On the Other Hand...

by Jim Davies 

Cigarettes and Crash Helmets


It's hard to believe, but they're at it again; having totally failed to stamp out the smoking of marijuana, the parasites whose salaries you and I pay are now flying kites about the idea of banning the smoking of tobacco!

I don't smoke. I did once, but I didn't inhale (that's the one thing I share with Mr Clinton, if he's telling the truth) and so much disliked what the smoke did to my throat, that I never bought a second pack. But it's absolutely the right of anyone else to do so, fully at his or her own expense.

My first reaction on hearing the news of this mad-hat idea was that they just have to be kidding. But then I remembered that they really did ban alcohol, for over a decade in this, the 20th Century; so perhaps they are not kidding! Perhaps they are so stoned on power that they will actually try to do it.  


Should there be any limits at all on that right? Non-smoker though I am, I say no, not as a matter of Law. A combination of property rights and good manners will do all that is needed. Let's explore. And first, the minor nuisances.

Perhaps you join me in disliking second-hand smoke, and possibly it actually causes us some harm, though I have heavy doubts. Personally, that dislike extends only to cigarettes; pipe and cigar smoke I find quite pleasant, so am always wryly amused when the airline hostess reads the usual notice about "cigarettes only, please, gentlemen." Apparently, ladies never like cigars?

Now, this minor nuisance can easily be taken care of, and traditionally it has been, before the last decade or so when the politicians saw a chance to extend their reach. If the house is yours, you can ask your guests not to smoke inside. Easy. If the restaurant doesn't offer a no-smoking zone, you can go eat elsewhere; being greedy for profits, the owner will soon get the point and make his decision accordingly. And if the workplace allows smoking, it's because the employer values the services of our smoking colleagues more than he values ours, so again, we can go work for someone else if we don't like it.

None of that is to say that it's good manners to blow smoke into someone else's air space - far from it. If our society was more governed by manners than by laws, smokers would be far more sensitive to the feelings of others at work and elsewhere. But the way things are, one can make the point by coming to work with a gas mask, and wearing it when someone lights up. Good manners may have been buried deep, but can surely be exhumed if the hint is strong enough.  

Major Nuisance

Unpleasant odors are just that - a smoke screen. The real force behind the current move to control more of what we smoke is the argument that since tobacco kills a third of a million people a year, the cost of helping them die humanely is not one that we can afford.

Quite right, but let's be very careful. That argument, as commonly used, relies upon an unstated premise: that you and I do have some obligation to pay the medical expenses of cancer patients. WRONG!!

Except in the collectivist minds of the politicians, we have no such obligation - not for smokers, not for anyone else.

It's exactly parallel to the argument used in support of biker Helmet Laws; if the biker has an accident, society (ie government, ie taxpayer) has an assumed obligation to patch him up, therefore government has a right to tell him what to wear on his head so as to minimize our cost.

And if the premise of that "obligation" is correct, then so is the conclusion about that "right".

As a matter of fact, it goes a whole lot further yet. If it's really true (don't worry, it's not) that you and I have some obligation to pay for whatever care any member of society may need, then "we" (that is, government) do indeed have the right to govern any and every detail of his behavior so that "our" costs are kept low.

Is it found that overeating causes heart failure? - then it's perfectly valid to enforce laws that make people diet... or to ration food, so that they cannot overeat. Is it shown that exercise reduces medical bills? - then "we" have a right to force everyone to do P.E. for half an hour before breakfast, just like they did on the Communist Chinese Collectives.

Point is, once we grant the premise that you and I have an obligation towards our fellow men, there is no limit to what government can properly force them to do.

And if, like me, you do not accept that conclusion then you must, like me, reject the premise on which it's built; you must concur that we truly have no such obligation whatever.

So the premise of the smoke-banners' argument is false; if people want to smoke, let them - but let them pay all the costs, including those of the nurses as they die of cancer. And if they can't pay, then unless some nurse wants to donate her services, they will not get nursed.

In such a free, responsible society, things may not be all that harsh, for the smoker. Knowing the fate that may await him (dying slowly without a red cent of tax-funded help) he may very well join his fellow smokers to set up a Dying Smokers' Fund. He'd pay a premium during his lifetime, and the Fund would undertake to pay his terminal medical bills in due course.

Like I said, everyone should be free to smoke, at his or her own expense.

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