I apologize in advance since this is a lengthy post, but much needs to be said.
Yes, we truly are under attack. And, by "we", I mean The Story Teller's Pipe, all pipe and tobacco distributors and retailers in Illinois including convenience stores, gas stations, and grocery stores that sell pipe tobacco ... along with you, our customers.
Who is attacking us? For starters, the State of Illinois. That wonderful "tax everything to death, suppress individual rights, anathema of prosperous industry" big-government nanny state called Illinois where the governors go to jail at the end of their terms in office (and most of the legislators should too!). I think I just barfed in my mouth a little bit ......
How are they attacking us? House Representative Deb Conroy, a Democrat from District 46 hailing from Villa Park (a Chicago suburb), introduced HB 3883 to the Illinois General Assembly on September 5th. HB 3883 is called the "Flavored Tobacco Ban Act" and, if passed, will prohibit the sale and purchase of any tobacco product in the State of Illinois that has a "characterizing flavor" defined in the bill as "a distinguishable taste or aroma, other than the taste or aroma of tobacco, imparted by a tobacco product or any byproduct produced by the tobacco product. Characterizing flavor includes, but is not limited to tastes or aromas relating to any fruit, chocolate, vanilla, honey, candy, cocoa, dessert, alcoholic beverage, mint, wintergreen, herb, or spice." The definition goes on to state, "a tobacco product does not have a characterizing flavor solely because of the use of additives or flavorings...rather, it is the presence of a distinguishable taste or aroma that constitutes a characterizing flavor." However, the bill fails to define what "tobacco taste and aroma" actually is. In legal terms, that leaves the door wide open for the State to say that any tobacco has a "characterizing flavor" that meets the definition for prohibition. Furthermore, as we pipers well know, taste and smell are individually subjective and Virginia tobaccos taste and smell differently than Burleys, Latakia, Turkish, and Periques and they produce different tastes and aromas when blended in various compositions. So, who is going to define what the actual, true taste and aroma of tobacco is??
But, wait ... it gets better! Section 10(b) of the bill states, "there is a rebuttable presumption that a tobacco product is a flavored tobacco product if a manufacturer or any of a manufacturer's agents or employees, in the course of their agency or employment, has made a statement or claim directed to consumers or to the public that the tobacco product has or produces a characterizing flavor, including, but not limited to, text, color, or images on the product's labeling or packaging that are used to explicitly or implicitly communicate that the tobacco product has a characterizing flavor." What does that mean? Well, it means that, if at any time in the history of a pipe tobacco, the manufacturer or any individual or business entity working for the manufacturer, stated anything in writing or through the use of pictures OR merely implied that a pipe tobacco tasted or smelled like anything other than the aforementioned undefined "tobacco taste or aroma," the product will be prohibited to be sold or purchased in Illinois. As we pipers know, golden and bright Virginia tobaccos have a citrusy, hay-like flavor and aroma. The practical application of HB 3883 would prohibit the sale of a straight Virginia pipe tobacco like Sutliff's Virginia Slice, for example, simply because the natural flavor and aroma of it would be considered to fall under the "fruit" and/or "herb" language of the "characterizing flavor" definition even though it's just a blend of Virginia tobaccos. Needless to say, the bill's definition of "characterizing flavor" is absolutely idiotic with respect to its application to pipe tobaccos.
At this point, witness slips show there are 35 proponents of HB 3883 mostly consisting of a few individuals and organizations like the American Cancer Society and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (as if smoking was a mental health disease!), and 1,216 opponents of the bill. And, out of the 118 members of the Illinois House General Assembly, the bill only has 12 co-sponsors ... all are Democrats from Chicago. One would think that with such little support and so much opposition to the bill, it would be dropped. But, nooooooooo.... they do not care about logic or reason or what anyone else thinks and they continue to push it as if they are the only ones who know what's best for all of us. On October 21st, the bill was sent to the Human Services Committee, which is controlled by the Democrats 11-7, and assigned a final action deadline of November 27th.
If the Illinois General Assembly passes HB 3883, it will effectively shutter The Story Teller's Pipe along with Iwan Ries and Arango Cigars in Chicago and Jon's Pipe Shop in Champaign and countless other small B&M tobacconists in the state (unless they have the desire and capital to move to a neighbor state), and require the removal of all "non-compliant" tobacco products (cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, vaping juice, and associated accessories) from gas station, convenience store, and grocery store shelves. It also means that, if you live in Illinois and want to purchase tobacco, you will have to physically drive to another state to buy your tobacco because the bill prohibits out-of-state retailers or distributors from shipping it to you.
Now, if that isn't bad enough, the Washington Examiner reported yesterday that the Trump administration is set to go through with its federal ban on all flavored vaping products. While banning flavored vaping products might not affect you, think about this: if a US President can by-pass the authority of Congress and endow a federal agency consisting of appointed (not elected) employees with the authority to simply ban the manufacture and/or sale of any product, what's to stop this administration or the next from banning the manufacture and sale of all tobacco products ... or any other product ... within the US under the guise of "protecting" us?
A short lesson on the US Constitution from Michele, our resident Historian:
Article 1, Section 8 states, in part, " The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts, and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence (sic) and general Welfare of the United States; ...." When the Constitution was written, the term "welfare" meant health, happiness, or prosperity of the States (NOT the citizens). It did and still does NOT mean that Congress was endowed with the power to be responsible for our individual health, happiness, or prosperity. This is where the Trump administration's upcoming ban on flavored vaping products are actions that exceed the President's Constitutional authority since such a ban must be enacted as a law, which only Congress has the authority to make (remember the 18th Amendment prohibiting the manufacture, sale, and possession of alcohol that was later repealed).
No where in Article 2 pertaining to the Executive Branch (Presidential authority) does it state the POTUS has the power or authority to make laws or endow federal agencies with the power or authority to make laws. Therefore, the Trump administrations' ban on flavored vaping products is blatantly unconstitutional. Period! Don't even get me started on Executive Orders, which are an egregious breach of authority regardless of how many Presidents have issued them!
Therefore, the 10th and 14th Amendments come into play -- e.g., " The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people" and "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." In other words, since the Constitution does not endow Congress or the President with the power or authority to be responsible for our individual health, and the states are prohibited from making or enforcing any law that abridges our privileges, the responsibility for an individual's health remains the individual's and any State or federal law enacted under the guise of "protecting our health" - such as the ban on flavored tobacco and vaping products - is patently unconstitutional at all levels.
This has gone way beyond the FDA's Deeming regs. This is an all out war against tobacco. While we have been informed the PCA is aware of Illinois' HB 3883 and similar legislation that has recently been proposed or passed in other states (California, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, etc.) and are taking action against these pieces of legislation, we have our doubts regarding whether or not they will be successful.
There are those who say the states are taking legislative action to ban tobacco products in response to the recent outbreak of serious illnesses and death caused by vaping. You don't have to do any real digging to learn those illnesses and deaths were caused by vaping black market THC. So, if the tobacco ban legislation is being proposed/enacted in response to black market THC vaping, then why are so many of the states including cigarettes and pipe tobacco in the language of their bills? Why aren't the states taking action in response to the actual problem of black market THC instead of enacting legislation that will create pipe tobacco black markets??
There are others who claim the legislation is being proposed to "keep children safe." If that's the case, are they saying the laws enacted by every single state and US district/territory that prohibits the sale of any tobacco product to individuals under age 18 or 21 are completely ineffectual? Why is no one in government or the media talking about parental responsibility as the solution?? When a friend of ours tells us he routinely catches grade school-aged children on his school bus with vaping devices, I have to ask, "Why are the children's parents not more aware of what their children are doing?? They're grade schoolers for Heaven's sake!!!" Or, is it that parents these days are simply more than willing to roll over and abdicate their parental rights to a nanny state government? If so, I'm sorry but they have no business being parents.
But, let's talk about hypocrisy. In May 2019, Illinois legalized marijuana for adult (age 21 or over) recreational use. While there are many proponents of legalized marijuana, its legalization and use is a very bad idea for many reasons. First off, numerous recent reports are evidencing as much as a 3% rise in auto fatalities...fatalities that involve and affect children as well as adults... due to marijuana usage in states that have legalized it. There's also the undisputed fact that, according to the American Lung Association, smoking marijuana is just as harmful if not more so than smoking cigarettes due to the higher concentration of carcinogens, tar, and toxins found in marijuana. And, the THC vaping black market still exists, despite the legalization of marijuana in many states. THC black market vaping products are the culprit behind the serious health conditions and deaths recently reported by the media (even though the media conveniently omits the fact that the culprit is black market THC). So, as the Illinois HB 3883 sponsors, in self-righteous judgement, sit in their coffee shops or boutique restaurants in Chicago drinking their mocha lattes or eating their tofu salads and sipping chardonnay while smoking a joint or vaping THC, they decry "flavored" tobacco and work to ban it in the name of "keeping children safe" and "protecting our health." I really did just throw up in my mouth this time. Ugh!!
So, the moral of this post? We are at war and our liberties are under attack. The federal government is not acting within the limits of its power/authority granted by the Constitution. Our rights and freedoms are being stripped away with every flick of the Congressional or legislative pen. And, the sad part is, no one is lifting a finger to stop this madness, what is, by definition, called tyranny. In 1776, the 2.5 million men, women, and children living in the American Colonies put their lives and fortunes on the line to go to war against England, a country with superior military power, because they had had enough of England's tyranny and refused to pay a $0.03 tax per pound of tea. THREE CENTS! How weak and blind have we become in 243 years that we are now accepting government tyranny with little grumbling and paying 17% to more than 46% of our annual wages in taxes every year?
I served my country for 22 years ... I fought for our freedoms and my family made sacrifices so I could. And, even though I am now retired from the Air Force, my retirement does not relieve me of my oath to protect the Constitution and I will not stand idly by and do nothing while the State of Illinois and our federal government strip us of our rights and freedom. "I see a whole army of my countrymen, here in defiance of tyranny! Aye! Fight and you may die. Run and you will live, at least awhile. And dying in your beds many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives but they will never take our FREEDOM?"
Who is with me? Who is willing to fight for your freedom to enjoy the pleasure and satisfaction of smoking your pipe tobacco? Now is the time to take action and contact your State and federal legislators (I have a hard time calling them representatives since they're not representing our interests in this or many other matters) and let them know how strongly you oppose the Trump Administration's ban on flavored vaping products and State bans on tobacco products. If your State and federal legislators continue to support these bans, then take action to ensure they are not re-elected. It's up to us to make to make sure that our voices are heard. Let's stand together and fight!
The Story Teller