Ian Pike noon, Dec. 8
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- Vista Blues
The New Prohibition--Tobacco Use?
"It's easy to quit smoking...I've done it hundreds of times!" --Mark Twain
First off, let me preface today's entry with my own views of the usage of tobacco products. I grew up in a military family, where tobacco was part of the culture. However, my Dad quit smoking on Christmas Eve, 1979--hasn't had a butt since. Likewise, I smoked cigars for five years, but gave that up when I lost the taste for tobacco. It's not a clean habit, tobacco. The smoke stains walls, stenches up enclosed places, and gets into hair and clothing fibers.
With the way tobacco users are fast becoming portrayed as social lepers, there might come a time when somebody decides to petition their Congresscritter to outlaw tobacco use via the U.S. Constitution. Hey, if folks can petition to outlaw gay marraige, flag burning, and the like...why not try to outlaw tobacco via Constitutional Amendment.
Well, kiddos, before you call your favorite Congresscritter with that idea? How about parking your butt in a chair, pulling out a book on American History, and looking up the period between 1920-1933? This was when the 18th Amendment to the Constitution (and the "teeth of enforcement," the Volstead Act) was part of the highest law of the land. Also known as "Prohibition" and "The Noble Experiment," the amendment outlawed the making, sale, and transport of booze. Church groups and other killjoys finally had their moment in the sun...for it was their impetus that saw the Eighteenth made the law of the land.
However, Prohibition truly benefited only one group of folks...organized crime. Fact of the matter was that in order to get their booze, your average Joe had to go through a gangster to obtain it, often paying through the nose to get what was once lest costly. With their coffers flush from "booze money," La Cosa Nostra and their affiliates were able to gain-and-maintain a foothold in American Society, even after 1933. That year saw the ratification of the 21st Amendment--which repealed both the 18th and the Volstead Act. Still, the damage was done.
Still got that history book? Good, now open to the 1970's, if you please. With the Nixon Administration came a "New Prohibition" called "The War On Drugs." What touched off this hellride was the fact that many of the members of the Armed Forces were returning from Vietnam hooked on dope. That, and the "dope as a lifestyle" mantra of the "counterculture" that came to be in the late 1960's. Enter the War on Drugs. With New York State's passage of the Rockefeller Act in 1971, it soon became fashionable to not offer the users-in-question treatment, but shove their butts into the state pen for a long time. The Feds soon caught the fever with the inauguration of President Ronald Reagan in 1980. This was when the War on Drugs started going full-tilt boogie towards punishment. With the advent of crack cocaine, the Feds revised their drug laws to include a "mandatory minimum" sentence of ten years for first-time users...with execution the fate of "major drug dealers" the feds got their mitts on.
We are still fighting "The War on Drugs" even today. Are we winning that war? Obviously not...for it wasn't Joe and Jane Citizen who saw the benefits of this battle. The only ones who profited were the American Street Gangs, La Cosa Nostra...and the cocaine economies in Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia. Other than that, this is a war that is sucking up tax dollars and human lives--yet is unwinnable at the rate we are going.
Now, close the book and ask yourself this: "With our records against Demon Rum and Demon Dope being as they are, what makes us think we can send Demon Smoke screaming back through Hell's own gate?"
The truth is that despite all of the prodding, moralizing, and outright assaultive behaviour, The War On Tobacco will never be won. Even if you send in the DEA with choppers armed with tanks of Paraquat on a covert mission to take out "Tobacco Road" and it's biggest cash crop?
It just will never work. Despite the major decrease overall in the number of smokers in the United States, plenty of new, younger smokers take their ranks each day. Though it gladdens me to see the number of smokers go down each year, it would horrify me to see another go at Prohibition implemented as the ultimate "anti-smoking" measure.
If we do not learn from the mistakes in our history, we repeat them over and over. And each time, the lesson taught is even more painful to absorb.
Just something to think about. --Robbiebear