Sunday, July 28, 2013

We Don't Need a Smoking Amendment to Recognize the Right to Smoke

This letter appeared in the New Jersey Star-Ledger on May 23, 2013:

The tobacco amendment?Imagine if the Founding Fathers had written an amendment to support the South’s important tobacco industry, providing that the right to smoke must not be infringed. Had that happened, there would be people today — though smoking is a major health issue — saying that any government regulation of tobacco would be an act of tyranny. To those people, once in the Constitution, forever frozen in the mind.
And there would be an all-powerful lobby so there would be no warning labels on cigarettes, no age limits on smoking. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration would be prevented from researching smoking’s health dangers, and smoking in schools would be encouraged.
Pete Thurlow, Bernardsville

I left these comments:

In fact, Mr. Thurlow, there is a right to smoke recognized by the constitution. Inalienable rights are not and were not intended to be limited by those listed in the amendments. The Ninth Amendment makes this clear. It states: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.[1]"

Rights are guarantees to the individual's freedom of action in a social context, so long as those actions do not infringe on the same rights of others. Smoking is as much a right as gun ownership, freedom of speech or religion, etc. Therefor, government restrictions and regulations, other than those pertaining to minors, are tyranny. Smoking is certainly a health hazard, which is why children should be legally protected from its effects. But, as to consenting adults, the government has no right to impose restrictions or discriminatory taxation. It's no one's business what an adult does with his own body. (The fact that government heathcare policy forces others to pay for smokers' health problems is the fault of those illegitimate, rights-violating policies and programs--e.g., Medicare, Medicaid, Insurance mandates, etc.--which should be repealed.)

The original amendments are redundant. Rights, properly understood, are inalienable, and cover a range of actions that goes well beyond that narrow list. The purpose of the constitution is not, as you imply, to protect any particular industry or other narrow economic interests. The (long forgotten) purpose of the constitution is to restrict government to its only proper purpose; to protect individual rights, including property rights and the freedom of production and trade.

Related Reading:

Rights are Inalienable, not an Electoral Privilege

On This Constitution Day, Remember the Declaration of Independence 

Where Does Valid Law End and Regulation Begin?

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