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Congressman Tom McClintock

Representing the 4th District of California

HR 1256 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act

June 12, 2009

House Chamber, Washington, D.C.  June 12, 2009.  M. Speaker:  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?

 Personally, I think they’re making a bad decision.  But they probably think others make bad decisions 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 today, 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…”