Candidate Name: Jeffrey Adam Johnson
Office Sought: Alabama House of Representatives, District # 10
1. Do you support a state excise tax on tobacco products in an effort to reduce youth tobacco use ?
NO. I'm a Libertarian. What that basically means is that I believe government at all levels should stay out of people's lives as much as possible, and confine itself to Constitutionally authorized functions. This was very well stated in Alabama's current 1903 Constitution (which I do not support rewriting):
I'm certainly against the abuse of drugs, legal or illegal, by adults or children. I believe the existing laws we have against selling drugs (alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, etc.) to minors should be enforced. I believe that consenting adults have the right to do stupid or risky or "immoral" things that affect only themselves (smoking, sky-diving), and that laws should only prevent adults from imposing the consequences of their stupidity on others (such as drunk driving).
Increasing taxes on cigarettes/tobacco as a deterrent to youth smoking/chewing doesn't make sense. It's already illegal for minors to purchase these products already, so the vast majority of the tax will by paid by the adult consumers buying the products legally. If this tax increase is supposed to discourage young people from giving money to their older adult friends to buy tobacco for them, then I don't think that that will work either, because the young people will then just ask their clueless/uninvolved parents for more spending money without telling them what it's for, or the youth will turn to stealing/shoplifting to get money for their next nicotine fix. The blame for young people smoking should be laid upon their uninvolved/absentee parents.
2. Do you support allocating a larger portion of the tobacco settlement funds annually to fund tobacco use prevention and cessation programs ?
NO. I disagree with the unConstitutional tobacco settlement decisions entirely. There's not one adult (or teenager for that matter) who smokes who does not know that tobacco use will lead to some sort of serious medical problem (most teens think they're immortal though, so this isn't much of a deterrent to smoking). I think the tobacco settlement was another example of the decline of the principles of freedom upon which this country thrived for its first 80 years or so. It was a demonstration of the abusive power of government run amok when companies are extorted for millions of dollars for selling a legal product to adults. The government legal agencies negotiating these settlements were intended from the start to be the primary monetary beneficiaries of these proceedings, with a thin veneer of "funding tobacco cessation programs" and "repaying the states for medical treatment of smokers" as a carrot-on-a-stick which was never meant to be caught. Most state legislatures receiving what's left of these windfalls after the lawyers are through with them have already spent this money (and more) already, so advocating that the state enact tobacco prevention/cessation programs would be yet another burden on the taxpayer. Also, such activity falls under state "nannyism" which is afoul of the Constitution.
3. Would you support a state law that provides for non-smoking areas in public places ?
NO. When people say "There ought to be a law against <fill in the blank>", what they're really saying is that they ultimately want armed agents of the state to enter the suspected law violator's property, arrest (using deadly force if necessary) the suspected law breaker, process the suspected law breaker into the "criminal justice system", temporarily imprison the suspected lawbreaker until the case is heard in court, possibly provide a lawyer for the alleged law breaker, involve the federal/state/county/city prosecutors in a trial, and then imprison the convicted lawbreaker and/or impose a large monetary fine or other penalties upon him. This activity utilizes taxpayer-funded law enforcement and court and prison resources which are finite, which means that instead of catching and imprisoning a criminal committing another crime (possibly more dangerous to the public than the one for which the first defendant was charged), these law enforcement and court personnel and resources are tied up processing the <fill in the blank> violators.
I also believe in private property rights, where the owner of the property can decide how it's used, without interference of the state. If restaurant owners want to cater to smokers or non-smokers, that's their business. In government buildings (the number of which I'd like to reduce by 99% as a Libertarian), I'd probably leave it up to the head of the department that runs that building. In most cases, they'd probably just ban smoking in the building entirely, or relegate it to certain areas, as they do today.
4. Would you support a ban on cigarette vending machines in favor of behind the counter cigarette sales ?
In general, NO. I think the better way to approach this would be for adults whose minor children purchased cigarettes via a vending machine to sue the owner of the vending machine, and we would quickly have cigarette vending machines only in locations where minors are not allowed (bars, lounges, etc.).
5. Would you support a local excise tax on tobacco products ?
6. Do you support our local Clean Indoor Air Ordinance ?
If by this you mean SB229 ( http://www.legislature.state.al.us/SearchableInstruments/2002RS/Bills/SB229.htm ),
then I am against it for my reasons stated in answer to question #3.
I would imagine that by my commentary you might think I'm a cold unfeeling person who wants to suffocate small children and old folks. Nothing could be further from the truth. In 1993, I watched my mother die from lung cancer brought on by 60 years of smoking. I know that there is a certain portion of the population which will always be addicted to smoking, and even an outright Prohibition-style ban of tobacco won't make that go away (it would only create more of a thriving black market in cigarettes, which we're starting to see now after recent enactments of higher and higher taxes on tobacco products). Such a ban on tobacco would be as big a failure as Prohibition was and the War on Drugs continues to be, with all the concomitant problems such as police corruption, court/prison system overcrowding, and lives ruined by having what's basically a medical problem treated as a criminal one. So therefore I'm opposed to using and increasing the power of Big Brother to try to prohibit adults from injuring themselves with tobacco. As far as protecting non-smokers from second-hand smoke, I think that that's better left in the hands of the private property/business owners than making it be a responsibility of government.
I do applaud your organization's intentions of preventing the destruction of so many thousands of lives and families caused by the use of tobacco. I just disagree with your Faustian strategy of using the coercive power of the government to try to bring about positive change.
I've seen great strides in the reduction of the acceptance of smoking in our culture since I was a child, but I believe these were caused not by government intervention, but by the truth finally being revealed about the dangers of smoking.
I appreciate you including me in your survey, and I leave you with the following quote:
"Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government's purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding."
- Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis,
"Olmstead vs. United States", United States Supreme Court, 1928
Jeffrey Adam Johnson
Libertarian candidate for Alabama House of Representatives, District #10
Back to Jeffrey A. Johnson's platform page.