Anti-smoking activists infringe on smokers’ rights


by David Morain

Surgeon General’s Warning: This article may cause laughter, anger, a combination of the two and/or complications in pregnancy. Quitting reading now greatly reduces serious risks of beginning to question JEL and organizations like it. Parental discretion is advised.

First of all, I want the reader to know that I am not a smoker. I have never purchased a pack of cigarettes or a can of chewing tobacco in my life. In more than one instance I have been known to light up a cigar, but only for special occasions such as births, weddings, golf and Sundays. I do not in any way condone the act of smoking.

This being said, I’ll get to the point.

As much as I do not enjoy being around smoke, I absolutely loathe those who condemn the common smoker. Those people in the Just Eliminate Lies ads, yapping their precious pink gums off about percentages and mortality rates, are placed at the top of my list with Barbara Streisand and Tipper Gore as those who most deserve fifteen minutes in a closet with four infuriated badgers.

The way these anti-tobacco fascists go after R.J Reynolds and his ilk makes the Salem Witch Trials look like “pin the tail on the donkey.” It seems as though those who run this campaign won’t be completely satisfied until anyone caught smoking wears a red “S” stitched to their shirt.

What those who are so ardently against tobacco don’t understand is that smoking is a conscious choice by someone to knowingly breathe toxins into his or her body.

JEL can bring out all the sob cases about a guy who’s been through emphysema twice or a lady that had to borrow a lung from a goat and I’ll feel bad for them. I honestly will. But you have to realize that these people had full knowledge that every time they lit up a cigarette it was bad for them.

Don’t try to feed me that line about “back in the day” where the cigarette companies lied to the consumer about how harmful their product was. Anyone who believes that inhaling smoke into his or her lungs won’t cause any harm should cancel their appointment with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and report directly to common sense boot camp.

JEL is an Iowa-based organization supported by the Iowa Department of Health Division on Tobacco Prevention and Control (try saying that five times fast). They got its funds from a huge settlement stemming from a class-action lawsuit pursued by several states. On its Website (, JEL answers a few of the “frequently asked questions” that you may have about the group.

For example, in response to a question about warning labels being sufficient, JEL answers: “Maybe it’s just us, but we don’t think that ‘This product may be harmful to your health’ is an adequate warning.” Well, exactly what would be an adequate warning label? For JEL, the answer is: “This product, when used as directed, kills the consumer.”

I see. So on every Big Mac box it should read: “This product, when ingested, makes the consumer obese.” What, not with just one hamburger? Well, that’s the same logic JEL uses when it states that cigarettes are “loaded with so much nicotine, [smokers] almost instantly become addicted.” It’s misrepresentations like this that make me feel very unsure about trusting the so-called “truth” to organizations like JEL.

The group even goes so far as to say that, because tobacco companies use people with tattoos and nose-rings in ads, the companies are marketing to the youth. How about we condemn the soft drink corporations for using cool music and scantily clad women to sell their products? I don’t remember hearing anyone raving about the benefits of a Coke a day.

Why don’t we start making it illegal for companies to use anyone under the age of 35 in their ads? That way, no matter what the dangers, seen and unseen, are of the product, we know that our kids won’t want them. We should shelter them from every possible threat and menace so they grow up thinking the world is fair and every day should be a page ripped from the April 1953 issue of “Boys’ Life.”

People who choose to smoke aren’t doing anything wrong, yet the anti-smoking Gestapo treats them like social and ethical miscreants. They are constantly told in television ads and roadside billboards that their choice slowly shortens their lifespan. In some grotesque instances they are shown. They’ve been kicked out of almost every public place on the face of the planet. You can now see them in their small, huddled masses in the dead of winter, clustered together to share warmth like the homeless around a barrel fire. They even have their own section at the airport, a smoke-filled box with airtight doors. It’s like a damn quarantine.

Kids learn from a very young age that smoking is harmful to your health. When I was in school, we would spend at least three periods a week talking about the dangers of tobacco use. Today, so much effort is spent on this deterrent that the youth is being cheated out of valuable learning time.

Teacher: Bobby, please tell me who won the Battle of Gettysburg.

Bobby: Well, I know it wasn’t the smokers…

Would you sit directly in front of a campfire? Would you take a deep breath while burning your trash? Most of us wouldn’t. It just doesn’t make sense to inhale smoke; that’s why your body tells you to stop by making you cough. But for some people, in spite of all the warnings and constant berating from peers, smoking a cigarette brings them pleasure.

It’s not for everybody; if it were, there would be a surgeon general’s warning that states: “Smoke this product to induce happiness.” For some, it’s a 10-minute escape from constant studying or the monotony of their job.

I used to be a member of Teens Against Cigarettes when I was in high school. Now I only feel shame for the way I looked down my nose at anyone who wanted to enjoy a peaceful smoke. I even went so far as to voluntarily narc on businesses that sold tobacco to minors. If I knew then what I know now, I would have spent my time doing my homework or learning a musical instrument… something useful.

By forcefully taking the cigarette out of a person’s hand, no matter how healthy a move that may be, we are infringing upon the very freedoms and ideals this nation stands for. Anyone who chooses to light up a cigarette should be free to do so without fear of discrimination or badgering from anyone.

It’s their lungs. It’s their decision. It’s their constitutional right.