We must be getting close to an election.
When former NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn was sliding in the polls in the 2013 race for mayor due to supporter dismay at her softened stances on issues important to them she reached for a mob-pleasing shield: A new anti-smoker law. She ushered through a law that raised the sales age for cigarettes from 18 to 21. That she failed to win the election is beside the point.
Today, as the next election approaches, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio has suddenly lifted aloft the same shield. Out of darkness come ten proposals assaulting smokers.
I say out of darkness because he’s already had four years in office with barely an anti-smoker peep. That was Bloomberg’s signature and it’s no secret that de Blasio didn’t like him or want to be seen in his shadow. Vision Zero – a traffic plan – has been de Blasio’s legacy choice. de Blasio even says this has all been sitting on his desk for a year. So why pick now to be Bloomberg reincarnated and go after smokers? Insurance.
Truthfully, de Blasio is not in the same position Quinn was. With no other viable candidates (at the moment anyway) the expectation is that he will easily secure a second term. But why risk it, right? Using a “blunt instrument” to beat down the hated minority who smokes or might dare to one day is a bipartisan group activity. Every vote counts.
The mayor painted the ugly picture all too well when some days ago he all but said that informed adults who choose to enjoy this legal product didn’t deserve recognition as people. He said it’s not about individual rights, it’s about public health, don’t you know? That way of thinking failed to fly, and rightfully so, with AIDS patients. Their rights came ahead of public health fears associated with the disease. But choose to buy this legal product? Sorry, your right as a human being to be free from abuse for your legal lifestyle choice is held in contempt and stomped upon.
But in de Blasio’s zeal to ensure that it’s really his life (as mayor) that survives another day, the consequences of these ten bills – sponsored by council members at his request and as willing accomplices – do compel a special form of congratulations.
- Int 1140-2016, sponsored by Council Member Fernando Cabrera, seeks to prohibit smoking and vaping (of electronic cigarettes) in vehicles when a child under the age of 8 is present.
Congratulations for giving police officers a beautiful way to get around the clamp down on stop, question and frisk! Pulling people over for something as inane as smoking as an excuse to probe for more is a gift. I should know. I’m retired NYPD.
- Int 0977-2015, sponsored by Council Member Donovan J. Richards, will ban smoking inside apartments of city financed buildings.
Congratulations for putting more minorities out of their homes to loiter on the sidewalks and attract the attention of the police while the more affluent get to remain comfortably and safely in their homes!
- Int 1544-2017, sponsored by Council Member Corey D. Johnson, increases the floor price on a pack of cigarettes from $10.50 to $13.00. It also raises the price and tax on cigars, little cigars, smokeless tobacco, shisha and loose tobacco.
Congratulations for increasing the number of “buttleggers” ready to meet the demand for lower cost smokes (New York already has the highest rate of cigarette smuggling in the country at over 55%.)
So congratulations too for making it easier for minors to buy cigarettes! Teens know better than anyone else where to get “the goods.” (Where do you think they get their pot?) And unlike stores no carding!
Congratulations for helping to fund terrorism and using those minors and adults to do so! Terror-tied individuals are well known to take advantage of this lucrative endeavor created by our politicians. Better a bomb that no one invites than freedom to make an invited, informed legal choice, right?
Congratulations for creating an even greater incentive to burglarize and rob bodegas and convenience stores! Many times the details in a news report include the fact that cartons of cigarettes were targeted during these crimes. And hey, that’s more illicit street sales to minors. Way to go!
And a really hearty handshake and congratulations for beating out your competitor – the tobacco industry – by making more money off the sale of a pack of cigarettes than they do! Who is it really that is in the business of selling cigarettes these days?
The remaining bills cause more grief for the stores than individuals but the target is individuals nonetheless. These poor store owners are the collateral damage on the war on smokers.
The media might be complicit in framing all of this as a business issue, restricting their stories to how it affects them, but make no mistake, it’s private individuals who the media ignores who are the victims. Imagine the outrage if the issue was about closing down gay bars and the media sought out the bar owners to ask how it would hurt their pockets while failing to seek the opinions of the LGBTQ community. It’d never happen. Yet not so in this case. (My apologies to the gay community for singling them out – I’m actually in your corner – but it does make the best analogy.)
One need only to turn to the stories coming out of the Mid East to understand what is really going on here despite the assertions to the contrary coming from men and women abusing their white coats and men and women abusing the power of their elected office to coo that they are only trying “to save lives” while snuffing out one’s choice of how to live.
Not the only but the latest, the NY Times headline reads, “After ISIS, Smoking Openly to Feel Free.” It speaks for itself. But read the story anyway to find out how the Iraqi man liberated from the Islamic State explains the state of his own being under their rule that included being subjected to the anti-smoker mindset. Then consider that right now, members of tobacco control and elected official sympathizers in the U.S.A. are shaking their head over his smoking display. They’ll tell you that it’s only the nicotine talking!
Whose side are they on?