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PERSPECTIVE ON SMOKING : Constitution and Marlboro Man : Clinton's power-hungry drug commissioner has government trampling on the rights of people and businesses.

August 30, 1995|MALCOLM WALLOP | Malcolm Wallop, a former Republican senator from Wyoming, is chairman of Frontiers of Freedom, a private property rights, personal freedoms public policy organization based in Arlington, Va. and

Remember Aug. 10, 1995. On that day, a President of the United States used the U.S. Constitution for cheap political gain. On that day, the most sacred of all the amendments to the Constitution, the First Amendment, was forsworn by President Clinton.

White House political gurus stuck their fingers in the air and concluded that there were more nonsmokers in America than smokers. Their simple-minded strategy: Let's get all the nonsmokers to vote for us. Big-government regulators, such as power-happy Federal Drug Administration Commissioner David Kessler, determined that the First Amendment was not a fundamental right but a simple notion obstructing their grand plan to wipe out an entire industry.

It is not surprising that Clinton picked Kessler to be the point person in cracking down on constitutional freedoms. He's a pro at it.

More than 150,000 American heart attack patients have died because the FDA needlessly refused to approve a life-saving drug already approved in Europe. On average, in Europe, drugs are approved for use nearly six years earlier than in the United States. American consumers can't use life-saving drugs that are commonly used elsewhere because David Kessler says no.

More than 50% of American medical device companies are moving jobs and manufacturing operations overseas because the FDA bureaucracy makes it so hard for them to make their products here.

And then there a surgeon from Virginia who plans to travel to England this year for an operation to implant a shoulder device--a device which he invented but can't market here.

Kessler is a man with a mission and it isn't our safety. Increase the size and scope of the FDA, establish an FDA police force, create a regulatory nightmare for any company looking to make a profit and withhold drugs from people who desperately need them to save their very lives--then you have real power.

Look out, Mr. President: Commissioner Kessler is choosing who lives and who dies. With your blessings, he is playing God.

Clinton is wrong. It is not a question of angry smokers and satisfied nonsmokers. Both groups are Americans with rights. The American people will see this tobacco assault for what it really is: The government, once again, telling us what to do and what is best for us.

Well sorry, folks, the government has no idea what is good for you or for me. Furthermore, our government has no authority to infringe upon what I think is best for my life. There is consensus that smoking is a health hazard, but so too are hunting, parachuting, eating red meat, swimming alone, drinking alcohol and climbing mountains.

We Americans cherish our constitutional rights. We do not pick Presidents to have them reduce those freedoms. Under the Constitution, the federal government has no standing whatsoever to make such decisions. How dare the government exercise power over us--power never granted to it in the first place.

This issue has nothing to do with tobacco. Tobacco happens to be the vehicle for more government intrusion into our lives.

For argument's sake, however, let's take a close look at how the President is setting aside the First Amendment to destroy an industry. He and Kessler are calling fora prohibition on using trade names of nontobacco companies, such as Cartier, Ritz and Harley Davidson, to advertise a cigarette product and a mandate that a corporate-sponsored event be named for the corporation and not a product. They also would dictate the parameters of advertisements.

If ever there was a definitive example of big versus limited government, it's Clinton's attack on the tobacco industry. Next year it could be beef or automobiles that inconvenience Bill Clinton's rule.

Whether you like smoking or find it thoroughly disgusting, step back and look at the totality of what is being done without authority. Must Americans give up their rights simply because a liberal President and a big-government bureaucrat say that we must? Surely not.

The First Amendment to the Constitution is first because it protects us from tyrants. Our job now as citizens, smokers or nonsmokers, is to work within the political, public, and legislative arenas to vote out of office those who believe our Constitution counts for nothing.

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