- The Washington Times - Monday, November 3, 2008




Sen. Barack Obama said that he would be willing to impose a nationwide ban on smoking in public. Taken with other recent statements, this paints a picture of Mr. Obama believing in an extraordinarily powerful federal government, regulating even the minor details of your life. The American people should reject this radical big-government philosophy at the polls.

In 2007, Barack Obama asked if he would sign a federal law that would outlaw public smoking nationwide. Mr. Obama said that he would prefer to see state or local governments do that, but he would enact such a ban if local efforts were inadequate.

Smoking is not healthy. Habitual smoking is linked to all sorts of health problems. While an occasional cigar might not harm you in any measurable way, smoking cigarettes every day can kill you.

But just because something isn’t good for you doesn’t mean that the federal government has the right to make it illegal. You can’t legislate perfectly healthy behavior in a free society. Many foods we eat aren’t very healthy. Drinking skim milk is healthier than 2 percent milk. Yet it’s not the role of government to tell you what you can and cannot do when it comes to these things.

We have a federal system in America. Most issues are left up to individuals in America. Issues that involve public health, safety and morality are left to the states. That’s why issues ranging from speed limits to prostitution to storing explosives are set by your state governments. Most areas of your life are off-limits to the federal government.

All voters should beware of Mr. Obama’s intentions because it’s not about tobacco. He talks about government taking the controlling role in medicine, health care, education and the environment. Just last week a 2001 radio interview came to light in which he said the Supreme Court should have been involved in redistributing income to achieve “economic justice.” Mr. Obama clearly believes that the federal government can regulate any part of your life that he thinks it should.

When Mr. Obama starts talking about redistributing wealth, he’s talking about a government that can fundamentally reorder your life. A government that decides what incomes are “too much” or “not enough” and then uses taxes and welfare checks to redistribute income in a “fair” fashion has essentially unlimited power.

This radical big-government philosophy eventually leads to taking away something you care about deeply. Maybe you don’t smoke. For you it might be your home, your religion, your guns or your child’s education. A federal government that can micromanage your life to say you cannot smoke can also tell you what you can and can’t do on all those issues. First it’s my tobacco, next it’s my guns.

Government should only do for people what they cannot do for themselves. For things that only government can do, it’s best to have those things done by the level of government closest to the people. If your town can do something, then it should handle it instead of your state government because the local government will be more attuned to your needs and more responsive to your requests. For the same reasons, it’s better to have a state handle an issue than the federal government.

And a government that regulates smoking doesn’t stop there. Smoking isn’t very important on our list of national priorities. Don’t think for a minute that if Mr. Obama doesn’t trust you to decide whether to smoke that he’s going to let you decide the really important things in life. Smoking is not on that list. Issues like where your children go to school, how much you save and invest, when to go to the doctor, and what kind of car you drive will also be slated for federal regulation. In fact, Mr. Obama is already making detailed policy decisions on each of those areas.

Finally, there’s one more thing you should know about Mr. Obama: He smokes. Mr. Obama is a habitual cigarette smoker. Although he’s said he’s trying to quit, the campaign trail is riddled with reporters saying that Mr. Obama bummed a cigarette off them while campaigning.

What you should take away from that is that Mr. Obama doesn’t intend on living by the same rules. He can smoke, but his government won’t let you do it. Rules can become burdensome when the people making them for you don’t plan on abiding by them in their own lives.

This smoking ban may seem like a small thing, but it’s the tip of the iceberg of a massive big-government philosophy. Voters need to realize that before tomorrow.

Mr. Blackwell, who served as Ohio secretary of state, is a senior fellow at the Family Research Council.

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