hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

April 25, 2012

Editorial: Don't worry, they're doing it for your own good

Let's stipulate that smoking is very, very bad for you.

If you don't quit, it will probably kill you, one way or another. It will impoverish you little by little as you plop down $7 or $8 for a pack of cigarettes.

Smoking will stain your teeth, foul your breath, burn holes in your favorite sweater and make your home, your car, your clothes and the very pores of your skin take on that sour, stale smell that impregnates the bottom of an ashtray.

It will make people think you are stupid and a hopeless addict, which you are if you don't give it up.

Yes, smoking stinks.

But so, too, does the arrogance of the army of nanny-staters who want to impose their will on you by issuing decrees on what is and what isn't good for you.

Latest to enlist in the swelling ranks are the members of the Haverhill Board of Health.

Like many other nanny-staters, they want to make it even more difficult, expensive and humiliating to buy and enjoy a perfectly legal product.

Regulations proposed by the board would ban the sale of tobacco products at pharmacies, including places like CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid that are more variety store than drug store.

"Pharmacies are health stores," proclaimed Health Board member Peter Carbone.

Who made him the definer of the purpose of each business is unknown, but Carbone believes "health stores" should not be allowed to sell anything he considers unhealthy.

The Health Board would also bar the sale in any store of cigars costing less than $2.50, a price point meant to discourage young buyers. That rule would cover so-called blunts, the cheap, stubby cigars whose wrappers are often emptied of tobacco to make room for a product that is illegal to smoke.

The regulations would also forbid smoking near the entrances and open windows, including any drive-through windows, of restaurants, bars and other buildings open to the public.

The board has yet to define how near is too near, though it was originally talking about imposing a 25-foot forbidden zone. The final parameters will be decided after the usual show trial-style public hearing

To the Health Board, the need for the rules is clear: They know better than you what's good for you and, besides, other health boards have already imposed such regulations, including that progressive hub of northern Worcester County, Athol.

"Health costs are rising," said Carbone. "Smoking is a proven health hazard, as is second-hand smoke, so to protect the general health of the public we want to stiffen these regulations."

See? They're doing it for your own good.

The trouble is much mischief, and much curtailing of our right to be let alone, can be done under the banner of protecting the general health of the public.

CVS and Walgreens should start thinking now about how they will stock those aisles lined with fattening candy and snack foods, insufficiently protective suntan lotions and allergy-provoking cosmetics once those unhealthy products are banned for the common good.

Because unless we draw the line, this is just the beginning for the nanny-staters whose urge to control every aspect of our lives can never be satisfied, no matter how much ground we cede.