The banners are up to their tired old tricks.

Here in the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration is considering whether to exercise its authority to ban menthol cigarettes, even though studies repeatedly have found that they are no more harmful than non- mentholated cigarettes. Drunk with power, regulators and those encouraging them are using catchy slogans such as “Menthol: it helps the poison go down easier.”

Prohibitionists ignore or belittle concerns that a ban on menthol cigarettes would turn citizens into criminals, increase unregulated youth access to cigarettes, and even encourage people to make their own mentholated cigarettes (all it takes is a regular cigarette, a cough drop, and a ziplock bag).

It is hard to miss the similarities between current prohibition campaigns and their historical predecessors. The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union’s “stated desire was to ‘reform, so far as possible, by religious, ethical, and scientific means the drinking classes.’?” Likewise today, says Snowdon, self-righteous activists and their allies in government do not seek to improve public health by following the dictates of science but rather use pseudoscientific arguments and “subtle deceit” to advance laws that dictate how we live.

It is easy now, as Ken Burns has masterfully done, to ridicule the prohibition of alcohol. But Snowdon does the heavy lifting of catching modern-day Carrie Nations in the act. Despite a long history of failure, the public always seems ready to enlist in prohibitionist campaigns, perhaps believing, as Snowdon puts it, that “utopia is only ever one ban away.”

Which reminded me of this.

Let me conclude, and again this is my prediction — I will tell you I don’t think it is subject to opinion. Just look at it. Just take a look at what has happened now and what will happen. I will tell you how inexorable it is. If we get together here in the year 2005, I will bet you that it is as likely as not that the possession of marijuana may not be criminal in this state. But the manufacture, sale, and possession of tobacco will be, and why? Because we love this idea of prohibitions, we can’t live without them. They are our very favorite thing because we know how to solve difficult, social, economic, and medical problems — a new criminal law with harsher penalties in every category for everybody.

Drunk with power is probably the most dangerous addiction known to man. And there are those who would feed it to combat lesser addictions. It will not end well.