette taxation generates more governmental revenue than is used to treat smoking related diseases, so health is clearly not the issue.

The economist, Steven Levitt argued 'incentives are the cornerstone of modern life', and thus in order to explain the reasons why people smoke, we must examine one's incentives.

So what are children's incentives to smoke?

As the tobacco industry is banned from advertising - they clearly cannot be encouraged from any form of tobacco marketing.

Rather children will always smoke as they desire to be seen as marginally rebellious, radical, and naughty -smoking is simply a method to do so. This is their incentive.

Their brand-loyalty to Marlboro or Mayfair will occur because they prefer the packaging to another brand's. But they will still smoke in the first place. Hence, plain packaging will not work, as results have shown in Canada, where smoking actually increased following the ban.

In the recent budget the government implemented a 'sin tax' increase of 39 pence on cigarettes.

'Sin taxes', according to Mill are "a measure differing only in degree from their entire prohibition", and that to use artificial inflation upon such undesirable goods is only suited "to a society in which the labouring classes are avowedly treated as children or savages".

To put it simply - the government should start treating individuals as autonomous adults, rather than interfering in their lives, since smokers are not ''savages".

This moral crusade naturally has a logical next step. So we must ask ourselves - why end at cigarettes?

What is to stop them moving onto alcohol, fast food, and sweets?

You may think one is being capricious here - yet it is alcohol and obesity that are far greater drains on our NHS than smoking.

So why would such moral crusaders stop at cigarettes if their true intention is the population's health, and the tax bill for the NHS?

When one looks at it like this it is really quite simple. This is a campaign of frenzied moralism that essentially wishes to enforce militant prohibition. Indeed, this point is proven when one simply asks the question - would these anti-smoking campaigners relax their attitude at all if individuals grew their own tobacco, and rolled their own hand-made cigarettes?

I think the question answers itself.

The government so far seem to be acting as if inspired by Sir Humphrey in Yes, Prime Minister, when he notes:

"Something must be done. This is something, therefore we must do it".

Thus, all who care about freedom must stop this orgy of bigotry and moralism against smokers continuing.

As the greatest President there never was, Henry Jackson said:

"If you believe in the cause of freedom, then proclaim it, live it and protect it".

So as this spectre of anti-smoking haunts our great nation, I encourage all who believe in the cause of freedom to stop this militant prohibition against those of us who enjoy our vices, and we must never been made to apologize to anyone for doing so.

Benjamin Lazarus

Freelance journalist and Politics student at the University of Bristol

Published: Thursday, April 12, 2012

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