Should smoking be allowed in public places?

28 September, 2007

Freedom goes as far as your next-door neighbour; the people around you expect to be free from your bad habits, and rightly so.

How do you define bad? You don’t – they do. That is the funny part of freedom: it is so maddeningly subjective that you would almost wish there were somebody to impose your definition upon others.

Except, that would be no freedom; and so I would like to be free from your bad smell, she would like to be free from my foul opinions, and non-smokers would want to be, well, healthy.

Change of gear

Society appreciates health in the same way it appreciates economic growth, patriotism, and freedom. It is taken for granted that these values be pursued. In that vain, government will go against corporate interests to the extent voters will force it and lobbyists allow it.

In the nineties, evidently, public pressure on the US federal government became so vehement that crossing it would have meant losing the elections. Clinton, ever the political animal, sensed this and allowed the judicial branch to persecute the tobacco industry for as long as the public maintained an active interest.

And now, my (foul) opinion

Politics is not my game; I like transparent reasoning, so that you may disagree with me based on my arguments rather than on rhetorics. So let me posit that as far as health is considered, I am selfish. I will try and maximise my health, even to the detriment of the enjoyment of others.

When I go to a restaurant, I want to be confident that the probability of me getting cancer is influenced by my choice of food and drink only, rather than by someone else’s decision to light up a cigarette. (As always, there is more than one reason to want something – such as not wanting to smell like a chimney after a nice dinner, or preferring to taste my food free from cigarette smoke, but that would only serve to amplify my tendency to write long articles.) Only slightly less selfish is my wish to extend this confidence to my loved ones.

Society is good for you

Fortunately, society seems to share my preoccupation with health and so I can leverage its influence on government to limit other people’s freedom to impose health risks on me.

Considerations such as the societal costs of smoking don’t hurt, either. After all, if a smoker only increased the probability of lung cancer for himself, that would be one thing. In reality, though, indirect smoking is just as bad, meaning the incidences of smoking-related diseases increase exponentially when smoking is allowed in public spaces. Which is undesirable in both health and economic terms.

It is with great pleasure that I say: thank you for not smoking.


2 Responses to “Should smoking be allowed in public places?”

  1. ambre Says:

    I am against smoking in public places, but not as a whole. I pose that all public places should provide a smoking area closed off from the rest of the establishment, as not to engulf the other individuals with clouds of smoke.


  2. mbotta Says:

    Hi Amber,

    Good point; I have nothing per se against smokers, except that they smell and demonstrate an unhealthy addiction ;)

    But I kid.

    Smiling back, as always :)



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