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Some of us are old enough to remember when the sergeants would yell, "Smoke 'em if ya got 'em!" after morning PT. And advertisements told of the benefits of smoking cigarettes.

And even ashtrays in the newsrooms! Kids, we're not kidding. Folks used to smoke in the newsroom. In fact, everybody smoked in the newsroom. And you couldn't go to the barber shop without walking by at least one spittoon.

Those were the bad old days in smokin', chewin', and spittin' Arkansas, and not just Arkansas, where an office wasn't complete without standing ashtrays, about hand high.

How 1994. We're so much younger than that now.

If you want to know how far (away) we've come from smoking being considered cool, take a look at who's suggesting raising the age to buy tobacco products: Mitch McConnell.

That is, a senator from Kentucky.

Kentucky! It wasn't that long ago that tobacco was a big deal in rural Kentucky, and politicians from that state sang its praises, and the praises of the little farmer makin' a livin' scrapin' by on dried tobacco. Now a Kentucky politician is leading the way to raise the age from 18 to 21 just to buy a pack of Lucky Strikes. (Do they still sell Lucky Strikes?) Oh, how the mighty and deadly have fallen.

Some of us have no problem going all Carrie Nation on tobacco, in the abstract. Cigarettes are the nation's leading cause of preventable diseases--and that's just from smoking. No telling how many others die from chewin' and dippin', and nobody knows the harm vaping may be doing. So those who want to carry a hatchet (figuratively) to this fight, let's Carrie A. Nation!

But let's do it state by state.

Does Mitch McConnell have to make a federal case out of this? The papers say 12 states have already enacted laws raising the minimum wage to buy smokes to 21. In our considered editorial opinion, the next time the General Assembly meets in Little Rock, it can raise the age to 31. Or 51. Or 101. Or ban the damnable things outright. But such a decision really should be made in Little Rock and Jackson and Baton Rouge and, yes, Frankfort in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Some of us still believe in federalism, which is what States Rights used to be called before the unreconstructed Confederates got a-holt of the phrase. States Rights used to mean just that, before it lost credibility after those words were regularly used as cover to violate the constitutional rights of others.

But the underlying principle of federalism is still valid. The Hon. Mr. Justice Brandeis once coined the phrase "laboratories of democracy" when it came to these several states. So let them tinker.

The states are doing just that with marijuana, a much more dangerous drug than cigarettes, no matter what the stoners might say in their echo chamber, which probably echos louder with every toke. We the Rest of the People can see the damages that recreational dope causes in states like Colorado, then use that state as an example. One to emulate or beware.

You know tobacco has taken a large fall when Kentucky politicians start in on it. Tobacco ain't what it used to be, thank God. But the states can handle its final demise. Like many of its users, tobacco seems to be on its last legs.

Editorial on 04/22/2019

Print Headline: Smokin' hot issue

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