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March 21, 2016 (MMD Newswire) -- In the face of the New York City Council's and the anti-smoker organizations' attempt to stifle dissenting conduct through force of law, smokers' rights group NYC Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment (C.L.A.S.H.) has a message for them: We will not go gentle into [your] good night.

Jumping on board the latest anti-smoker initiative, the City Council is poised to ban the use of smokeless tobacco (e.g. chew) in stadiums because "impressionable youth" shouldn't observe "role models" (professional athletes) using it.

That should beg the question about dad's beer in the seat beside little Timmy and the ride home later. But that's to digress.

Aside from the conscription of adults into carrying a government message against one's will by forbidding them to use a legal product, and the fact that they also list family and friends as being just as influential so it's only a matter of time before it expands, there is no excuse or explanation that saves this proposal from being anything other than a law to regulate speech or that rescues the reputation of our lawmakers as censors.

Proponents insist that the mere sight of tobacco is "a message." If it's a message then it is de facto speech. If it's the elimination of speech in order to mold behavior then it is mind control. This kind of law is no longer a matter of who, when or even what. You are either for censorship or you're not.

This means to an end cannot be tolerated any more than a law crafted to deny someone the right to wear a t-shirt that says "Smoking is Normal" - a form of free speech with a message that, according to Council Health Committee Chair Corey Johnson and others, would pose the same alleged problem as seeing a ball player chewing tobacco.

If you cannot accept a ban on such a t-shirt as lawful legislation then a ban on the use of a legal product for the very same reason should raise the same objection.

The Health Committee reaches for the ludicrous to justify this ban when they refer to someone going about their own business (using tobacco) as "implicit product endorsements" - a catch-all that reduces each human life to nothing more than a walking billboard. Put sugar in your coffee? It's an implicit product endorsement for sugar. Feel like eating Italian food tonight? Careful, you're shilling for Big Pizza.

Audrey Silk, founder of C.L.A.S.H. says, "When a ban restricts what a private citizen can do, then it is the people who are the target and whose lives are impeded, not a faceless industry, by government. Government elimination of otherwise legal behavior from view is not the same thing as banning commercial "advertisements."

You can silence an industry but this country's laws do not allow you to silence the people.

Fed up with this dehumanization by the anti-smoker industry and unwilling to stand social experiments that must first dismantle civil liberty concepts in order to "denormalize" smoking, C.L.A.S.H. will be embarking on a national "Smoking is Normal" campaign. T-shirts with that message will be made available and the use of social media with "Smoking is Normal" pages will be created to throw a much needed monkey wrench into the wheels of this crusade.

For the bans don't create a new normality. They simply suppress a pre-existing one as evidenced by the use of the word "denormalize." True normality requires no external restraining force to maintain it. Human behaviors that have traditionally been viewed as not a societal norm and against policy do not need signs posted everywhere to remind you of it. That "No Smoking" signs remain proliferate clearly proves that it's smoking that has been and still is the traditional norm. It's the measures employed by anti-smokers that are not. Their own words describing their fear that the use of electronic cigarettes or smokeless tobacco will "re-normalize" smoking prove this is the case.

Compounding the injustice of these acts is the way lawmaking bodies across the country are sneaking it past public review in a fraudulent manner by rolling them into their smoking ban laws instead of trying to sell the public on a new law where they are forced to explain its intent.

Just call the NYC Smoke-Free Air Act what it has become: a kind of slush fund for the morally bankrupt -- dipping into it for purposes that it was not intended.

The record is undeniable that throughout the law's history - and as sold to the public -- the one and only subject of the Smoke-Free Air Act (SFAA) was "protection of the public from secondhand smoke exposure," not to socially engineer personal behavior through regulation of a product.

It violates the State Constitution's and City Charter's "One Subject Rule" by inserting a smokeless tobacco use regulation -- a subject foreign to the SFAA.

The title of the Act alone is telling. If there is any doubt about the Council's intellectually dishonest behavior, one need only ponder the words "Smokeless Tobacco in the Smoke-Free Air Act." It's absurd on its face.

Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights, who helped craft the Smoke-Free Air Acts across the country, couldn't explain it more clearly themselves. Their guideline for local activists testifying at hearings instructs: "Because smokefree laws are designed to protect nonsmokers, and not to alter the behavior of smokers, extensive testimony on the health effects of primary smoking is irrelevant and should be avoided."

If this violation of the "One Subject Rule" is allowed when can we expect a ban on saltless pretzels - in their zeal to limit unhealthy snacks to combat obesity - to be added to the newly imposed "Sodium Warning Rule" because pretzels have been traditionally associated with salt?

C.L.A.S.H. is currently in litigation over the exact same thing regarding the Council's insertion of the use of electronic cigarettes into the SFAA. Our legal challenge to that law is at the appellate stage.

In that Brief we point out Councilman Vincent Gentile's keen awareness of the City Council's attempt to circumvent the one subject rule when, at the December 2013 hearing, he characterized the marriage of electronic cigarettes and secondhand smoke exposure as "trying to fit a square peg into a round hole," and asking the health commissioner, "So are you suggesting that we redefine the . . . Smoke-Free Air Act because the . . . basic definition was to protect secondhand smoke [sic]."

He ultimately voted no to the measure.

Today Councilman Gentile's name appears as a co-sponsor on the smokeless tobacco ban bill that adds it to the SFAA. Contradiction be damned.

Silk says, "If that doesn't illustrate the free-for-all going on at City Hall, at the expense of the people's democratic process guarantees, I don't know what does.

"The Thought Police has never been our society's norm. Smoking, as a simple daily activity, having no more meaning in context than putting salt on one's food, is normal. We intend to exercise our 1st Amendment right to its fullest extent to say so and promote that message.

"It does not encourage or discourage smoking. It does not say it's healthy or unhealthy. It just says the act of smoking is normal."


NYC Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment (C.L.A.S.H.) is a grassroots organization established in 2000 dedicated to advancing and protecting the interests of adults who choose to smoke cigarettes or enjoy other forms of tobacco or use electronic cigarettes.

Audrey Silk, Founder, NYC C.L.A.S.H.
Phone: (917) 888-9317
Email: nycclash@nycclash.com

Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/SmokingIsNormal/

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