Last week Senator Judy Lee (R – District 13) wrote an article for the Grand Forks Herald in which she hailed North Dakota for continuing its commitment to "anti-smoking efforts". These on-going efforts are in spite of the North Dakota Legislature putting an end to BreatheND this legislative session.
Senator Lee describes the on-going efforts this way:
"The North Dakota Department of Health was solely responsible for anti-smoking programs before the creation of BreatheND, and they shared management of programs after the second agency was created. Funds now will be back in one agency, the Department of Health, with programs implemented through local public health units.
"… That certainly shows the commitment of North Dakota and the federal government to combating these issues.
"The efficiencies created by combining efforts at the Health Department will permit funds to be spent on services, not administrators. That, in my opinion, is a good thing."
I’ve never been a smoker. I find the habit repulsive. I was the only one out of the four children in my family that never took up the habit. Efforts to advocate against smoking are admirable and well-intentioned. However, I believe those efforts are best left to individuals, families, and private organizations– not the government.
The argument in favor of the government effort to curb the smoking habit in society is based, in part, on the logic that the negative effects of smoking lead to exorbitant health-care costs to the public; which is true. But whose fault is that? It seems to me that is, to a large degree, a by-product of government meddling in another area it has no business in… healthcare.
We should get government out of the healthcare business. Turn it all back over to individuals and healthcare providers to craft their own contractual agreements for coverage. This would place the burden where it belongs… on the shoulders of the individual. In the real world we call this accountability.
Next to smoking, problems relating to obesity are a leading cause of death in the United States. Should the government create a program – even an entire department – and run ad campaigns to stop the epidemic of American obesity? After all, could it not be said that this too leads to exorbitant health-care costs to the public?
How far do we want to take these types of ideas? Where does it end? How many government programs and ad campaigns would be enough to "combat" societies ills?
Opponents of ending BreatheND praised their work and pointed to what they say are obvious outcomes supporting their successes. Yet, this ignores the fact that smoking was on the decline already and that there is evidence that the recent decline in smoking among young people is due, in part, to vaping. A fact reported by Rob Port of the SayAnything Blog in December of 2015.
Two words can be used to describe Nanny Government… inefficient and expensive. Instead of the government spending tens of millions of dollars advertising and educating the public about the dangers of smoking (something I believe intelligent people realize already), they should save taxpayers the money and turn anti-smoking efforts over to individuals, families, and private organizations. Not only is that typically a more effective way to handle problems, but it’s usually more efficient as well.
Senator Lee did the right thing and voted to end BreatheND. But she’s wrong to celebrate continued funding of anti-smoking efforts. Even if it is in the name of "efficiencies". Let people live their lives. And let them handle the consequences of their choices.