By Tommy Zarzecki
Say… What’s that Smell?
There’s an old saying that simply says, "I smell a rat."
Back on June 22, 2009, President Barack Obama signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (PDF, 350 K). This historic legislation grants authority to regulate tobacco products to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The interesting thing here is that tobacco is neither a food or a drug, yet the brain trust of our wonderful country has put the FDA in charge of regulating the industry.
Now it’s a big industry and quite diverse, including cigarettes, pipe tobacco, cigars, and smokeless tobacco. Those who have created this bill claim that its main purpose is aimed at keeping cigarettes out of the hands of kids. While I agree with that most noble sounding notion, I believe that the lawmakers are full of Shinola and there is a grand scheme behind this entire charade.
As I said, I smell a rat, indeed.
I listened as the loquacious President Obama praised the bill, which he claims will no doubt lower health care costs and of course he barked the rallying cry that launched the SCHIP bill (State Children’s Health Insurance Program) we need to save the children, what about the children, gotta save them god damned kids, yada, yada, yada.
Oh what a load of excrement.
Government officials claim that this is all mainly aimed at cigarettes, keeping the evil weed from the hands and mouths of children. And again, while I agree with that notion, let’s not try to yank our chains too hard, huh, fellas? They say that the bill is not in effect to ban tobacco, but rather to regulate it’s use, how it’s made, how it’s distributed, and to govern its marketing. I don’t know about you guys, but the notion of the government gaining control of an entire multi-billion dollar industry scares the livin’ bejezuz outta me, and rightfully so.
My whole point here is that I think a lot of us can see through the smoke that this is the first step in the hopes of completely banning the use of tobacco and bringing us closer and closer to prohibition.
There is just no way the feds want to police tobacco, they want to appease the stronghold groups like the American Medical Association and the American Heart Association and eradicate smoking completely. But what about us who enjoy an evening on the back deck with our favorite briar and Latakia, Perique or other blend? Do not be hoodwinked by their pseudo noble claims to save the children, they want to take our precious smokes away, and as I said, they have accomplished the very first step.
One of the first things they are going after are flavored cigarettes, cloves, and small flavored cigars. The argument is that this is what the kiddies smoke and this is what we’re going to eliminate first. They are regulating additives and flavorings and if my theory holds true, pipe tobacco is next on the endangered species list. For hundreds of years our beloved tobacco has been infused with vanilla, rum, black cherry, and other delicious flavors and scents. And this, my friends, is an easy target for the smoke Nazis to make that leap from cigarettes. After all, it’s tobacco – it’s evil, and of the devil himself, and we who smoke have become the pariahs of all of society.
There are other concerns for the tobacco shop owners who pay their mortgages and feed their families with the sales of our beloved pipe tobacco and premium hand rolled cigars. Many rumors are floating about and we really don’t know what to believe. One is that tobacconists won’t be allowed to discuss or recommend products to their customers, making it where customers would need to come in and tell the shop employee what he wants. Yeah, that’s just batshit crazy, isn’t it? And, those who handle tobacco may also be required to wear gloves. Plus, no displays for brands or advertising signage will be allowed.
Say, here’s a scary one for ya, and don’t think we’re not next.
In certain parts of Canada, there are laws that prohibit tobacco shops to display tobacco (jars of pipe tobacco and cigars) in the open where customers can see it. They will have to point to a photo in a book and tell the shop employees what they want. If you haven’t heard of this already, it probably sounds like I’m making it up, but this has been in effect in Ontario since May 31, 2008.
Check the links below:
This same ban will go into effect January 2010 in Newfoundland, Canada. http://www.health.gov.nl.ca/health/tobacco_act/default.htm
Here’s one brave retailer trying to fight this law in Canada:
Display Restrictions for Tobacco Products
Tobacco products cannot be displayed in a retail store. This means:
• tobacco products must be stored and sold in a way that prevents consumers from seeing them before they are purchased; and
• tobacco products must not be visible to a person outside of the store.
The Tobacco Control Act does not specify how a retailer should ensure that the tobacco products are not visible. Options available for retailers to ensure tobacco products are not visible include the use of drawers, cabinets with doors, curtains and under counters.
Wow… insane you say? Unconstitutional you say?
Maybe you thought I had the Chicken Little thing going earlier on, but it’s possible that you’re a little more convinced that the government has indeed taken the first step in eliminating tobacco from the American public. It’s happening directly above our border and I’m thoroughly convinced that we’re next in line for Big Brother to successfully save us all from ourselves.
Believe it or not, there are actually those in our government that are against this legislature. Kentucky senator, Jim Bunning vehemently opposes the bill. (See his plea to the senate at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l5fJf22QyPE)
Senator Bunning feels the department of agriculture should govern the tobacco industry and not the FDA.
Of course since it is an agricultural product, that would make perfect sense but when did anything our full-time paid officials did make any real sense? Bunning is particularly worried that American tobacco farmers (many from his home state) will lose their lively hoods. He notes that it’s a very big business for farmers that have been around for hundreds of years and have contributed greatly to the country’s economy. And he also makes sure to note over and over that tobacco is still a legal product in this country. In a recent interview with the Charlotte Observer, North Carolina senator Kay Hagan also noted, "It’s a legal product, I don’t want to do anything that would harm the industry in North Carolina."
So what does this all mean? It means we better stand up and fight for the civil liberties that are getting stripped away from us on a daily basis. Since 1998, the tobacco industry has spent nearly $308 million in lobbying to block the bill. It seems they haven’t done a very good job, now have they? It’s up to us who love our Meerschaum, Calabash, and Briar to stand up to this Nazi-esque fascism head on. First it’s our pastime of tobacco, and then what? Just how long is it before all our heads are bald and we’re outfitted with gray jumpsuits like the mindless drones in the famed Macintosh 1984 commercial?
I definitely smell a rat my friends. And after my little diatribe, here, I hope you’re getting a good whiff of the stench, too.
Tommy Zarzecki, aka the Zman, lives in northern New Jersey and is a feature writer for Cigar Magazine as well as the writer and editor-in-chief of the weekly column, JR Cigars Blog With the Zman (www.jrcigars.com). Tommy’s latest venture is his website, PLANET ZMAN, the Official Portal to All Things Manly – a site dedicated to the Man’s Man in all of us. (www.planetzman.com)
Another article by the "ZMan" –Oh Yes, My Friends, Pipes are Cool Again