Smoking Ban: still more folly!

Categories: Drugs

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The U of M is kicking around the idea of enacting a campus-wide smoking ban. Officials say the ban might include all outdoor areas.

Now: we’ve opined on the ludicrousness of the smoking ban here before. In doing so, we’ve elicited many a skillfully argued rebuttal, which inevitably hinge on the notion that secondhand smoke poses a grave threat to unwitting victims— which is to say those unfortunate enough to have been kidnapped and locked in smoky bars against their wills for a sufficient duration (decades) to suffer the damages wrought by secondhand smoke.

(Though some especially skilled debaters have managed to stretch the definition of unwitting victims to include bartenders and clients who choose to enter a bar of their own volition.) Fine. Point conceded.

Obviously, that argument can't be applied to justify an outdoor ban: when a law endeavors to push beyond second-party concerns, when it seeks to curtail behavior that is unequivocally, 100 percent victimless—that is to say when the “offender” and “victim” are one and the same—it enters a realm of absurdity that, in a sane world, would hardly need pointing out.

It goes without saying that we don’t live in a sane world. So let’s be blunt here, and unrepentantly straightforward:

The anti-smoking crusaders who operate on this level are the ideological descendents of the imbecilic prohibitionists and anti-drug warriors that have plagued our nation since time immemorial. This ramped up anti-smoking fervor is merely the latest incarnation of our predisposition to puritanical meddling, our weird inclination to put our neighbor’s “health” before his freedom or—Jesus forbid!—his own debauched happiness.

The fact that today’s ban advocates describe themselves, by and large, as “liberals” (root word: liberty) only adds to the counterintuitive (read: hypocritical) hilarity of their stance.

Self-appointed Protectors of Other People’s Lungs are no doubt thinking right now: You’re forgetting about health care costs, Matt, you filthy apologist for the tobacco industry! Increased health costs affect us all!

But if cigarettes are as deadly as commonly claimed—I refer specifically to the much-repeated assertion that each cigarette smoked subtracts 11 minutes from one’s life—then the public money saved by the premature death of a pack-a-day smoker, simply in terms of averted Social Security and health care costs, far exceeds the funds needed to comfort him in the immediate lead-up to his untimely death. (To say nothing of the energy and natural resources conserved as a result of the poor bastard’s early passing.) So even in the cold economical sense their more rational advocates cite, smoking bans remain conspicuously imprudent, particularly over the long haul.

Truth is, the only profit offered by smoking bans is the warm, fuzzy feeling busybodies evidently derive from trying to save other people from themselves. “Look at how compassionate I am!” their subtext shrieks. “I seek to save people!”

From whom?! I ask you.

It’s hoped that one day their adorable minds will open to the fact that the moral premise on which they operate is every bit as poisonous and addicting as the “evil” they purport to combat. In the meantime, let’s watch their quixotic struggles with patience and good cheer. They are, after all, a well-meaning people. Which, of course, is why they’re prone to fits of paternalistic folly in the first place. In fact, if we—

But I’m afraid I must cut this pompous screed short. The time has come for me to step outside and ponder the Apocalypse over a delicious cancer stick.

Is that okay with you, sweet Puritan?


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