For Children’s Sake

Originally appeared in the October 2001 issue of the ABA Journal.

Harmless Error - A Truly Minority View on the Law

For Children’s Sake

BY ANDREW J. McCLURG

Protect the environment. Reform welfare. Lower taxes. Regulate the Internet. Control guns. And do it all for the sake of children!

Politicians are coming to believe that any issue can be sold to the American people so long as it is dressed up in the language of protecting children, as demonstrated by this recent argument on the House floor in favor of increased subsidies for tobacco:

“Mr. Speaker, fellow members, I’m here today to urge support for my bill to increase federal subsidies for tobacco. A vote for my bill is A VOTE FOR CHILDREN!

“Look around us. What do you see? Falling stocks. Declining earnings. Plummeting home sales. But youth smoking isn’t declining. No sir. It’s rising and it will keep rising, thanks to the tobacco industry and the children of this great land of ours. God bless them.

“There are those among us who oppose more tobacco and smoking due to health concerns. But what lesson do we teach our children if we let a few malignant cells kick our butts, especially those little punks causing all that small-cell lung cancer? Sure, 400,000 smoking-related deaths a year seems like a lot, but we have a whole lot more than 400,000 PRECIOUS CHILDREN in this great nation of ours!

“Just think what a better place America would be if more children smoked. We’d have a lot fewer kids going to bed hungry at night, because tobacco is a proven appetite reducer. We’d have a lot fewer kids running from the police, as their lung capacity would be severely diminished. We’d have a lot fewer kids … well, we’d just have a lot fewer kids period.

“Rather than condemn the tobacco companies, we owe them our blessings for helping to keep our nation’s children off the streets and in hospitals where they’re safe.

“It’s a national tragedy that our children lag behind the rest of the world in math, science and verbal skills. But kids who smoke know their math! I guarantee you that. A child can’t shell out $3.50 for a pack of cigarettes without knowing how to manage her allowance, especially when she’s buying them illegally from convenience store clerks who aren’t exactly rocket scientists when it comes to making change.

“Speaking of science, educational research has long shown that science is best learned through hands-on experiments. Smoking allows children to experience first-hand the amazing physiological effect of ammonia additives in pumping up the bloodstream’s ability to absorb nicotine at an accelerated rate.

“Moreover, because of the walloping buzz this delivers, our children will be learning this important lesson while their mental acuity is at its highest level.

“You want to talk about language skills? Where do you think kids are going to learn words like ‘anaplastic carcinoma’ and ‘thoracic irradiation’ if not from the tobacco industry?

“I want to close with a touching story about a POOR DISADVANTAGED CHILD in my district who lives next to an enormous tobacco farm. The nearest playground is 20 miles away, but you don’t hear him complaining. Why? Because, like a lot of kids, Lefty’s learned that tobacco harvesting equipment is much more exciting to play on than swings and slides.

“Finally, I seek unanimous consent to place into the record these important documents in support of my bill—pictures of my INCREDIBLY CUTE GRANDCHILDREN!”

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Andrew Jay McClurg is a law professor whose teaching and research interests include tort law, products liability, legal education, privacy law and firearms policy. He holds the Herbert Herff Chair of Excellence in Law at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.
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