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Thank You For Smoking

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Is this a joke?

When it comes to the health of our children, two cigarettes may be better than one. Young smokers who begin their habit with nicotine-laden cigarettes need a cigarette that will not leave them to later fight the ravages of addiction.

Experts tell us that teenagers often begin smoking to copy their peers and others whom they see smoking. As adults, however, they continue smoking largely because of the addictive qualities of nicotine. (Ninety percent of smokers regret having begun smoking and most make efforts to stop.) This means that in the absence of addictive levels of nicotine in their cigarettes, most young smokers would ultimately quit.

A two-cigarette strategy would prohibit young smokers from buying addictive cigarettes. The tobacco industry is capable of producing cigarettes that are virtually free of nicotine, and regulators could develop clear standards for non-addictive cigarettes.

I suppose this makes me a garden-variety liberal fascist, but I have no trouble whatsoever endorsing burdensome “standards” to which the tobacco industry should conform; nor would I object to higher taxes on “addictive cigarettes” (which Adams also proposes) to dissuade kids from smoking them. That said, I can’t quite imagine what makes this proposal good for anything other than derision.

I’m sure teens “often” begin smoking because they’re imitating others, but as I quite clearly recall, they continue because of the head rush that only a bloodstream filled with multiple varieties of poison can offer. Social and cultural lures aside, there’s simply no other reason to smoke. So David Adams might be right that after a few nicotine-free cigarettes, the average neophyte — receiving utterly no benefit from it them — would throw the pack away. But unless I’m completely misremembering how teenagers work, that moment of disavowal will last only so long as it takes to bum an actual smoke from someone who has one to spare.

If you want to dissuade or prevent people from smoking, go ahead and do it. But pushing nicotine-free cigarettes to teenagers makes about as much sense as trying to market O’Douls for an after-prom party.

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