“Considering how we deal with less harmful drugs, making cigarettes illegal seems logical,” says Tony Newman of the Drug Policy Alliance.
No, neither I nor the Alliance -- a fine group that infuses good sense into the hysteria of the drug war debate -- actually wish to outlaw cigarettes. It’s sad how many Americans support the idea. As Nietzsche once said: “Beware of those in whom the will to punish is strong.”
On CNN’s website, the Drug Policy Alliance’s Tony Newman makes some good comparisons:
Outlawing cigarettes would be just as disastrous as the prohibition on other drugs. After all, people would still smoke, just as they still use other drugs that are prohibited, from marijuana to cocaine. But now, in addition to the harm of smoking, we would find a whole range of "collateral consequences" that come along with prohibition.
A huge number of people who smoke would continue to do so, but now they would be considered criminals. … We would have cops using precious time and resources to hassle and arrest cigarette smokers. Our prison overcrowding crisis would rise to an unprecedented level with "addicts" and casual cigarette smokers alike getting locked up.
We would have a black market, with outlaws taking the place of delis and supermarkets and stepping in to meet the demand and provide the desired drug.
Instead of buying your cigarettes in a legally sanctioned place, you would have to hit the streets to pick up your fix. The cigarette trade would provide big revenue to "drug dealers," just as illegal drugs do today. There would be shootouts in the streets and killings over the right to sell the prohibited tobacco plant.
Heck, even Walter Cronkite, once he was free of the anchor chair, said that “the war on drugs is a failure."
- Pre-October 2009