Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Smoking up a debate

Headline on Jpost today, Stiff anti-smoking bill due to pass in Knesset next week, reminded me of a post I saw on Corporate Presenter about the smoking ban in Britain, on which I wanted to comment already some while ago.
I finally took the time to do so:

I feel mitigated about this subject.
As a libertarian, I agree with you about the fact that this obviously impedes on people's freedom to decide wether or not they want to smoke.
However, as a non-smoker, I feel that often my personal freedom isn't respected. When I am in a restaurant, I choose to have clean air around me, but the smokers' smoke doesn't seem to agree with me.
This is why I see this as very different than say, a ban on fatty foods. Fatty foods are bad for you, but you eating them has no direct impact whatsoever on me (I'll avoid the discussion about my taxes paying someone's coronary bypass even though I watched my cholesterol intake while he probably didn't). If there could be a way in which only the smoker would suffer the direct consequences of his decision, then there would be no problem. But if someone in the same room as me smokes, I still end up with my clothes smelling of smoke, needing to wash my (long) hair before I go to sleep reeking of smoke, and I get unfiltered smoke into my lungs, even though I don't smoke.
I believe that my personal freedom goes only as far as the next person's. This is a problem in this case, as my wanting clean air stamps on someone's freedom to smoke, and obviously someone's wish to smoke impedes my having clean air.
There are two ways to look at this.
  1. Was the air mine to begin with? Since it wasn't, anyone is allowed to do what they want with it. If I don't like it, I can change restaurant, go wait for the bus under the rain instead of the bus stop, not go to that bar, and quite generally stay at home where I'm sure I have every right to say what can enter "my" air and what can't. If I start blowing soap bubbles, even if this disturbs other people, it's not their air I'm filling with bubbles, so why shouldn't I?
  2. Is my 'not-smoking' harming anyone? Creating an inconvenience for the nicotine dependant smoker, yes, but harming? I honestly think not. Is the smoker's smoking harming anyone other than himself? Yes. If I decide to blow bubbles, and the bubbles pop on other people's shirts and make a stain, something of theirs is being harmed only because I decided to start blowing bubbles there.

Being a non-smoker, I obviously have more of a penchant for the second view. Personal freedom, yes, but only as long as it doesn't directly harm someone else's.

I don't like the fact that it is a government ban. Every restaurant, pub, etc, should decide what is best for their type of environment and clientele and business. I know restaurateurs who are slowly going out of business because of smoke regulations in their countries. This doesn't help reduce the number of smokers, (which is, I think, what the government wants to do usually), it just redirects smokers to places where they can smoke. That's government meddling in business for you.

I could go on about this issue for quite some time...

Any thoughts?


Anonymous said...

I can remember when the smell of smoke wasn't an issue. Indeed, cologne that smelled like tobacco was sold. But since politicians have given troublemakers free rein to squawk about smoke to the exclusion of countless other smells, mitigation is necessary in the form of proper air cleaning. Devices are available that leave indoor air cleaner than outdoors, and could be paid for with tax credits.

These devices aren't used because tobacco nazis claim that a few deadly molecules remain and the only answer is a smoking ban to the exclusion of all other pollution.

So "clean air" fanatics are breathing filthy air and loving it. Serves them right.

Joe Camel said...

To foam at the mouth about dilute cigarette smoke while ignoring pervasive automotive and industrial pollition is the epitome of hypocrisy. Who do you think you're fooling?