L. Neil Smith's

Number 13, September 1, 1996

Loaded Cigarettes

By John Taylor

Exclusive to The Libertarian Enterprise

         Back in the Stone(d) Age, when I was but a young punk, there were these little pellets that you'd stick into someone's cigarette. When the cigarette burned down to the pellet, it would 'explode', flaring the end of the cigarette and showering tobacco and hot ash all over the immediate area. Great fun!
         Those pellets are almost certainly illegal now, tucked somewhere in a small dark corner of the Byzantine code that is 18 USC, under "Explosive Devices - Other". The Feral government felt it necessary to protect children from the unimaginable hazards presented by such destructive devices. They'll put your eye out, you know. That's why it's necessary that the BATF has dual jurisdiction over such things.
         The First Liar strikes me as the kind of kid who'd load a cigarette. (That's what we used to call it -- "loading a cigarette".) I don't mean when he was a kid. I mean right now -- today. He'd load up one of Warren Christopher's Dunhills and blame it on Steffie. Never mind if Old Bassett-Face keeled over from the shock. They'd just drive him out to Fort Marcy Park, and place him in a restful pose, with an antique Twinkie in his right hand, thumb firmly inserted in the fillhole.
         Not that I'm a conspiracy theorist, mind you. I refuse to believe the eyewitness accounts of "black helicopters" used in the "practice raid" over Pittsburgh some months ago. And the German Luftwaffe really is just here for the weather. For the life of me, I can't understand why the Brits haven't borrowed a few air bases for flight training themselves.
         But if I did believe in conspiracies, direct or indirect, I think I might sign on to one in the latest "public health menace" haze, come wafting out of the White House in the form of executive orders regarding smoking, cigarettes, and nicotine. It seems that -- duh! -- nicotine is addictive. And because it is, it seems to make perfect sense for Dr. David Himmler (oops! make that Kessler) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to urge the Inhaler-in-Chief to regulate, through whatever means necessary, nicotine (and, by extension, cigarettes as "nicotine delivery vehicles") as an addictive drug.
         Well, hose me down and call me a wetland; is that the way things work nowadays? I'll be damned -- it took a constitutional amendment to do for alcohol what The Artful Dodger's pen has done for coffin nails. But somewhere along the way, we got rid of that pesky necessity. Now we can go right to the source, without benefit of ratification. After all, we're doing it for the children.
         OK, OK, I admit to some hyperbole -- we're not banning cigarettes. At least not yet. We're just going to make it incrementally more difficult for people to get them and for the tobacco companies to advertise and sell them. That's not Prohibition, and I'm sure never will be. Right.
         Now why might the President's husband, an occasional puffer himself, do such a thing? Cynical political ploy? Revenge against tobacco companies who favor the farmer's (subsidy) friend, BobDole and his Tar Heel wife? Another tactic to gain leverage over his zombie opponent with the undecided voter? Nope, methinks not -- and here's where the conspiracy comes in. I have come to believe that this latest exec(rable)utive decision is an oblique assault on ...
         Gun owners. OK, stick with me for a few more paragraphs. I'll try to make it worth your while -- or at least mildly amusing, as with a dotty old aunt whose stories don't make any sense, but you tolerate her anyway.
         See, here's how I figure it. If David Himmler and company can establish a beachhead with cigarettes and nicotine, then the logic that got them there can be applied elsewhere. That logic goes like this: cigarettes are bad, because they facilitate the use of an addictive drug. Because people persist in believing that they have a right to abuse themselves with potentially harmful chemicals, the government, in its role of protector of the public good, must step in.
         A secondary benefit of such a strategy is that it establishes a justification for suing the manufacturer of the product for harmful effects. Clearly, cigarettes are not the best thing in the world for anyone save perhaps your beneficiaries. But it is Pandora's box that's opened if plaintiffs start winning suits against tobacco manufacturers. Gun manufacturers will be the next thing smoking.
         Who knows where the trend might go from there? Let's sue Oscar Mayer for all the nitrites they forced upon us by addicting us to their meat (by)products. And let's limit their advertising, which is clearly aimed at luring kids into scarfing that first hot dog, leading to a lifetime of addiction.
         We can sue the auto manufacturers for making cars that crash when we fail to exercise due diligence in our driving. Oh wait, we already do that. (We even "load" the fuel tanks to make them explode, don't we, NBC? Great fun!)
         Because government has had little success in the past 32 years with a program to educate people to the evils of smoking, government must find a way to break the cycle and force people to do the right thing. Since there is no constitutional authority to regulate nicotine (or any other drug) it is better to do so by executive order, and then fight it out on two fronts -- in the court of public opinion as well as in the government courts.
         See the linkage? If not, re-read the preceding paragraph and observe how easily it can be applied to firearms. So I'm guessing that if this works -- that is, if we let this work -- we're likely to see a slew of executive orders banning certain types of ammunition as harmful to the public safety and health. Maybe it'll be frangible bullets, or hollowpoints, or those clad bullets capable of penetrating a certain level of body armor. It really doesn't matter.
         Of course all this is predicated on the prohibitionists' inability to get similar legislation through the 104th Regress. Given the choices available in November, that scenario itself is by no means certain. The Republicans, ever ready to snatch defeat from the jaws of venality, may make this particular end-run unnecessary (the LP having meanwhile abandoned liberties for royalties).
         But regardless of electoral outcome, of this we may be sure. No matter who occupies the White Castle, the serfs outside the moat are due for some further serious encroachments on their few remaining freedoms. It remains unclear how many oxen will have to be Clinton-Gored before we peasants chase the rascals off in a cloud of smoke.

John Taylor is a recovering smoker and drinker, though he stubbornly refuses to acknowledge his persistent addiction to self-defense.

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