The Flavor Police
July 24, 2007
Irvine, CA--Congressmen are haggling over which flavors of cigarette to ban. Nearly all agree that chocolate, strawberry, almost any other conceivable flavor be banned, but there is a furious debate as to whether clove-flavored cigarettes should be a permitted exception.
"The very existence of such a debate," said Alex Epstein, junior fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute, "the fact that the government is dictating anything related to what flavor cigarettes may or may not be produced and consumed is an ominous indicator of the state of liberty in America.
"The purpose of a government is to protect our freedom to live our lives according to our own judgment. This necessitates leaving us free to choose whether, what, and how much to smoke--whether we choose to rationally enjoy cigarettes in moderation or make the mistake of smoking too much--just as we are free to choose how to conduct ourselves in eating, marriage, child-rearing, and business, even though mistakes in those realms are legion. Individuals should be absolutely free to consume whatever flavor of cigarette they regard as most enjoyable.
"On the principle of individual freedom, those who are concerned about the hazards of smoking have every right to work to persuade--but not force--others to choose not to smoke. But the anti-smoking movement and today's paternalistic government reject the principle of individual freedom. On the premise that individuals are incapable of governing their own lives, the government dictates to us what we may or may not do in an ever-expanding number of realms: from medical treatments to retirement planning, to what kind of cooking oil we may consume, to forbidding flavorful cigarettes.
"There is no realm that is off-limits to such a government. Once we accept the government's right to ban flavorful cigarettes, by what principle will we resist when anti-obesity activists try to ban our favorite, tasty, high-calorie foods? Or when 'investor advocates' ban us from making government-designated 'risky' investments? Americans should assert their rights, take responsibility for their own lives, and demand an end to the paternalistic state."
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Alex Epstein was a writer and a fellow on staff
at ARI between 2004 and 2011.