Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The NYC Council is Way Out of Bounds on Anti-Smoking Measures

The NYC Council has gone loophole closing crazy. 

Do you know, that if they pass the two latest bills in their relentless war on smokers that everyone in New York City becomes a potential smoker?  Not only that but a potential target of the cigarette police!

They've taken to redefining what constitutes a “cigarette.”  Here it is as it appears in Intro 1021-2013 – Sale of Cigarettes and Tobacco Products:

"Any roll for smoking made wholly or in part of tobacco or any other substance, irrespective of size or shape and whether or not such tobacco or substance is flavored, adulterated or mixed with any other ingredient, the wrapper or cover of which is made of paper or any other substance or material but is not made in whole or in part of tobacco."

Anything can be a "cigarette"! 

Anything can be conceivably "smoked." Just look to prison inmates who reportedly roll many things into "cigarettes" such as tea leaves wrapped in bible pages.

So too can anyone try to "light" anything in order to draw from it by mouth.  However, I point out also that "Any roll for smoking..." doesn't necessarily mean it must be lit, only that there be an intention (or consideration) of "smoking."

Whereby even a taco can be a "cigarette."  It's made of "any other substance, irrespective of size or shape," "the wrapper or cover of which is made of... any other substance or material..."

An ice cream cone, a leaf from a tree with bark in it...  all a "cigarette," according to this, if someone says or thinks it "for smoking."  I presume if someone puts a match to the end of it then it really is all over -- no question at all then it's a "cigarette."

(“You with the pixie stick!  I know what you plan to do with that.  Up against the wall!”)

In the council’s over-zealousness to make sure they've got “cigarette” covered (no doubt instructed by the anti-smoker organizations that provide them with the language for such proposals) so that no one gets away from their smoker-hating clutches they've proven themselves ridiculous.

And that’s not the end of their non-stop crusade to get every last smoker or anyone who even thinks about it.

In the same proposal there's this (all underscores mine):

"Retail dealer." Any person other than a wholesale dealer engaged in selling cigarettes.  For the purposes of this chapter, the possession or transportation at any one time of more than four hundred cigarettes by any person other than a manufacturer, an agent, a licensed wholesale dealer or a person delivering cigarettes in the regular course of business for a manufacturer, an agent or a licensed wholesale or retail dealer, shall be presumptive evidence that such a person is a retail dealer.
"Person" means any natural person, corporation, partnership, firm, organization or other legal entity.
Whenever a police officer... or a peace officer employed by the department of finance, including but not limited to the sheriff, undersheriff or deputy sheriffs  of the city of New York designated as peace officers..., shall discover (1) any cigarettes subject to any tax provided by chapter thirteen of this title, and upon which the tax has been paid and the stamps affixed as required by such chapter, but such cigarettes are sold, offered for sale or possessed by a person in violation of section 11-1303, 17-703 or 20-202 [all license related] of this code,... he or she is hereby authorized and empowered forthwith to seize and take possession of such cigarettes...

Got that? "More than four hundred cigarettes."  Four hundred cigarettes are equal to a measly two cartons.  So if you’re going to stay with friends for a while or heading out of town and want to bring enough cigarettes to cover the time you’ll be away, you cannot carry two cartons plus one more cigarette or more lest you find yourself presumptively guilty of being a dealer (thus needing a license) and your personal smokes confiscated and subjected to a fine. Note that the language is for otherwise perfectly legal (tax stamp and taxes paid) cigarettes.

Finally there’s their smoking gun (wait, that’s a “cigarette” now) – a tacit confession that all along smoking bans weren’t about the alleged need to protect nonsmokers from cigarette smoke.  It’s in this new legislative intent’s language.

All bills open with the sponsor(s) rationale for the proposal.  All three current anti-smoker proposals (one having been dropped just this week) contain the following:
"In 2002, the City launched a comprehensive program to reduce and prevent tobacco use.  By implementing multiple strategies -- including legislation restricting the use and sale of cigarettes and tobacco products..."  (emphasis mine)

As you recall, it was during 2002 that Bloomberg proposed and then signed into law the indoor smoking ban law that ended all exemptions and added bars, pool and bingo halls, etc.  This is what they refer to when said "In 2002..."

Go back to the city documents from that time (specifically from the Dept. of Health) and what they advanced as the rationale then was "protection from secondhand smoke."  For instance see these:

From those, it wasn't about a way to coerce smokers themselves.

From the DOH's FAQ sheet on the matter: 

Q: This is America. Don’t citizens have a right to smoke, even if it hurts them? 
A: Yes, smokers are free to continue to smoke—as long as they don’t expose others involuntarily to cancer-causing chemicals. American democracy has always created laws to protect society from threats to our health and safety. Sometimes limits must be imposed on the right of one individual to engage in behavior that, while acceptable if it affects the individual only, is harmful to others. (emphasis mine)

Only as a "by the way" do you find a stray mention about "also helping smokers to quit" in those documents.  Over 99% of their documents' texts are dedicated to "secondhand smoke" reasoning. By and large it was sold, and all we ever heard, as a "protection" law for non-smokers.

Yet in today's bills the "secondhand smoke" ruse is dropped and the intent of the smoking ban is described the way opponents always countered its intent really was:  "[T]o reduce and prevent tobacco use...[by]... restricting the use... of cigarettes..."   There is absolutely no mention of "secondhand smoke" in any of them.

Just like you’ll find no mention (as of this writing just one day prior) of what exactly is on the agenda for this Wednesday’s full council meeting on their web site’s calendar.  The meeting is noted, the details section is blank. Dirty deeds never get advertised and the perpetrators hide like cowards.