Point / Counterpoint: Smokers and minorities have dealt the ruling class yet another blow with the ban on menthols


Now, President Joe Biden’s administration is looking to take smokers even further, this time adding an unfortunate racial component as menthols are used overwhelmingly by African Americans.

Here’s a better idea: let people smoke.

Public health is important, as is the freedom to make decisions that give you pleasure despite harming your own body. Almost every day, we all do something that is not optimal for our health, whether it’s eating a burger or bungee jumping. Whether and how government allows us to harm our bodies is a question ingrained as much in the classroom as in science. If you prefer harmful activities that benefit the ruling class, you’re probably safe. But if your vices are despised by them, be careful.

An interesting question: How many people in the Biden administration are smokers? We don’t know, but given their socio-economic status, it is likely that there are very few of them. Among the “elites” of east coast cities like DC, smoking has become extremely unpopular (believe me), and those who smoke are treated like lepers.

But how many in the Biden administration regularly stop to buy some sort of Frappuccino at Starbucks, which has as many calories as a Big Mac? These same people might look down on those who eat Big Macs on a regular basis. Likewise with soda, which has acquired class-based implications because poorer Americans drink it much more often.

It is true that smoking is very bad for you, and death and the adverse health effects of smoking are a significant problem. Yet despite this indisputable fact, is it still possible to legitimately choose to smoke? Yes it is. People all over the world love to smoke, and withdrawing their favorite flavor decreases their subjective sense of well-being for the same reason that banning Frappuccinos would decrease the well-being of self-indulgent members of the Biden administration. sometimes. Why don’t smokers’ preferences have the same importance?

Some might argue that those who are addicted to tobacco no longer “choose” to smoke, so their preferences don’t really matter. Yet if addiction was the only reason people smoked, that wouldn’t explain why someone starts smoking in the first place. Additionally, millions of Americans who are not nicotine addicted occasionally enjoy cigarettes after a long day, after a big meal, or when they’re at the bar. Often it’s a minty cigarette.

There are legitimate concerns about whether second-hand smoke adversely affects others. Yet these concerns have been largely eliminated by pushing smokers outdoors, off college campuses, out of stadiums and sports parks, and essentially away from all other public spaces. Smokers are now relegated to the back alleys and huddle under the eaves to protect others from potential harm.

Or maybe health care costs are the problem. Yet some studies have shown that smokers’ net health care costs may in fact be positive – and certainly not clearly negative. Smokers will incur more health care costs in their lifetime, but they will also die sooner, costing less in the later years of their lives when a significant amount of lifetime health care costs are incurred. For countries with generous pensions and pensions, the early deaths of smokers could generate significant savings.

It may sound morbid, but our risky choices can often affect public finances. Why are smokers different? Additionally, insurance companies can charge smokers up to 50% more under the Affordable Care Act, one of the few categories that can legally be required to pay more. Meanwhile, states like New York have put over $ 4 in excise taxes on cigarettes. Are smokers not paying their fair share for their choices?

Paternalism is a slippery slope. If your vices become unpopular with the ruling class, prepare to stand up for your right to harm your own body. But first you must stand up for the rights of others – even, in particular, those who love the vices you hate.

Trevor Burrus is a research fellow at the Robert A. Levy Center for Constitutional Studies, part of the Cato Institute (cato.org), an American libertarian think tank based in Washington, DC. He is also editor of the Supreme Court Review of Cato. He originally wrote this for InsideSources.com.

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