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I Fought the Anti-Tobacco Movement (and no one has technically won yet)

It seems like the only group that comes up in conversations about smokers’ rights is Cigar Rights of America. Now, I’m not trying to discount the amazing work that they’re doing, but there are a bunch of other similar groups who also work towards a more smoker-friendly America, but get much less publicity. In this case, I’m talking about New York City Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment, or NYC CLASH, an organization founded in 2000 by Audrey Silk.

Silk, a former NYC police officer for 20 years, started NYC CLASH in response to then Governor George Pataki’s tax hike on cigarettes. After the tax hike, Silk began attending City Council meetings, only to find out that City Councils would rather hear from organizations than people. And so NYC CLASH was born.

Silk was recently interviewed by Gothamist concerning the then-impending smoking ban on New York City’s parks and beaches. The interview was conducted shortly before City Council approved the ban, so her tone was slightly more reserved than I think it would’ve been after, though she still made excellent points. Referring to Bloomberg and Councilwoman Gale Brewer’s proposal for the ban, Silk had this to say: “[Councilwoman Brewer] is saying that this is the way to make people quit smoking. By making it as difficult as possible. They are, through force of legislation, trying to control legal behavior. They are trying to remove it from sight. To have smoking be visible means it is acceptable to do—this is the thought police now.”

Silk also mentioned that NYC CLASH is not funded by tobacco companies—not even the anti-tobacco lobbyists can say that. “Guess where the anti-smokers are getting their dollars? Tobacco. I mean this is how they are funded. Through the settlement agreement and taxes.” She was referring, of course, to the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement of 1998.

I could put the entire interview up here in quotes, but at the risk of being completely redundant, I’d rather let you read it for yourself. Also, check out NYC CLASH’s website for information about the organization as well as news updates and printable fliers. Thanks to Audrey Silk and NYC CLASH for fighting the good fight in BestCigarPrices’ home state!