Lifestyle Zealots

In Salt Lake City, two college students were walking down the street smoking cigarettes. A gang of twenty teenage thugs, calling themselves Straight Edgers, ordered them to put out their cigarettes. Following an exchange of words, the students were attacked with chains, bricks and pepper spray. One student landed in the hospital after being beaten on the head with a baseball bat. The Straight Edgers don't drink, smoke or take drugs; they use violence to enforce their moral standards on others.

Many California bar owners have ignored the State ban on smoking. One bar owner received a letter from Southern Californians Against Bar Smoking (SCABS) saying, "We don't report smoking - we report drunk drivers leaving smoking bars. Here's how our program works: We find bars that allow smoking. We watch how much your customers drink. When a drinker leaves and gets into his car we signal a SCABS member parked down the street. That member follows your customer, using a cell phone to dial 911 and report a drunk driver."

Americans who support private and government attacks on smokers should recognize that a lifestyle Nazi's work is never done. They have more in store and one day you'll be the victim; if you think not, then listen up. "Caffeine is the new drug of choice among kids," warns Helen Cordes writing in Nation magazine (4/27/98). "Caffeine Inc., [soda manufacturers] is raking it in, often targeting teens and younger kids. . . . The major caffeine suppliers to kids have been throwing millions into advertising and giveaways." The left-wing Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) supports the anti-caffeine movement and wants the FDA to regulate caffeine content in soda, coffee, tea and chocolate. Michael Jacobson, CSPI's director, thinks Mexican and Chinese restaurants offer servings much too large and says, "It's high time the [restaurant] industry begins to bear some responsibility for its contribution to obesity, heart disease and cancer."

If you support the government attack on smokers, it is not unreasonable to also support the emerging attack on soda, coffee, tea drinkers, and you should buy into government regulation of restaurant serving sizes. After all these and other lifestyle choices have an impact on our health care costs and endanger precious children, not to mention the addictiveness of caffeine that's manipulated by the industry that spends millions of dollars for advertisements aimed at children.

While we're on the subject of health care cost, there are some other lifestyle regulations we might consider to protect our children. Hundreds of thousands of teenagers and young adults are injured, crippled or killed each year playing basketball, baseball, football, swimming and cycling. While safety equipment prevents some injuries, they cannot be completely eliminated. Should we call for government regulations that either ban sports activities or change game rules so that no one can be injured?

The people who want to regulate the lifestyles of others are cowards. You say, "What do you mean, Williams?" I mean if Michael Jacobson, CSPI's director, sees me at a restaurant starting on my fourth cup of coffee and my fifth butter laden biscuit, he should have the courage to walk up to the table and take it from my plate. He probably figures, and rightly so, that he'd be in for a hurtin for certain. He prefers using brutal government force instead; that's safer for him.

You say, "Williams, you're beginning to sound violent." I say yes, and I'm not by myself. There's an increasing number of Americans fed up to our necks with these lifestyle Nazis.

Walter E. Williams
May 11, 1998
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