Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Cynical Clinton Is Blowing Smoke

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Cynical Clinton Is Blowing Smoke

Article excerpt

A reporter asked anti-smoking crusader Bill Clinton: "Are you sure you wouldn't like to pledge today not to smoke cigars anymore to set an example?"

"No," came the reply, "Cigars and pipes weren't found by the Food and Drug Administration to be part of this. I try to set a good example. I try never to do it where people see."

Welcome to moral leadership, Clinton-style. Asked to make just one, very small personal sacrifice (the half-dozen cigars he smokes yearly) to forward a policy he has characterized as crucial to the health and safety of millions of teen-agers, the president flinched. At least he spared us the excuse that he doesn't inhale.

The Clinton concept of moral leadership does not include making personal commitments or sacrifices of any kind but rather coercing others into doing what he considers to be the right thing.

Actually, it looks even more cynical than that. The Clinton administration has been flailing about for something, anything to do. One of the president's top advisers let slip, in a CNN interview, how the administration came to embrace teen smoking as its cause. "Polls show that people want the government involved in this."

The image of presidential aides scouring the opinion polls for something to be for is striking.

OK, so everyone (including the tobacco companies, incidentally) agrees that kids shouldn't smoke. Is that an invitation to a power grab by the FDA? The president never seems to ask himself whether the existence of a problem, any problem, presupposes a federal government solution. But there are many reasons, both legal and prudential, to think that teen-age smoking is a bad choice for federal intervention.

The legal grounds for asserting the FDA's authority to regulate tobacco are shaky. To classify nicotine as an addictive drug, the agency must show that the substance is mood-altering; that its use is regular and compulsive; that ingesting the drug leads to physical dependence characterized by withdrawal symptoms if the drug is suddenly withheld and tolerance, the tendency to require more and more of a substance to achieve the same effect. …

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