Democracy? We don’t need no stinkin’ democracy!

Greetings from Loony Massachusetts, the second goofiest state in the country!

This one has me really riled up! It may seem at first like a local issue, but it is already happening in other parts of the country. The implications here are ominous, not just for smokers, but for the very concept of representative democracy.

According to an article in the Boston Globe yesterday, “cigarette sales at Boston drugstores and on college campuses would be banned under sweeping new tobacco control rules likely to win initial approval today from health regulators.” Furthermore, after a five-year grace period, the city would close cigar bars, which are the only remaining public establishment where people can smoke indoors. It would seem that the Public Health Commission finds the sale of tobacco products to be “incompatible with the mission of a drugstore.”

They did not offer any rationale for the closing of the few remaining cigar bars in the city. But then, they didn’t really have to, did they?. The Public Health Commission doesn’t like smoking. THAT’S the rationale. The sad truth is, in this city, they don’t need any other.

What I find more disturbing about this than anything is that a handful of non-elected bureaucrats believe that it is up to them to decide what the “mission” of a private business should be. What is genuinely troubling here is that the Boston Public Health Commission is answerable to NO ONE except the Mayor. They do NOT answer to the City Council, and therefore, by extension, they are not answerable to the people. They have complete autonomy to pass whatever laws they wish irrespective of the wishes of the people. Of course, they call them “regulations” rather than laws, but what’s the difference, really? The head of the Commission is for all practical purposes a dictator when it comes to any matter that she perceives to be a matter of public health. And yet these non-elected bureaucrats, who make no effort at all to hide their anti-tobacco agenda, are in a position to dictate that a private business cannot sell tobacco, even though tobacco is a completely legal product that is, by the way, still enjoyed by millions of people.

Their pitch that selling tobacco is incompatible with the “mission” of drugstores is nothing more than a red herring. Drug stores nowadays are, for all intents and purposes, glorified convenience stores. You can buy many, many things at a drug store that have nothing to do with medicine. In fact, you can buy a lot of things there that are quite bad for your health, such as candy, junk food, and tonic (what the rest of the world outside Boston calls soda pop). So is the Public Health Commission proposing banning the sale of those things in drug stores and college campuses? No, of course not.

This alone demonstrates the utter hypocrisy of the Commission regarding this issue. This is NOT about improving public health. That goal was achieved several years ago when Boston, and in fact the entire Commonwealth of Massachusetts, passed laws making it illegal to smoke indoors, with only private homes and cigar bars as the exception. Massachusetts is 99.9% smoke free. The public is in no danger from second hand smoke (not that they ever were in the first place).

This brings me to my next point. What I find even more disturbing in this article is the Commission’s stated goal of closing cigar bars within five years. It is unthinkable that in a free society that non-elected officials can, on a whim, CLOSE DOWN NOT JUST A BUSINESS, BUT AN ENTIRE INDUSTRY THAT IS SELLING A LEGAL PRODUCT!!!!

Sorry, didn’t mean to shout there, but this one makes me truly angry! They claim to be concerned about the health of the employees, but this is ineffable rubbish. Employees who work in cigar bars are almost ALWAYS cigar smokers themselves who not only were aware that smoking was allowed in these places, but in fact sought employment there for that very reason! If the Public Health Commission is truly so concerned about the welfare of these employees, it should reconsider its decision to throw those employees out of work.

What this is about is no less than Prohibition through the back door. As things stand now, there is certainly no shortage of smoke free bars in Boston, for the simple reason that they’re ALL smoke free. So why can’t there be a few places where people who enjoy smoking (and there are many, many of us still out there) can do so? I can think of no rational reason to eliminate the city’s three or four remaining cigars bars except anti-smoking zealotry. A handful of anti-tobacco zealots, not satisfied with banning smoking in bars, restaurants, and workplaces throughout the city, want to stamp out smoking altogether–under the now disingenuous pretext of “public health”– by outlawing the last few places where people who like to smoke can do so in a welcoming environment, while not in any way inconveniencing non-smokers.

But the real danger in all of this is not the further harassment of smokers here in Boston, although that certainly is an issue here. What is happening here is nothing less than the erosion of representative government. As I stated before, the Public Health Commission does not answer to the City Council. What this means is that I can get on the phone and talk to my city councilor until I’m blue in the face, and even if he or she happens to agree with me, the councilor cannot do anything. This is not how representative democracy is supposed to work. When a handful of appointed bureaucrats can trump the power of the people’s elected representatives, then democracy begins to die a slow death.

This may not generate a lot of ire in the populace, simply because, once again, it’s only the smokers who are getting shafted, and no one really cares about what smokers want, right? But just remember, if a handful of non-elected bureaucrats can take away my rights today, they can take away your rights tomorrow.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, I’m off to smoke a cigar in the privacy of my own home. While I am still allowed to by the Public Health Commission, that is.


11 Responses to “Democracy? We don’t need no stinkin’ democracy!”

  1. September 7, 2008 at 10:14 pm

    Even if I’m not sure about the selling tobacco in drugstores bit (I don’t think they do here, not that’s that a valid argument of course), the shutting down of cigar bars is a just another sign of humanity gone mad. That’s what you call it if all common sense is lost. Seriously, where is the last place you’d look for a non-smoker or a second-hand smoke paranoid? A cigar bar. Or a tobacco store for that matter. So no matter how you turn this, I have to agree with you (miracles do happen 😉 ):

    Not a miracle. You have merely learned wisdom at long last, grasshopper. Agreeing with the all wise and all seeing Smith is always the path to Truth.

    This stinks! And not of cigars……

    Allow me to take this opportunity to explode a commonly held myth. A GOOD cigar does not stink. Pungent, yes, but not stinky.

    But all in all, a very trenchant comment. Have a cigar, Spaz. On me. C’mon, don’t be shy, you’ve earned it. 😉

  2. September 7, 2008 at 10:15 pm

    PS. Nice photo collage 🙂 .

    Thank you. I have a little Alfred Hitchcock thing going there. 😉

  3. September 8, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    Big Brother!!! Too much government!!! I don’t smoke but I hate the fact the government thinks it has the right to tell me that I can’t. I don’t understand how a cigar bar can hurt non-smokers. If I want to smoke myself to death I should have that right.

    Or more to the point, if you want to enjoy a cigar from time to time, which is certainly not going to “smoke you to death”, you should certainly have that right. Threatening to close cigar bars just shows you how insane the anti-tobacco movement has become.

  4. September 8, 2008 at 8:27 pm

    Another non smoker in the house. I’m with you here almost 100%. I think they have plenty of no smoking laws already in effect. They need to back off of the cigar bars. That’s just a plain and simple abuse of power, and oh what a power it is. That Public Health Commission sounds like they need to be taken down a notch or two. No group needs that kind of unchecked power over others. Where does it stop?

    Well, that’s the question, isn’t it? Where DOES it stop? It seems as if some people are completely comfortable with the government stripping them of their rights–or more to the point, of OTHER people’s rights–as long as it’s done in the name of the great god HEALTH.

    Now while I don’t agree with why the PHC is going after tobacco in drug stores, I’m not totally against the idea. I must admit I’m rather in favor of Canada’s way of doing things in this department. If you want liquor (including beer and wine) you have to go to a liquor store, and if I’m not mistaken, from what Spaz said, if you want tobacco products you have to go to a smoke shop. I like that. It separates the world of adults from the world of children. That’s the main reason I like it, and while I’m not a smoker, I am a drinker, and I wouldn’t mind having to go to a liquor store for a bottle of peppermint schnapps.

    I see your point, but in this country, “drug stores” are really just convenience stores who also happen to be the only ones who can dispense prescription drugs. They already have to keep them behind the counter, so the children are protected. I still think this sets a bad precedent.

    Anyway, there’s my two cents. 😐 Raise some hell. I’d sign on the dotted line. 😉

    Worth far more than two cents my friend, I assure you.

  5. September 9, 2008 at 10:02 am

    Just to confirm, in Canada you don’t have to go to a smoke shop for tobacco per se, it can also be bought in the grocery stores, convenience stores, news paper agents etc, but I just don’t recall them being sold in drug stores.
    As for the liquor stores (LCBOs), this is not a federal thing but a provincial one, in Ontario that’s the case, however right now there is a lot of noise of about price manipulation by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario as for example in Quebec the same beer is sold at a gas station for much less (leave it up the French to fill up on gas and liquor at the same time 😉 ).

    That wasn’t a very PC observation, now was it? One might question your Liberal credentials with comments like that. 😉

    Sorry Smith, didn’t mean to digress from your post, just wanted to clarify some of Peter’s points.

    Spaz, never, ever apologize for anything you write on this blog. Here, you have complete diplomatic immunity.

  6. 6 Sam
    September 9, 2008 at 4:46 pm

    One of the most cohesive posts I’ve read in a long time.

    Thank you! I was rather pleased with it.

    As I was reading this I started to form a picture (even my mind goes on tangents) of what it would look like if the law went into effect and the only place left to smoke was a private home. IF that happened the only way to enjoy smoking with friends would be to invite them over. And if you wanted to do it often or with larger groups, certain folks could have their “private” homes open for normal business hours and allow whoever wanted to smoke in their home. Then my mind went (my mind has a mind of its own sometimes, I’m trying to tone it down…) to the fact that no one would do that without somehow finding a way to make money by opening their homes like that.

    Of course the end of my brain tangent came back to the fact that anything we come up with would just end up being regulated and then banned.

    And then it hit me… these never-ending rules that so many bureaucrats feel they need to make to protect ourselves from ourselves are only doing one thing: causing lawful, legal citizens to pursue ways to break laws. The innocent man is becoming a criminal. What a crazy messed up place this is.

    Very good observations. But don’t think it will end with cigar bars. Don’t think your home is off limits. Read this:


    and be afraid.

    Thanks for stopping by, Sam.

  7. September 9, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    Thanks for the clarification Spaz. 😉 I still think the separation of such items is a good idea, but as you mentioned with the price gouging, every good idea has its drawbacks. 😐

    Good ol’ Spaz! Always there when you need her, never there when you don’t. 😉

  8. 8 Andy
    September 10, 2008 at 8:19 pm

    Now let’s see,
    In MAssholechusetts I have to wear a helmet to ride my motorcycle.
    I can’t smoke outdoors on any public beach in the state of Maine or in any public building, and now they want to outlaw cigar bars.
    They are banning restaurants from preparing any food with trans-fats.
    It’s a law I must wear a seat belt in a vehicle.
    My insurance rates may soon increase if I am overweight.
    This is only a start.
    The days of having a choice or using common sense are now dictated by political and state employed extremist hacks.
    So much for democracy in this commonwealth and many other places nearby.
    Can you say dictatorship?
    It’s time for us to voice our opinions more frequently and in forums where we can be heard.
    Thanks for lighting the fire, Steve.

    Hopefully a fire has been lit, and on forums more far reaching than this. People have to stand up and say, “Hell, no!” Hate to say, it but this is why I usually vote Republican, but now it seems that even Republicans are buying into this rubbish?

  9. 9 Margie
    September 25, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    Communism. For lack of a better word. The state I live in passed a law that if you have a child under, I think, 5 years old, you can’t smoke in your car. Another one? If you have a car seat (for a child) in your car, it is illegal to smoke in your car. That ticks me off BIG time.

    Hey, Margie! Thanks for stopping by. Thanks for the comment. I couldn’t agree with you more.

  10. September 27, 2016 at 5:33 am


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