I don't smoke. In just shy of forty-three years, not once have I fallen prey to the spell of the Marlboro Man or any of those slinky types who hawk Virginia Slims in every magazine this side of National Geographic. And no, I'm not thinking of starting. But I just might go pick up a couple of cartons of America's favorite drug-delivery device, just to spite the Clinton administration and its new tobacco regulations.
After perusing the list of decrees, it occurs to me that what the sons of Big Brother really wanted to do was ban tobacco outright. But they didn't have the stones to say so. Instead, they trotted out the usual blather about "protecting the children", a phrase so overused now as to be effectively meaningless, even in the context of American politics, itself effectively meaningless, and proceeded to concoct a series of restrictions that, in sum, will make it extremely difficult to market the product to adults, while slowing down determined children hardly at all.
The vending-machine ban is amusing in itself. As I read the rule and the FDA's Dr Kessler confirms in a radio interview (NPR's All Things Considered, 23 August) the machines are not allowed anywhere children might be, which is defined as anywhere children are not legally barred from entering. Whether there are likely to be any children there or not doesn't matter. I've never been to the Chicago Tribune's break room, but I have a feeling it's not a popular destination for youngsters. Regardless, the Trib's (presumably) hard-bitten journalists will have to brave the wind and walk down the street to a convenience store to score a pack of smokes, for the sake of some four-year-old who's never even been in the building.
The Feds also react with horror to tobacco sponsorship of sporting events, pointing out that cigarette advertising is actually visible on the premises. Well, duuuhh!
The GOP's standard-bearer, unfortunately, botched this one. While Bob Dole certainly recognizes the egregiousness of the Clinton actions, which are legally questionable and which will not work, Dole has called for the government to shift its efforts toward the so-called War on (illegal) Drugs, which is legally questionable and which will not work.
And so we continue to slouch towards totalitarianism of one form or another, and given the predilections of this writer, it's perhaps a useful reminder that the Democrats are every bit as much in thrall to a cabal of evil twerps who want to rule the world (the cadre of post-Nader "reformers") as are the Republicans (the Christian Coalition and friends). You can be sure that both sides will continue to suggest new ways to make life in these United States unbearable, and pass them off as means of protecting the children. For the Clintonistas, I have but one question (well, two questions, actually): You think Joe Camel is a threat? Have you seen Barney lately?
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Copyright © 1996 by Charles G. Hill