Lighten up

Anyone who doesn’t know by now that smoking stinks and is ruinous to health won’t be deterred from lighting up by the sight of a CSI-style photo or two.

But with all its gargantuan earnestness, the federal government is determined to plaster yucky images on the front and the back of cigarette packs to persuade prospective or active nicotine addicts to just say no.

An appeals court is set to hear testimony today about the warning labels; the ongoing litigation is like a mash-up of the corporate speech and federal mandate issues raised by the Citizens United and “Obamacare” cases, respectively.

But the battle also reflects our conflicted, if not residually Puritanical, relationship with all sorts of profitable, pleasurable, and problematic products.

Consider New Jersey’s torturous process of licensing medical marijuana dispensaries. Or recent squabbles in other states about Four Loko and similar sugary, alcohol-laced beverages. Or questions about casinos and lotteries and online “gaming.”

Cigarettes are legal. Every day, millions of Americans make the mistake of smoking them.

It’s still their right.

It’s also their right to quit.

Like I did on September 1, 2008.