On the anniversary of Prohibition's repeal, Jacob Grier reflects on tobacco:
The speakeasy has been replaced by the smoke-easy as bar owners hide ashtrays from sight from meddling health inspectors. Smoking bans have gone from California oddity to standard practice, creeping to ever more absurd extremes. Outdoor bans are increasingly common, extending to wide open beaches, parks, and golf courses. Dedicated cigar bars and tobacco shops are under fire. Even the home, the last refuge for many smokers, is no longer free from the government’s encroachment in some cities.
Though smoking remains legal, legislators are doing everything in their power to make it as expensive and unpleasant as possible. Smokers are an easy target for tax hikes and cigarette taxes now exceed any reasonable estimate of smoking’s social cost. Federal taxes on cigars may soon rise from five cents per stick to as high as three dollars and this year Congress came perilously close to explicitly forbidding certain types of cigarettes. Their only hangup was over whether to ban all tobacco flavorings or merely some of them.