Smokers’ Right: SCHIP and smoking bans

I’m in Manhattan this week, edu-ma-kating the masses on the wonders of virtualization. If you can consider 4 students masses. That said, because I’m at a facility that means limited cigar enjoyment this week. That’s ok. I’ll indulged in the evening. “Mah woman”, as I affectionately call her, had been bugging me to get her some Al Capone Sweets, unfiltered. I had finally remembered to order them the other day and they arrived last night. We each enjoyed our “cigars”, her the Capones and me a NUB Cameroon, while watching NCIS, relaxing the evening away. I had done a few interesting purchases this week and checked out varying prices online versus the B&M (in this case, it’s Barclay-Rex in the Wall Street District).

Ok. So they are a bit more expensive but they are incredibly friendly and have huge amounts of cigar enjoyment experience so that I can ask questions without feeling ackward or out of place. And I like that. I’ve often thought how it’d be nice to open my own B&M cigar store, whether here or in Canada. But the upcoming SCHIP legislation here in the US and stiffer smoking laws in Ontario (and other parts of Canada) might leave that dream be just a dream. Now, I totally get smoking bans, particularly in public places. There are individuals who can have severe asthma attacks and suffer when faced with smoke of any kind. And they are often hard to pick out. I respect that. Ontario’s recent law banning smoking in cars where there are kids under the age of 16 is interesting and it’ll be curious to see it enforced. They’ve even gone as far to suggest that there should be a law that bans smoking in homes with children and sentences and/or fines. While I agree that one shouldn’t smoke around kids, I don’t agree with the police or government going into the house to police this. As the late Right Honourable Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau said on Dec 21, 1967: “there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation“.

He’s right. Laws like this, that are nearly impossible to enforce, catch or monitor, are pretty much useless. While I understand and agree with being respectful of others, at the same time I would expect respect for my own choices. If I’m old enough to drink alcohol, eat junk food (which does far worse to the body than smoking), drive a car, kill with a gun, get some kind of disease or an unexpected child, I would think that I’m old enough to make educated decisions as to where I can smoke and if I will smoke. I don’t know how addictive cigarettes are in comparison to cigars (I’ve seen conflicting reports and nothing fully definitive, largely, I suspect, due to the kind of cigar, method of cigar smoking and quality of the tobacco in comparison to cigarettes) but during my month off from smoking, due to a cold and work, I had no cravings. George Burns lived to 100 and smoked 15-20 cigars a day. It’s too simplistic to say “Oh, you’ll get cancer”. At the very least, let me have a place where I can hang out to relax with friends to smoke and enjoy.

I should have the right to enjoy life too, no?

The US seems to be going more and more down this route as well. While I applaud the Inauguration of Obama this month, it does worry me what SCHIP will be when it goes through (and I have no doubts that it will). SCHIP imposes a tax on cigarette and cigar smoking. Honestly, it should be separated since it’d be like imposing a tax on gas guzzlers and efficient cars. What’s curious about this is that the proposed tax is so high that it may discourage people from smoking and they’ll, in turn, lose their tax base. Given that the market isn’t the best right now and the goal is to create jobs, this may do the opposite, in fact.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand and think that the principle of ensuring that **ALL** kids get medical attention in such a manner that parents don’t have to worry about the financial stuff is good. I do come from a country (Canada) where this kind of health care has been around for years and is ingrained into the Canadian culture. It’s rough times like now that makes that kind of a system an excellent one. And if you look at many countries that has some kind of national health care you’ll find that “sin” taxes aren’t the method of funding for these kinds of systems. If anything, it’s administered at a federal level with disbursements to provincial/state/local levels. Health care for the year 2006 was pegged around $2 trillion dollars. If everyone paid $500 (since not all portions of health care should be covered — just immediate, routine visits, etc. Elective surgeries should be relegated to out-of-pocket stuff), then you’d have enough to cover everything without worry.

I suppose it’s too idealistic to assume that a solution will be found that will please everyone. I would only hope that the solution chosen actually makes sense and ensures that my right to enjoy life as I choose to, without prying eyes into my bedroom, will also be respected.

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