May 27, 2022


Banning Menthol Cigarettes Is The Government’s Latest Attempt to Save Us From Ourselves

By: Brittany Hunter

There is nothing the government loves more than protecting us from ourselves. 

In the 1920s, prohibition was going to save the American people from alcohol-induced moral depravity. 

In the 1970s, the war on drugs was going to save young people from ruining their lives with marijuana. 

While time has since proven both prohibition and the war on drugs to have been not only ineffective, but detrimental to Americans, the nanny state does not appear to have learned anything from its past mistakes. 

And in the spirit of restricting individual freedom “for our own good,” the Biden Administration is set to propose a ban on the sale of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars. 

The proposed FDA ban on menthols is a continuation of the “war on flavored tobacco products” that the administrative state has been waging for years. The justification has always been that flavored cigarettes are more appealing to teens and young adults. 

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said:

“The proposed rules would help prevent children from becoming the next generation of smokers and help adult smokers quit.”

The “think of the children” hysteria is run of the mill when it comes to looking for reasons to support government bans. 

But rather than focusing solely on the threat to young people, the administration has dubbed this proposal a “health equity” initiative, claiming that government action is needed to keep the black smokers safe … from their own choices. 

Becerra continued: 

“… the proposed rules represent an important step to advance health equity by significantly reducing tobacco-related health disparities,” he added.

When we break it down, it’s true that the number of black smokers who use menthol cigarettes is drastically larger than the number of white smokers. According to The New York Times, 85% of black smokers use menthol while only 25% of white smokers use menthol cigarettes. 

And it’s also true, according to the CDC, that black males have the highest rates of lung cancer. 

Be that as it may, to assert that a nationwide ban must happen in order to save an entire community from itself is condescending, at best. It also perpetuates the belief that it is the administrative state’s job to save us from ourselves. 

At the end of the day, only the individual has the right to choose what goes into their bodies. 

In that vein, the individual is also responsible for the consequences that arise from whatever substances they choose to put into their bodies. 

There is no doubt that smoking is hazardous to your health, and you’d be hard-pressed to find any smokers who disagree with that. As tragic as it may be if a person gets lung cancer from smoking, that is a risk they knew they were taking. 

The government is not some benevolent entity whose entire purpose is to ensure the health and safety of each and every one of us. And given their track record on health, we should be immensely concerned when they try to assume this role. 

Corn syrup, for example, has been linked to a plethora of health conditions and diseases, including cancer. Yet, the corn industry is heavily subsidized by the government and corn syrup has never been threatened with bans by health officials—nor should it. 

Like all things, what we choose to consume should be entirely up to us.

Bad habits, even unhealthy habits, should not be banned or criminalized. 

In his brilliant essay, Vices Are Not Crimes, Lysander Spooner spoke of the importance of not outlawing behavior just because a governing body deems it immoral or, in this case, unhealthy. 

Spooner found it absurd that the government would pass laws banning behavior that had no impact on others. A drug user, for example, is physically harming himself with his addiction. An alcoholic is harming himself with her drinking. But that choice is not causing bodily harm to others.

As Spooner wrote:

“Vices are those acts by which a man harms himself or his property. Crimes are those acts by which one man harms the person or property of another. Vices are simply the errors which a man makes in his search after his own happiness.”

Yet, even though there is no other victim, the government has deemed each person a victim of their own choices and declared themselves our benevolent saviors. 

The government can’t save anyone from themselves, but they can make things a whole lot worse. 

During prohibition, organized crime rose dramatically and with more laws to enforce, prohibition created more criminals and altercations with the police.

Likewise, the war on drugs led to a rise in dangerous and violent cartels. It also turned nonviolent people into criminals, which resulted in a steep rise in our prison population. 

In both instances, pushing substances underground to the black market makes them less safe and makes it harder for users to test what they take before putting it in their bodies.

Banning menthol cigarettes won’t make them disappear any more than the war on drugs eradicated cannabis use. And treating black smokers like they are incapable of making their own health decisions is a symptom of the government’s savior complex. 

“No one is coming to save you,” wrote psychologist Nathaniel Branden. Only you can do that. The government apparently never read that book.