Tobacco use is a personal habit. Regardless of whether one thinks it’s good or bad, criminalizing people’s personal habits is the worst way to address the habit itself. In Robbinsdale’s case, we’re talking misdemeanors which include 90-days in jail or $1,000 fine or both PLUS administrative fines.
Many of us are well aware of the devastating, unintended human consequences of alcohol prohibition and the now failing war on drugs. Recognizing those human consequences drove the repeal of alcohol prohibition and is now driving the decriminalization of marijuana. Today even our very own Mayor enjoys the benefit of repealed alcohol prohibition, as do many good people.
Less well known and studied is the human impact of criminalizing tobacco use – enforcement rates, arrest rates, incarceration rates, post-incarceration life. However, the most famous incident being the tragic death of Eric Garner, who died during an arrest for selling cigarettes due to laws similar to the ones ANSRMN is pushing our City Council to consider, has been a stark reminder to many of us that bad laws hurt people and we need to find more compassionate solutions to address addiction while acknowledging that there’s a natural range of human use – from none (like me) to infrequent to medicinal to recreational to addiction.
Today a 19-year old adult can buy cigarettes, then all of a sudden tomorrow they can’t? Coupled with the knowledge that smokers have a very hard time quitting smoking, the unintended consequence of a tobacco ban in Robbinsdale is that this 19-year old person in our community will likely turn to the black market to buy their cigarette, where “more than one in three cigarettes smoked in Minnesota” were trafficked from surrounding states. In other words, young adults engaging in the black market would not have the same recourse if they are robbed or cheated as they currently do in the open market. Can’t suddenly quit cigarettes. Can’t buy openly buy it either. What is a young person to do? Is this a risk we as a community is willing to take of potentially pushing this young adult into the black market?
Surely, we in the Robbinsdale community can come up with more compassionate solutions to smoking, such as cessation programs for abuse/addition, much like we deal with caffeine addiction and alcoholism without demonizing people.
Check back often for more information. Be sure to email the mayor and councilman to let them know you oppose additional tobacco restrictions in Robbinsdale.