Wednesday, February 27, 2008

go VOLS [tobacco]

In this week's Metro Pulse I read about the University of Tennessee taking a grant from Philip Morris to establish the Center for Tobacco Grower Research (CTGR). As expected, there's been a an uproar from anti-tobacco interests condemning the university's supposed support for the death of tobacco-addicted Americans. Douglas Benton, of No Smoking in Restaurants in Tennessee (NoSIR) fame has been irate. "I don't understand why my university would try to help farmers to make more money selling something that has no possible benefit at all to a human."

C'mon, Mr. Benton, give it a break. You got what you wanted. Nobody can smoke in restaurants anymore. And you're still not happy?

[full disclosure: I'm writing this while smoking a cigar. an excellent, satisfying cigar]

It seems that anti-smoking activists will not stop until tobacco is an illegal substance. Their rhetoric sounds familiar to the temperance movements that pushed through the Prohibition. They see tobacco as an unredeemable evil thing, needing to be wiped out from our culture. And if the people don't voluntarily give it up they'll get the get the government to take that right away for their own good, just as they did with alcohol in the 1920s.

Concerning the CTGR: it's an agriculture program to help American farmers grow a legal crop. One that, by the way, is an important part of Tennessee's economy. Also, the Center is not funded by the University, no public money will help big bad Tobacco. And look at the University's seal: you'll see "Agriculture" and "Commerce" written in the middle. The Center fulfills one of the oldest charters of UT. It will help farming Tennesseans compete with overseas tobacco growers and be able to make a living off their land. How is this immoral?

The demand for tobacco remains: it is a legal substance. There is a demand worldwide for tobacco. With the CTGR, Tennessee can help its farmers compete if they so choose. I, for one, would love to smoke a Tennessee cigar.

Just because people don't like being around smoking doesn't give them the right to judge whether it should be researched or grown. Is it bad for us? Yes. Can we still make adult decisions and smoke in appropriate environments? Yes. NoSIR has driven smoking out of public places (which is not a bad thing). But Mr. Benton doesn't need to overextend his zeal into the economics of growing tobacco. Either get the government to Prohibit it, or get off of UT's back.


Anonymous said...

I dont know that I agree with your point of view, CK, but I think you did a very nice job setting up your argument and following it through. Well done.

If I werent so lazy, I might write a counterpoint.

Also I still have not been to the cigar bar. I need to do that.

Anonymous said...

PS. NoSIR is one of the best acronyms of all time. Not better than LAUK though... Or this one: my swim team growing up was called BEST. Brighton Eels Swim Team. You know they were stretching to think of an "e" fish to get that acronym to work.

Mickey said...

By Mr. Benton's reckoning we should abolish a lot of other things: Twinkies, Toby Keith and decorative figurines come to mind. All serve no useful purpose and can be detrimental to your health.

Actually, maybe that's not such a bad idea. No sir.

"The war on drugs is a war on personal freedom." -Bill Hicks

Anonymous said...

Decorative figurines?! But what about my collection of porcelain Presidential Mistresses? I just glued my Marilyn Monroe's skirt ruffles back on!

I would be a libertarian if I had faith in stupid or ignorant people. But I dont.

We like Bill Hicks! At least I do.

ck said...

"I do not like your stupidity, but I'll defend to the death your right to make stupid decisions."
-Voltaire, as a 21st century Libertatian

stan said...

it's the argument we'll be having all our lives: how much personal responsibility are we willing to give to the government?

i will offer no answers but i appreciate your argument, chris. and mickey's. toby keith should definitely be illegal.

actually, we should compile a list of things we don't like that might also be considered detrimental to human 'health' and then form interest groups for abolishing them. if i can't make an argument that convinces someone to stop than i might as well get the government to do my job for me.