The Ontological Status of Tobacco

Tobacco Regulation Smokescreen

Have you ever seen anyone sit down at the breakfast table and pour themselves a big ol’ bowl of cigarettes? Of course not. Why not? Because cigarettes aren’t food, that’s why.

Have you ever seen someone at the drug store waiting for their prescription of Marlboros? Of course not. Why not? Because cigarettes aren’t drugs.

Fatuity, thy name is Chuck Muth. Lots of things – chewing gum and lip balm, for instance – are neither breakfast cereal nor prescription drugs, but they’re still regulated for the sake of public safety. Of course protecting public safety couldn’t possibly be the reason being efforts to regulate tobacco as food and/or drug. Nope; the boogymen in the DNC are to blame.

So why, then, do Democrats (and some misguided Republicans) want to place tobacco under the regulatory control of the Food & Drug Administration (FDA)? Well, that’s kinda like asking why lions chase wildebeests. It’s just what they do; expand government.

You want to overgeneralize and caricature lawmakers you disagree with? Fine. Let’s even the score by asking why, in the face of decades of mounting evidence that tobacco products are carcinogenic and highly addictive – engineered to be increasingly so in fact – do Republicans (and some misguided Democrats) continue to defend Big Tobacco? It’s just what they do; whore themselves to corporate interests at the expense of the welfare of their constituents.

Skipping past vacuous defenses of laissez-faire capitalism and the burning of Big Government in straw man effigy..

The Winston Salem-Journal recently summed this all up nicely in an editorial:

“Regulating cigarette sales to adults has no place in a free society. Nobody’s denying the health hazards of tobacco. Most of the smokers who can’t quit sure don’t deny the danger. But if the industry is to eventually become extinct, the forces influencing that ought to involve the simple law of supply and demand. Prohibition proved that limiting supply doesn’t work. . . . Public restrictions on smoking are already limiting demand. But government intervention through FDA regulation would destroy the principle that people are responsible for the consequences of their actions in a world that is far from risk free.”

There’s a grain of truth in that. We need to severely reduce demand. To that end, I suggest that legislators set a more reasonable goal of regulating nicotine as a drug or food additive. By limiting the amount of the primary psychotropic component in tobacco products, fewer people would become/remain addicted and demand would correspondingly drop. Still, attacking consumption and production aren’t and shouldn’t be mutually exclusive. If they were, pot wouldn’t be illegal. Heck, by Muth’s logic, the sale of pot shouldn’t be illegal. After all, the consumers are really to blame. I guess we should leave drug dealers alone.

Ever notice that conservatives are gung-ho about supply-side economics when tax breaks and deregulation are the fruits but get cagey and point fingers at consumers when companies are held to higher ethical standards? Is consumption a primary economic force or just a secondary consequence of production? Make up your minds, folks. If supply indeed creates its own demand, we need to bring the production of tobacco products to a halt, or at least strongly control it, if we want to protect public health, don’t we?

Anyhow, regardless of or right or wrong supply- and demand-side economics are, it’s pretty obvious that any product more addictive than heroin certainly creates its own demand. Furthermore, it’s a product known to cause severe health problems, including various cancers. That’s a problem. People like Chuck Muth aren’t making it any easier to solve.

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About Funky Dung

Who is Funky Dung? 29-year-old grad student in Intelligent Systems (A.I.) at the University of Pittsburgh. I consider myself to be politically moderate and independent and somewhere between a traditional and neo-traditional Catholic. I was raised Lutheran, spent a number of years as an agnostic, and joined the Catholic Church at the 2000 Easter Vigil. Why Funky Dung? I haven't been asked this question nearly as many times as you or I might expect. Funky Dung is a reference to an obscure Pink Floyd song. On the album Atom Heart Mother, there is a track called Atom Heart Mother Suite. It's broken up into movements, like a symphony, and one of the movements is called Funky Dung. I picked that nickname a long time ago (while I was still in high school I think), shortly after getting an internet connection for the first time. To me it means "cool/neat/groovy/spiffy stuff/crap/shiznit", as in "That's some cool stuff, dude!" Whence Ales Rarus? I used to enjoy making people guess what this means, but I've decided to relent and make it known to all. Ales Rarus is a Latin play on words. "Avis rarus" means "a rare bird" and carries similar meaning to "an odd fellow". "Ales" is another Latin word for bird that carries connotations of omens, signs of the times, and/or augery. If you want to get technical, both "avis" and "ales" are feminine (requiring "rara", but they can be made masculine in poetry (which tends to breaks lots of rules). I decided I'd rather have a masculine name in Latin. ;) Yeah, I'm a nerd. So what? :-P Wherefore blog? It is my intention to "teach in order to lead others to faith" by being always "on the lookout for occasions of announcing Christ by word, either to unbelievers . . . or to the faithful" through the "use of the communications media". I also act knowing that I "have the right and even at times a duty to manifest to the sacred pastors [my] opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church, and [I] have a right to make [my] opinion known to the other Christian faithful, with due regard to the integrity of faith and morals and reverence toward [my and their] pastors, and with consideration for the common good and the dignity of persons." (adapted from CCC 904-907) Statement of Faith I have been baptized and confirmed in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I, therefore, renounce Satan; I renounce all his works; I renounce all his allurements. I hold and profess all that is contained in the Apostles' Creed, the Niceno- Constantinopolitan Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. Having been buried with Christ unto death and raised up with him unto a new life, I promise to live no longer for myself or for that world which is the enemy of God but for him who died for me and rose again, serving God, my heavenly Father, faithfully and unto death in the holy Catholic Church. I am obedient to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. That is, I promote and defend authentic Catholic Teaching and Faith in union with Christ and His Church and in union with the Holy Father, the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of St. Peter. Thanks be unto Thee, O my God, for all Thy infinite goodness, and, especially, for the love Thou hast shown unto me at my Confirmation. I Give Thee thanks that Thou didst then send down Thy Holy Spirit unto my soul with all His gifts and graces. May He take full possession of me for ever. May His divine unction cause my face to shine. May His heavenly wisdom reign in my heart. May His understanding enlighten my darkness. May His counsel guide me. May His knowledge instruct me. May His piety make me fervent. May His divine fear keep me from all evil. Drive from my soul, O Lord, all that may defile it. Give me grace to be Thy faithful soldier, that having fought the good fight of faith, I may be brought to the crown of everlasting life, through the merits of Thy dearly beloved Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. Behind the Curtain: an Interview With Funky Dung (Thursday, March 03, 2005) I try to avoid most memes that make their way 'round the blogosphere (We really do need a better name, don't we?), but some are worth participating in. Take for instance the "interview game" that's the talk o' the 'sphere. I think it's a great way to get to know the people in neighborhood. Who are the people in your neighborhood? In your neighborhod? In your neigh-bor-hoo-ood...*smack* Sorry, Sesame Street flashback. Anyhow, I saw Jeff "Curt Jester" Miller's answers and figured since he's a regular reader of mine he'd be a good interviewer. Without further ado, here are my answers to his questions. 1. Being that your pseudonym Funky Dung was chosen from a Pink Floyd track on Atom Heart Mother, what is you favorite Pink Floyd song and why? Wow. That's a tuffy. It's hard to pick out a single favorite. Pink Floyd isn't really a band known for singles. They mostly did album rock and my appreciation of them is mostly of a gestalt nature. If I had to pick one, though, it'd be "Comfortably Numb". I get chills up my spine every time I hear it and if it's been long enough since the last time, I get midty-eyed. I really don't know why. That's a rather unsatisfying answer for an interview, so here are the lyrics to a Rush song. It's not their best piece of music, but the lyrics describe me pretty well.

New World Man He's a rebel and a runner He's a signal turning green He's a restless young romantic Wants to run the big machine He's got a problem with his poisons But you know he'll find a cure He's cleaning up his systems To keep his nature pure Learning to match the beat of the old world man Learning to catch the heat of the third world man He's got to make his own mistakes And learn to mend the mess he makes He's old enough to know what's right But young enough not to choose it He's noble enough to win the world But weak enough to lose it --- He's a new world man... He's a radio receiver Tuned to factories and farms He's a writer and arranger And a young boy bearing arms He's got a problem with his power With weapons on patrol He's got to walk a fine line And keep his self-control Trying to save the day for the old world man Trying to pave the way for the third world man He's not concerned with yesterday He knows constant change is here today He's noble enough to know what's right But weak enough not to choose it He's wise enough to win the world But fool enough to lose it --- He's a new world man...
2. What do you consider your most important turning point from agnosticism to the Catholic Church. At some point in '99, I started attending RCIA at the Pittsburgh Oratory. I mostly went to ask a lot of obnoxious Protestant questions. Or at least that's what I told myself. I think deep down I wanted desperately to have faith again. At that point I think I'd decided that if any variety of Christianity had the Truth, the Catholic Church did. Protestantism's wholesale rejection of 1500 years of tradition didn't sit well with me, even as a former Lutheran. During class one week, Sister Bernadette Young (who runs the program) passed out thin booklet called "Handbook for Today's Catholic". One paragraph in that book spoke to me and I nearly cried as I read it.
"A person who is seeking deeper insight into reality may sometimes have doubts, even about God himself. Such doubts do not necessarily indicate lack of faith. They may be just the opposite - a sign of growing faith. Faith is alive and dynamic. It seeks, through grace, to penetrate into the very mystery of God. If a particular doctrine of faith no longer 'makes sense' to a person, the person should go right on seeking. To know what a doctrine says is one thing. To gain insight into its meaning through the gift of understanding is something else. When in doubt, 'Seek and you will find.' The person who seeks y reading, discussing, thinking, or praying eventually sees the light. The person who talks to God even when God is 'not there' is alive with faith."
At the end of class I told Sr. Bernadette that I wanted to enter the Church at the next Easter vigil. 3. If you were a tree what kind of, oh sorry about that .. what is the PODest thing you have ever done? I set up WikiIndex, a clearinghouse for reviews of theological books, good, bad, and ugly. It has a long way to go, but it'll be cool when it's finished. :) 4. What is your favorite quote from Venerable John Henry Newman? "Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt." 5. If you could ban one hymn from existence, what would it be? That's a tough one. As a member of the Society for a Moratorium on the Music of Marty Haugen and David Haas, there are obviously a lot of songs that grate on my nerves. If I had to pick one, though, I'd probably pick "Sing of the Lord's Goodness" by Ernie Sands.

3 thoughts on “The Ontological Status of Tobacco

  1. John

    Also, he’s just ill-informed:

    “… between killer spinach, bird flu, mad cow and salmonella-laced peanut butter, one would think the FDA has a full plate already.”

    Spinach, beef and peanut butter would all fall under the jurisdiction of the USDA.

  2. Lightwave

    Another fallacy with the using the free-market theory is that if individual consumers are allowed to individually choose a harmful product, they will individually bear the consequences.

    This is not true. Since health care for those most likely to be suffering the ill-effects of the product is heavily subsidized by tax-payers (i.e. Medicare), the entire economic equation of cost/benefit is not based on free-markets. Much of the cost side of the equation is in later health-care. Essentially, government, through subsidized health programs, is artificially decreasing the cost of tobacco products.

    The only solutions are to 1) eliminate subsidized heath care (and remember we can’t even adjust social security…just try messing with health care) or 2) Artificially increase the cost of tobacco products to offset the artificial decrease due to subsidized health care. The net result should be that the prices of tobacco products should skyrocket with the prices of healthcare.

  3. Steve Nicoloso

    Why should government solve “problems”? Why should the Federal Government solve “problems”? I ask this as a serious question.

    It seems you’d have a good natural law argument for the “government” to provide security to persons (against criminals and foreign invations), but it is really hard to get much beyond that (within natural law). I’m no libertarian, far from it, and I have no problem with communities enforcing their collective will on their own, but addressing tobacco and/or nicotine at the Federal level (or health care for that matter) seems… well… like trying to use a sledge hammer to pound 400 finish nails at once… It’s bound to have consequences worse than any potential benefits. (In health care and agricultural sectors, it seems clear that it already has.)

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