By Linda Bogardus
La Conner, Wash.
Although I am not a resident of New Hampshire, I believe the smoking bans are an infringement on personal liberty, no matter what state they occur in.
It is always stated by government agencies and the media that there are about 400,000 deaths annually from the use of tobacco products. The current population of the United States is about 300 million. Just once, I would like to see this statistic reported like this: Tobacco products are responsible for 400,000 deaths annually in the United States, or about 0.001 percent (less than one tenth of one percent) of the total population.
Instead, media reporting about this issue always places the singular emphasis on the one big scary number in the absence of any sort of context whatsoever.
I do not mean to minimize any of the deaths attributable to tobacco use; not even one. I would just like to see the statistics reported differently, in a way that encompasses the overall picture of the issue. But certain statistics are deliberately not presented in a comparative manner.
The overly zealous war on tobacco and tobacco users is not justified at the level it is being pursued, per the true statistics; it is merely a perceived threat manufactured by the big pharmaceutical companies selling their smoking cessation products, the media, the government and the do-gooder groups that are all too willing to help spend the billions of dollars garnered from the Master Tobacco Settlement Agreement (MSA) of 1998, thereby ensuring themselves a job and a good salary for many years to come.
What a lucky nation we are to have one of our most threatening public health issues occupying a position three spaces to the right of the decimal point. And what a foolish nation we are to devote so much time, energy and resources to it, especially at the expense of individual liberties and free enterprise. It has only served to create new financial hardships for businesses and tobacco users alike, and, more importantly, divide our nation into two distinct social camps, smokers and non-smokers with all the disdain and animosity toward each other that is normally attached to differing clusters of society.
What the anti-tobacco crusade has done is give neurotic zealots something to grab onto, provided an abundance of new jobs and new tax shelters for all the "nonprofit" health groups springing up all over the world, in addition to creating expansion opportunities for the existing organizations. Simultaneously, the crusade has unjustly punished a minority of law-abiding, tax-paying citizens who have a preference for tobacco use by way of exorbitant and disproportionate taxation and has created a social bias and "labeling" reminiscent of the Jim Crow era.
I can think of no other contemporary issue (a social issue that is thinly disguised as a public health issue) whereby the "solution" has caused so much detriment to our society. Not only have the anti-tobacco measures not helped anybody to any significant degree, they have instead caused a great deal of physical, financial, and psychological harm to many people.