By Mark David Blum, Esq.
Apparently once again Lovie Winslow, the only non working member of the County Legislature (she never attends any meetings) is pushing this new law to raise the age at which you can buy cigarettes in this County to age 19. Serving no real benefit, the great and invisible Winslow pushes this bill as part of her annual bowel movement for attention for re-election. In no uncertain terms, not only is the idea a bad one, but Winslow is wasting thousands of taxpayer dollars every time she raises this issue. We all know the concept is stupid yet we tolerate her move and turn one against the other while real issues go ignored. The motto and call to alarm is “if we can save just one life”, the inconvenience is worth it.
It is without a doubt the stupidest argument ever made by a Legislator when they say, “if it saves just one life it was worth it.” President Lyndon Johnson said that, “You [should] not examine legislation in the light of the benefits it will convey if properly administered, but in the light of the wrongs it would do and the harm it would cause if improperly administered." If you ask me, President Johnson had the better idea.
Imagine if we held our police or teachers or even garbage men to that same standard. Our society would be considered a failure at every level. If just one student learned math or if we captured just one criminal or if we emptied just one garbage can, it was all worth it. This type of thinking is the very reason we have the problems in society that we do. Constantly, we declare new ‘feel good’ wars against inanimate objects and in the process, we batter and destroy human lives.
Someone should start figuring out how Onondaga County taxpayers are going to fund Ms. Winslow’s holy crusade. Yes, the state is stepping in and throwing OUR tax dollars at Ms. Winslow. But, there are going to be police costs with sting operations and arrests of children. Prisons and jails are going to have to be expanded. Yet another generation of young people will have criminal records and likewise, another generation of criminals is going to be born. Experience has taught us already that for one seventh the cost of prohibition, education is infinitely more successful at prevention of unhealthy behavior.
Prohibition as a policy does not work. From the moment God told Adam and Eve to not eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil until now, declarations of prohibition against human behavior have never worked. Even under penalty of death; humans disregard prohibitions. Some prohibitions are there to protect us one from another and when humans disregard prohibitions thereon, we should punish them. Others, however, are driven by the morality of the oppressors and punish only the individual for his or her own consensual behavior that harms nobody but the individual.
Face it: We have failed as a society to keep drugs and cell phones out of maximum security prisons and as such, we can never ever keep them out of a free society so long as there remains a market. Prohibition just is not the answer to saving even one life.
In a free society, nobody and least of all government, has the right or authority from any source to declare what a person may or may do to themselves. Freedom by definition is the right to be as stupid as you can be, to make as many mistakes as possible, and to live a life of failure and misery. A liberal recognizes only the equality of opportunity and declares that nobody has the right to say one person or lifestyle is better than another. Few if any among us choose to live a life of failure and pain. But that choice is mine and not Ms. Winslow’s.
If our Legislature is truly concerned with the health and education of our children and prohibition is their only option, then perhaps they should rename all the institutions in the County … change the names from “schools” to “Lebensborn”.
Over recent years, smoking by young adults, children, and teenagers, has either dropped or held steady. Unlike illicit drug use which has skyrocketed, smoking among children is down. This result is directly correlated to our heavy emphasis on the dangers and miseries of tobacco use. We did not have to imprison our children to enlighten them. Given them a textbook, not a prison ID number.
Perhaps the better idea for Ms. Winslow is to target fat people in this County. Considering how much more of a drain they are upon society than are smokers, our pandering candidates should refocus on ridding the County of excess flab.
Here is how: Abandon the County Tax Code and require tax payments by the pound. Since our Legislators are so concerned about our physical health and longevity, then perhaps if they use the tax system as a means of social change, we could all live longer healthier lives. Every April 15th, we should all line up at a government office, step on a scale, get issued a tax bill based on our weight ... and step straight into a voting booth.
Torn between whether it is the annoying constant banter in society to quit smoking or whether it is people who themselves set no role model for good health offering their hypocritical guidance, the lectures have got to stop. Either we are a people who pride ourselves on personal responsibility or we are not. It cannot be both.
Before I go further, I want to make it clear that some of my best friends are fat people. A lot of them are pretty cool. I have found they are just as kind and honorable and intelligent as are skinny people. Tolerating their Twinkie stained teeth or the stank of cooking grease on their clothes can at times churn my stomach but I do not object to working with them or dining with them or when I have had too much to drink, having sex with them. Recent medical news suggests that a sedentary lifestyle is healthier. Because there are so many fat people, one can only assume they are seen by many as beautiful and worthwhile. I know I do. If they were not, we would have bred them out long ago; as they did in Beverly Hills. This has nothing to do with them.
What really brings me to a boil is the greater hypocrisy in society. Fat people and smokers make the perfect example of how we have gone berserk in our thinking. We banish smokers, we tax them as hard as we can, they are looked down upon, frowned, ignored, disregarded, and considered “dirty” amongst the general population. At the same time, America is SUPERSIZING up for the new millennium. Airline seats are growing larger. So too are movie theater seats, household and office furniture, and automobiles. More food, fry it well, slather it with something, and don’t forget dessert.
Addiction is nothing more than an excuse. I choose to put that cigarette to my mouth. Only from my pocket can come the fire that burns away the cilia in my lungs. Same too with a Big Mac; unless there is a gun at your head, you are the one taking that next bite of mouth-watering savory deliciously greasy salty fatty carb-loaded machine-separated animal parts. You choose to spend your two free hours per night in front of the television instead of running laps around the block. The same rule applies to alcohol, heroin, and crack. We all make choices in our lives; not all are productive. It is simply ludicrous to blame the drug, the casino, or the Twinkies for our actions.
The day we accept this principle will be the day we move forward intellectually as a species. There will never come a time of absolute uniformity. Nobody can live a perfect lifestyle where everything done is for the betterment of the mind, body, and soul. Even if you did manage to perfect this ideal, still one day you will get very sick and die. Assuming you are not first hit by a bus. They say (whoever ‘they’ are) such a lifestyle is the goal for a longer more satisfying life. A point is made, however, that the years gained come at the end of your life. Personally, I would prefer the extra ten years or so to be between my 20’s and 30’s. Giving me my 80’s and 90’s may or may not be such a good idea depending on my savings and physical condition. It could be a living hell.
We are beating each other over the heads with taxes, insurance, and ostracism as we struggle through the confusion. If I smoke, my medical insurance premium is higher assuming I can get any insurance at all. Life insurance premiums are obnoxious in comparison to a non-smoker. The combined taxes on my drug equal to more than half the cost of the product. Yet, only regular sales tax applies to a bag of Doritos.
Taxation is a means of enforcing social change. We use it to offset losses and raise revenues. “Sin” taxes help moralists and religionists ease their consciences by bringing down the mighty hammer of the Lord upon those who would choose to sin. We want smokers to quit. Excuse upon excuse is made to legally justify enforcement of this simple edict.
Consider the impact fat people have upon our medical system. Heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and early demise are just some of the ramifications. Every one of these disabled or lost citizens is a lost taxpaying revenue generating American.
Also remember the “Dutch” experiment. Reported to me by Christ, the Dutch government experimented with eradication of smoking in society. Performing very well, smoking dropped significantly in their nation. Over ten years, there was a marked decrease in smoking related illness and consumption of medical services. But over twenty years, the backsplash took back all the gains. With more people living longer, consumption of more expensive geriatric, long term nursing care, Altzheimers and other age related ailments, they lost money.
How much longer are we all going to be subsidizing fat people? Why should my taxes be higher? Why should our children go to prison for smoking cigarettes but not for drinking a Coca Cola?
The reason we Americans have congregated and organized our society is so that we can provide for each other’s health, education, and welfare. I am all for free choice in how one lives their lives. Lifestyle choices do not have to always be healthy and good. There is a lot to be said for those who choose to thin the herd early on. We should, however, make available 100% education and 100% health care for every citizen. Part of that should include the cost of helping those who choose to be idiots though it may drive up costs.
The fundamental reason why we should support this position is that we too retain for ourselves that very same freedom. Breaking a leg skiing is a lifestyle choice and we all share the costs of medical treatment and lost productivity. We want the opportunity to break our leg, clog our arteries, or fry our brain. It is not necessary that we do, but to deny ourselves mutual help and protection for doing so limits to a great extent the freedom we all enjoy.
Of course we should respect fat people. Let them eat their cake and their bread. Let our hospitals and airlines burst at the seams from fat people. I have no objection to paying for their sins; so long as they do not object to paying for mine.
Liberty and freedom are at the core of what we believe. If we love our fellow man, then we should step aside and let people enjoy that liberty; even if the decisions made are stupid. The stupidity we protect is our own and Lovie Winslow provides the best example thereof.