Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s most enduring legacy is that of the ultimate nanny stater. In addition to his failed Big Gulp ban, ban on trans fats, and ban on e-cigarette use in public places, Nanny Mike also pushed a range of anti-smoking policies including a ban on smoking in public places and a really massive tobacco tax hike that drove the price of a pack of cigarettes in Manhattan up to as much as $14.50. All in the name of public health.
Guess what, though? News out of New York last week is adding to the evidence that despite Bloomberg’s enthusiasm for nanny statism, employing the heavy hand of government to make people “be good” doesn’t actually work. In fact, it may create circumstances in which they persist in bad habits – and incentivize other bad behavior by genuinely bad actors.
For the first time in years, more than 1 million New Yorkers are smoking, according to data released Monday, marking a disturbing rise of tobacco use in the city that pioneered a number of anti-smoking initiatives that were emulated nationally.
Sixteen percent of adult New Yorkers smoked in 2013, up from 14 percent in 2010, which was the city’s lowest recorded rate, according to the findings released by New York City’s Department of Health.
Under Michael Bloomberg, who served 12 years as mayor beginning in 2002, New York radically reshaped its plans to curb smoking among its residents. Bloomberg’s signature health initiative was to bar smoking in public parks and most other public places, including bars and restaurants, across the nation’s largest city.
While those decisions originally sparked controversy, the policy was later embraced by most New Yorkers and copied across the U.S. The city also funded several hard-hitting campaigns that used graphic imagery of smoke-damaged internal organs — and depictions of amputations and other smoking-related health complications — to scare off users, particularly children.
Moreover, a pack of cigarettes purchased in New York City is subject to more taxes than any other municipality in the nation.
So are New Yorkers just gluttons for punishment, who just can’t resist draining their bank accounts to pay for a habit that Nanny Mike made vastly more expensive? Actually, no. New York City is a prime destination for cigarette smugglers moving contraband up I-95 from states like Virginia where taxes are low to the Big Apple. Who are these smugglers? According to a former assistant director of the ATF, they include fine, upstanding citizens like the Russian mafia and terrorist-affiliated individuals looking to make a fast buck.
None of this has deterred Nanny Bloomberg from laser-focused pursuit of his goal of taking nanny statism worldwide, however.
He’s building a big headquarters in London from which to push nanny statism global, lobbying the likes of London Mayor Boris Johnson on trans fats (click the link, search for the term and see Boris Johnson’s response on this – it’s well worth it).
He’s been buddying up to Recep Tayyip Erdogan, generally a guy American Jews like Nanny Mike don’t consider a strong ally, in order to help Erdogan push through New York-like anti-smoking measures in Turkey (apparently Erdogan hates smoking just about as much as he likes crackdowns on protestors of his leadership style).
Meanwhile, Nanny Mike’s allies at the World Health Organization are currently prepping for a big bash to be generously hosted by keen-to-impress-on-the-global-stage Putinist Russia, at which the WHO may well once again try to push for a global tobacco tax.
You know a philosophy has to be awesome when it has the backing of Nanny Mike, Big Bad Vlad, Erdogan and UN bureaucrats. Oh, and the Russian mob. Nanny statism #FTW.