Friday, September 25, 2009

New York Mayor Proposes Smoking Ban in City Parks

By Theodore J. King, CRA Guest Columnist

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is now proposing banning smoking in city parks. There was a poll in New York Newsday about this proposed ban.

The poll asked: Is it a good idea because smoking is a filthy habit, even outdoors, or is it wrong because it's in the open air, or do you know?

September 14th, 17% were in favor of the ban, and 81% were against it. The next day, the percentage in favor of the ban went down from 17% to 15%, and those against it went up to 84%!!

It is good to see there are still people who use common sense, which fact brings me to Gilbert Keith (G.K.) Chesterton (1874-1936), a British writer, philosopher, and Christian apologist who wrote about common sense, including the common sense of smoking cigars.

He was a fabulous and fascinating man who wrote more than 100 books and Father Brown mysteries about a Jesuit priest who is as clever as Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot but a lot more humble. G. K. Chesterton also wrote some 4,000 newspaper articles.

Four thousand articles amount to one a day for 11 years!

G.K. Chesterton was a strong advocate of Christian morality but was by no means a dour puritan, and he often had a cigar in his mouth. As Dale Ahlquist, the president of The American Chesterton Society, noted in his book, Common Sense: 101 Lessons from G. K. Chesterton, Ignatius Press (2006), he called the cigar, “My muse...Some men write with a pencil, others with a typewriter. I write with my cigar.”

And because he wrote all those thousands of articles and books, he smoked a lot of cigars!!

Mr. Ahlquist wrote about G. K. Chesterton: “He explains that there is nothing immoral about smoking a cigar. To regard smoking as immoral shows not merely a lack of clear thinking but a lack of clear standards. Lumping the wrong things together as evils blurs the lines between right and wrong and leads to chaos. It also leads to legal and practi- cal confusion.”

And Chesterton was prescient in 1927 when he said, “The lack of clear standards among those who vaguely think of [smoking] as a vice may yet be the beginning of much peril and oppression.” Today, such “peril and oppression” are the smoking bans and tobacco taxes by which we cigar smokers are persecuted.

Mr. Ahlquist in his book stated that the great G.K. Chesterton “defends smoking and drinking . . .as simple, traditional pleasures that have been enjoyed by normal people for centuries. He points out that what society calls ‘progress' usually serves to punish all the things the common man enjoys. Chesterton added, “There is no normal thing that cannot now be taken from the normal man [like cigars, fast foods, etc., etc.]. Mod- ern ‘emancipation' has really been a new persecution of the Common Man and common sense.”

G.K. Chesterton said that, to which I say: Amen -- and let us in Cigar Rights of America smokers fight this persecution in every legitimate way possible, like lobbying our legislators. For more information on G.K. Chesterton:

Drug Paraphernalia and Cigars: Words that Don't Belong in the Same Ordinance

By J. Glynn Loope, CRA Executive Director

There is more trouble in Washington , DC , but this time it's a few blocks from Capitol Hill. It's in the Washington , DC City Council chambers.

An initial group of five (possibly eight) city council members, including Marion Barry, Tommy Wells, Michael Brown, Yvette Alexander and Harry Thomas, have introduced an amendment to the Drug Paraphernalia Act of 1982, known as the “Single Sale of Cigar Products Prohibition Act of 2009.” The very reading of “cigars” in a “drug paraphernalia” ordinance is deeply disturbing, and the reason such a trend needs to stop – now.

The intent of the proposed ordinance is to prevent the use of cigars as a means to marijuana use. The draft ordinance defines cigar as “an individual cigar, cigar leaf wrapper, flavored or non flavored cigar that is referred to as a blunt, blunt wrap, or any other tobacco product that may be used in the ingesting, inhaling or introduction of marijuana to the human body.”
In this draft, there is no mention of price, size, hand-made, machine-made, or other defining characteristics of cigars. While media reports have said its intent is to ban sales at convenience stores and gas stations, there is no mention of them in the bill either.

Local premium tobacconists such as W. Curtis Draper and Georgetown Tobacco view the language as too vague, with John Anderson of W. Curtis Draper stating, “It's scary because it's open ended.” David Berkebile of Georgetown Tobacco intends to join in the opposition. The measure is not without precedent. Just over the border in Maryland , Prince George 's County Council, where ordinances were advanced to require sales of cigars in packs of five, helped usher in a trend with such public policy. That legislation did exempt stores that specialize in cigar sales.

Earlier this year, Mayor Sheila Dixon of Baltimore , Maryland stated, “cheap cigars are becoming popular and these products are addictive and deadly.” The effort in Maryland was praised by the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, stating “Individual cigars are more affordable to price sensitive kids.”

We would like to dramatize how such nebulous policies can lead to unwarranted and unjust actions.

Recently, a customer of Havana Connections, a Richmond , Virginia based premium tobacconist, purchased a $10 cigar, left the shop, and proceeded to drive home. He was enjoying the cigar in the privacy of his car, when he saw the blue lights flashing in the rear view mirror.

When the cigar enthusiast asked what the problem was, the officer said he saw smoke, and wanted to know if he was using marijuana. Obviously, the answer was no, but the officer said “well, I have probable cause. Give me the cigar. I need to test it.”After some protest, he took it; set the cigar down, and the officer proceeded to cut this premium hand made cigar in half, dousing it with a solution to test for the presence of marijuana. Guess what? There was none. The cigar enthusiast proceeded to say, “you owe me $10 for that cigar.” The officer said, no, but you can take it up with our office. He did, and they gave him $40 for his trouble. True story. Two weeks old. Amazing.

In government, especially at the local and state level, one of the foremost contributing reasons to bad public policy is the setting of precedent and others saying “we should do that too.” That's how an outdoor smoking ban makes its way from San Francisco to Boston . That has been the case on matters of indoor and outdoor smoking bans, private property (housing) smoking bans, regulation of advertising and marketing, and the setting of tax policy. Hopefully on September 29, a committee of Washington DC City Council will set aside this proposed ordinance. More so, however, there needs to be a halt to the very introduction of these measures across the country.