By Alfa · Jul 5, 2004 · ·
  1. Alfa

    Consider two "drug wars" -- one a highly and expensively hyped crusade, the
    other quieter; but both of tremendous social, economic, legal and cultural
    significance over the last few decades.

    One, waged principally against opiates, cannabis and cocaine by state and
    federal governments for more than 20 years, has cost billions, perhaps
    trillions of dollars in taxpayer money; taxed the resources of already
    overworked law enforcement agencies; sustained a criminal empire the size
    and riches of which would dwarf the booze kingpins of the 1920s and '30s;
    created, with the help of "mandatory sentencing" politics, an unprecedented
    corrections crisis by stuffing prisons to bursting with drug offenders; and
    provided the dubious rationale for abrogating the Bill of Rights to an
    extent even the Patriot Act hasn't approached. And even the front-line
    troops in this war have acknowledged it's a losing campaign.

    "Drug war" No. 2, which hasn't generated nearly as much attention -- which,
    in fact, few people have thought of as a "drug war" at all -- has involved
    relatively little public money, no prison space, little or no effort on the
    part of law enforcement. Nobody's been randomly summoned away from a desk or
    work site to urinate into a cup. And it has been waged against a drug that
    every year claims more lives than all illegal substances combined.

    But the vast differences in expense and approach aren't the most dramatic
    distinction here. The biggest difference is that one of them has worked.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta reported last week
    that smoking among American teens is at its lowest level in almost 30 years
    -- an achievement the CDC attributes principally to anti-smoking campaigns
    and higher cigarette prices. Dr. John Banzhaf III, executive director of
    Action on Smoking and Health and professor of public interest law at George
    Washington University Law School, called it "probably the most dramatic
    progress which has been made in terms of any public health problem, at least
    in recent memory."

    So providing people with education and information has proven dramatically
    effective in curbing use of a drug some experts have said is as addictive as
    heroin; while draconian laws and sentences and self-incrimination policies
    have created more problems than they have solved.

    Surely there's a lesson in there somewhere.

    -- Dusty Nix, for the editorial board

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  1. airmax95
    I have a thought on this. Could it be that smoking is down among young people because more and more of them are discover coke, x, meth, etc....? If you pay attention to the news, illicit drug use has gone up in most major cities in the U.S. Why smoke when you can do other drugs, which in my opinion are way better than cigarettes.
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