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Congressman Tom McClintock

Representing the 4th District of California

HR 1256 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act

April 2, 2009
Speeches

House Chamber, Washington, D.C.  April 2, 2009  M. Speaker:  Today this house passed HR 1256, which takes tobacco regulation to a whole new level and at the same time imposes onerous new fees that will be passed on to consumers as higher prices.

 The entire debate on that bill was over what method government should use to do so.  Before we close today’s proceedings, I would like to offer a different perspective.

 Many years ago, author and commentator Bruce Herschensohn made this point.   He said, for every pleasure in life, there is a corresponding risk. 

 I think that’s a universal truth: For every pleasure in life, there is a corresponding risk.

 And he pointed out that it’s true that with enough taxes, laws, restrictions, regulations, penalties and lectures, government can produce a virtually risk-free society.  But it will also be one of the most colorless, pleasureless, tedious and miserable societies ever conceived by the mind of man.

 I believe that is the case. 

The health risks of smoking are real and they are well documented.  Our schools rightly make a concerted effort to inform every child of the health risks associated with tobacco products, and they do a good job of it.  Our government warns every adult of the risks associated with tobacco products, and they do a good job of it, too. 

 As a result, I don’t believe there is a single individual in the United States who doesn’t well and fully comprehend the health risks of tobacco. 

 But once those warnings are issued, how much further should government go to make individual decisions for rational adults as they weigh the risks of smoking for themselves?

 Ten years ago, after California had imposed yet another tax on tobacco products, I received a letter from a woman who said, “I am 81 years old and have been smoking my whole life.  If I have to quit smoking now I’m going to die.”  She then went on to meticulously calculate how much the new tax would cost her from her limited, fixed income and asked if I could help.

 M. Speaker, in every society, in every part of the world, in every period of history there is always a large group of people who simply want to be left alone to live their lives according to their own best judgment and there’s always a smaller but more domineering group who believe they’re so good at running their own lives that they are naturally entitled to run everyone else’s.

 Rarely has the conflict between these two groups come into sharper focus than in the ongoing efforts to restrict, regulate, tax, harass, and intimidate individuals who, after weighing all the risks, decide to smoke anyway. 

 Personally, I think they’re making a bad decision.  But they probably think others are making a bad decision when they decide to go skiing or bungee jumping or skydiving or thousands of other pleasures that incur corresponding and calculated risks.

 And I would ask tonight, whatever happened to the notion of personal responsibility?  And whatever happened to the notion, as Jefferson put it, of a “a wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another (but) shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement…”

(end)