The liberal case against ever-expanding smoking bans

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Because I write about tobacco policy, for more than a decade I’ve followed a Google News alert for the words “smoking ban.” Periodically checking it offers a window onto the creeping progression of smoking restrictions. A current sampling: a town in South Carolina is banning smoking on the beach, officials in Wales seek to expand restrictions to vaping, and West Hollywood is forbidding residents from smoking on their apartment balconies.

Two prevailing trends stand out from this flow of local news stories. The first is that contemporary bans are often completely detached from the original justification that was used to…


It turns out they have some good ideas

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The COVID-19 pandemic had barely taken hold in the United States when principled libertarianism was reported to be among the early fatalities. “There are no libertarians in a pandemic,” Atlantic writer Derek Thompson quipped on Twitter on March 3.

Thompson likely intended it as an offhand comment, but the phrase took on a life of its own. Within a few days, similar phrasing headlined a piece by Thompson’s colleague Peter Nicholas, who wrote that, “Just as there are no atheists in foxholes, in a national emergency, there’s no truly laissez-faire government.”

Point taken. Libertarianism is a philosophy that celebrates free…


On the state’s lagging vaccine performance and lost doses

Photo by Hakan Nural on Unsplash

According to the COVID vaccine tracker maintained by Bloomberg, Oregon has administered only about a quarter of its vaccine inventory. That puts us near the very bottom of the country, ahead of only four other states. This week, the Oregonian also reported that one of Oregon’s health providers had allowed twenty-seven of those doses to go to waste because it was unable to find eligible healthcare workers to receive them. …


A lifelong Libertarian voter is driven to break for a major party in the 2020 presidential election

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In the year 2000, I turned 18 and cast my first ever presidential vote for Libertarian Party nominee Harry Browne, a charismatic guru of self-help and investment advice. In 2016, I voted for the surprisingly credible Libertarian ticket comprised of two former Republican governors, Gary Johnson and Bill Weld. In between there was another vote for Johnson, a vote for visiting Libertarian Bob Barr, and a vote for whoever was on the ballot in 2004 (Michael Badnarik, according to Wikipedia). My vote is, in other words, a very gettable one for the Libertarian Party. …


Wildfire smoke has given Oregon the world’s most hazardous air. So why are workers outside pumping gas?

Photo by Marcus Spiske.

Parts of Oregon this week achieved the distinction of having the worst air quality in the world. Due to the wildfires, the air quality index rating for Portland exceeded 500, which is literally off the charts. (Anything over 150 is considered “unhealthy” and anything over 300 is “hazardous.”) The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration has urged employers to shut down outdoor work activity when possible. Despite this, there’s still one group of workers needlessly spending their days outdoors: the station attendants who pump drivers’ gasoline because of Oregon’s ban on self-service fueling.

Oregon and New Jersey are the only…


To save smokers’ lives, America must reject its prohibitionist anti-smoking movement

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“Smoking kills. Quit now.” There was no missing the blunt warnings plastered on the cartons of Marlboro cigarettes as the flight attendants half-heartedly paraded the duty-free cart down the aisle of my plane to Switzerland. In case the message wasn’t clear, graphic photographs drove it home: a blackened lung, a close-up of a tracheostomy. There are still plenty of smokers in the world — about a billion of them, actually — but the glamour of smoking has nearly been extinguished.

Even the big tobacco companies, once utterly shameless in their denials of the dangers of smoking, have given up defending…


Here’s the difference between what I saw with my own two eyes and what I see online and on TV

(Credit: Jacob Grier)

Portland, Oregon, to hear the president tell it, is “totally out of control.” According to Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Portland “has been under siege for 47 straight days by a violent mob.” The Wall Street Journal editorial board contends that “anarchists and rioters have wreaked havoc” leading to “a surge of violence.”

It sounds bad.

But from the view of the newly constructed outdoor patio at one my favorite Portland restaurants, sipping on a frozen pineapple margarita after a pleasant summer bike ride around the city, these descriptions struck me as a bit overheated.


What I learned about the past and future of smoking on a journey to a remote craft cigar operation

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It’s 7:00 a.m. and I’ve awakened on Ærø, a tiny island in the Baltic Sea off the southern coast of Denmark. When I arrived at my bed and breakfast the previous evening, there was no sign of any other guests; my welcome was a note directing me to stairs around the back that led up to my tiny room and a key waiting in the door. Today I’m up before the proprietors, whom I’ve yet to meet. My body is still set to Portland, Oregon time and to Portland’s density of coffee shops. …


“You’re overreacting. Look at how many people die from the flu every year,” my mom said. This was a couple weeks ago, and we were on the phone discussing my plans to visit home. My parents live in Houston, I live in Portland, Oregon, and my annual work trip to SXSW in Austin presented an all too rare opportunity to visit Texas. I was expressing my doubts that the trip was going to happen. There was this new coronavirus, and it sounded serious.

My mom, like many at the time and some even now, thought the media might be blowing…


The cover story of this week’s issue of New York Magazine is all about vaping. The publication employs smart, talented writers, so despite the alarmism of the cover tease — “The making of a health crisis that’s only just begun” — I was hopeful that the story itself might offer more nuance. Regrettably, it’s a one-sided mess that fails to convey the complexities of the issue and pays virtually no attention to the needs of current and former smokers whose lives are risk.

Mainstream coverage of vaping tends to focus on the latest fears rather than the long-term case for…

Jacob Grier

Portland-based writer covering public policy and other vices. Author of The Rediscovery of Tobacco and Cocktails on Tap. www.jacobgrier.com

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