I wrote an editor’s note for the July/August issue of Cigar Aficionado wondering about the implication of a proposed regulation for New York City apartments that requires them to have a written smoking policy. Of course, it opens the door for smoke-free buildings, and I suggested, given the track record of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s three terms in office, that it was only a matter of time before this “optional” written policy outlining a building’s rules would lead to an explicit indoor smoking ban in all apartment residences. That’s just the nature of the fight against tobacco today.
But I also warned that there is a slippery slope in these kinds of umbrella regulations. If a government feels like it can get away with telling you what you can and cannot do inside your own home, even if the activity is completely legal, then where does it stop? Too much ice cream in your freezer? Excessive purchases of red meat? Haven’t gone to the gym in two weeks? Shame on you, you are a public health risk. Here comes government telling you how to live.
Yes, you could accurately chastise me for using some hyperbole in trying to make a point. Well, guess what. Since I wrote that article, Mayor Bloomberg has proposed a plan to limit the size of soda and other sugary soft drinks that can be sold in the city. And, again, if you think it stops with commercial establishments like restaurants and delis, think again—it’s only a matter of time before you won’t be able to find a soda or soft drink container anywhere larger than 16 oz. sold in New York City.
Now, we can all agree that obesity is a national crisis, and soft drinks may be one of the contributing factors, especially in young children. And, we can all agree that eating too much fat, in any form, leads to health problems that are becoming epidemic in this country. We also can all agree, too, that smoking three packs of cigarettes a day leads to health problems that affect us all, a fact that has been widely accepted for more than 50 years.
But what’s the best way to stop it? Like the U.S. government found in the 1920s, Prohibition wasn’t the way to stop alcohol abuse. All it did was create a huge underground economy that flaunted the law and instilled a generational belief that breaking bad laws was allowed. Doing the same thing with tobacco, or soda drinks or whatever personal behavior you want to fill in the blank with, won’t work.
We know what works. Education, with an emphasis on moderation. It takes time. And, you can’t try to scare people—give them the facts, let them decide and over time, any society can achieve a balance of personal responsibility and freedom.
Tell that to Mayor Bloomberg. Check out the July/August issue for more details about the proposed NYC law.