Farmer's Voice

CONSIDERATIONS ABOUT SMOKING BANS

Admittedly, the right to health is one of the rights that governments must defend, although without hateful hypocrisy.

During Bill Clinton's administration, his clever attorneys argued - with great skill - that the legal age for purchasing any tobacco product should be raised to 27. Said attorneys, however, failed to advance valid arguments in favor of young American citizens and other nationals serving in the Armed Forces who, at 18 years of age, were considered old enough to die in Afghanistan, Iraq and other war fronts.

What a shameful conduct for a Nation that fights for the human rights affected by our planet's greenhouse effect, which includes tobacco smoke, but, at the same time and in spite of former President Clinton's adherence of the Kyoto Protocol in Japan, on December 11, 1997, failed to ratify it in Congress. Adhesion, therefore, was only symbolic until 2001, when the Bush administration withdrew from the Protocol not because, according to the official statement, it did not agree with the idea of reducing emissions, but because it considered the Protocol's application to be ineffective.

Also worthy of criticism is the Norwegian Nobel Committee's decision to award Al Gore the 2007 peace prize for his film An Inconvenient Truth (2006) when, paradoxically, the former Democratic presidential contender (2000) was the US vice president in office at the time of the Kyoto "denial", although this does not rest validity to his work in favor of measures to help mitigate climate change.

To further illustrate the point and in defense of my right to smoke, as linked to personal freedoms, I wish to tell you a little and recent anecdote.

Visiting Rome, Italy, in May 2015 to attend a few days later the 9th AMICigar, the Brotherhood, an event to be held in Maiori on the Amalfi Coast with members from all over the world, I was smoking a very large cigar while walking through the narrow but airy streets of the Eternal City on my way to the Pantheon.

All of a sudden, a total stranger started shouting at me in a totally unfamiliar language while raising his arms to the skies like a preacher in the desert. Flushed with anger, he attracted the attention of tourists and locals around us. A few of them must have thought that I had tried to rob him.

Looking at him undaunted, I waited until he calmed down and I asked him in English what the problem was. "The smoke, the smoke!", he said. I then explained to him that we were in an open space and that I was exercising my right without bothering anyone.

After listening to a sermon about ecology and the harm caused by tobacco smoke, I told him again to calm down and asked where he came from. "From Germany", he answered.

Then, I politely told him that over 2 million people, both soldiers and civilians, had perished in Stalingrad; that WWII had left 660,000 people injured or sick and more than 60 million dead, and none of them had been killed by or had died as a result of tobacco smoke.

Confused and red-faced, he snorted and walked away mumbling, while I took a long drag on my cigar with great satisfaction.

Bystanders supported me with smiles of complicity, while a fellow tourist puffed at a cigar he had skillfully and with visible nervousness hidden in his hands during the incident.

What is the point of this tale about freedoms? In the Republic of Argentina, the Supreme Court of Justice has contended that the issue of tobacco control measures is a human rights issue.

Our country has not ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which seeks to reduce smoking and exposure to tobacco smoke.

On 27 October 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that the total ban on advertising and promotion of tobacco products is not unconstitutional and does not violate freedom of expression.

This is in connection with the case Nobleza Piccardo vs. the Province of Santa Fe, a suit filed against the Government in 2006 based on the inclusion in the provincial tobacco control law of a total ban on the advertising and promotion of tobacco products. 

The multinational tobacco company argued that the Province could not legislate on the subject matter because, in any case, it was a power that lies exclusively in the National Congress, which had already made Law No. 26,687, the purpose of which was to reduce the demand for tobacco products.

The suit claimed that such total ban involved a violation of the freedom of expression and of economic freedom.

The Supreme Court maintained that the Constitution does not establish that the power to legislate on health-related matters lies exclusively in the National Congress.

Regarding freedom of expression and freedom of trade, the Supreme Court held that there is an international trend toward restricting or prohibiting the advertising of tobacco products.

Although this ruling is not contrary to the personal right to smoke, restrictions are justified because there is proportionality between the end of promoting and protecting public health and the means used to attain that end, which abide by international standards applicable to this matter. 

Elaborating further, the Court's ruling adds that imposed restrictions do not violate the freedom of expression, because the advertising of tobacco products is not related to the functioning of republican and democratic institutions, but only to the sale of tobacco products.

Therefore, this type of expression does not call for a protection as strong as the protection afforded under the Constitution to the expression of other types of ideas. 

Any individual is free to do as he/she wishes, provided he/she does not infringe upon the freedom of another individual.

The final conclusion is that personal freedoms - as long as they do not become license - should be respected and not subjugated.

The Court's ruling applies only to advertising and, therefore, to promotion and publicity. This will be an instance to consider when fighting against regulations, resolutions and legislation that, although pursuing a tangible health benefit, should not become a clamp down on freedom, particularly when considering that governments around the 4 world, without exception, unashamedly collect and thrive on extremely high taxes, which are partly allocated to fund the manufacturing of deadly weapons and combat gear that spread death to an extent and in numbers that could never be blamed on responsibly consumed tobacco products and that are obviously played down when discussing the reduction or end of all kind of toxic emissions that affect the health of the population at large.

Cigarros Manrique Tobacco Group Roberto Rodríguez Pardal

Owner & CEO - 4th. Generation
Catamarca 211 (1213), Buenos Aires
Tel-Fax: (54) 11- 4932-5973

www.cigarrosmanrique.com.ar
Since 1880
Spain-Cuba-Brazil-Argentina-Dominican Republic

On Facebook: Roberto Rodríguez Pardal or Cigarros Manrique Club.
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