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Cigarettes and Policy
I was talking to my two older sisters recently and it came up that both of them have never in their lives had a cigarette. Not a puff, not a stoke, not nothing. I was surprised. I just thought cigarettes were something everyone tries at some point in their life. It was always like one of the first crossroads in late adolescents: either you smoke or you don't. When I got to said crossroad I realized of course it doesn't exist, we all of course interact with substances differently at different stages of our life. I have never purchased a pack of cigarettes in my life, but I have indulged in a fair amount. Yeah, I'm that guy, the one at the party who bums one when everyone moves to the fire escape.

When I'm sober I don't particularly enjoy cigarettes. They are a great sensation while intoxicated, but otherwise they have no appeal. I'm not so interested in the discussion of why people smoke cigarettes, because I'm sure there are a multitude of reasons from a myriad of personalities. What I am interested in is the anti-smoking movement that emerged mid-century after a host of medical tests of course linked it to lung disease and cancer. It seems practically amazing that almost every state has laws against cigarettes when just 30 or 40 years ago a thick smoke inhabited every cubicle of space from bathroom to elevator to movie theater. It seems almost a fantastic change in half a century and an amazing display of collaboration between various public sectors.

First I want to discuss the merits of policies banning cigarettes from public spaces. What are the merits? What are the reasons? Well it seems obvious the government is acting out of the interests of the non-smokers who shouldn't have to be exposed to second-hand smoke. They are certainly not banning us from smoking. How could they? It is our choice as adults to harm our body in anyway we chose. But what about privately owned spaces? Shouldn't a restaurant be able to allow smoking if they receive no money from the government? It then becomes the responsibility of the restaurant goer to pick another spot to eat if he can't deal with the smoke inside. In L.A. I've heard it's illegal to smoke on the sidewalks as well. Not having ever been there I'm not sure if there are certain sidewalks you are allowed to smoke and others that you aren't, but this seems like an almost drastic measure against second-hand smoke. Where does that leave the smoker to smoke? I guess everyone has a car in L.A. But if you can't smoke outside it's almost as if the government wants to tag you as some sort of other being: "look Suzie, that man with the scar on his cheek is a smoker, he probably wants to harm you in some devilish way, stay away from smokers or you'll get a scar like that." Morbid, but still, smokers are being vilified.

What about higher taxing on cigarettes? Is this fair? Should people who smoke be forced to pay more money for something because it harms their body? Is that really effective in stopping addiction? I wonder how much money that brings in for the government? Then of course there are the European countries (which still are heavily smoking) who paste pictures of destroyed lungs all over the cigarette carton. I kind of like this method the best. I wonder if there are any statistics covering the effects of this measure.

So as responsible citizens, how do we treat the issue of cigarettes? Is it at all similar to obesity ? I should think so, the only difference being that the damage you are doing to yourself as a smoker may also affect those around you. But where lies the responsibility of us as a community to limit something that has been an institution all over the world? I mean smoking cigarettes is such a personal choice I feel like the government should tread much lighter than they currently are. What are your thoughts?
I can certainly imagine that there are many factors at work, but to the best of my knowledge the issue of restaurants has to do with the people who work there. The argument is that it is not fair to require the wait staff to be exposed to a known carcinogen in their everyday work environment. Why then, someone will ask, aren't you allowed to staff a restaurant entirely with smokers. This is fraught with difficulty. First of all, the employer would be providing an economic incentive for staff to claim they are smokers when applying for the job, as otherwise they will not be hired, and there is no reliable way to establish whether or not a person is "actually" a smoker. If one believes that cigarettes are harmful, it is certainly not a good idea to allow a situation in which people might become smokers in order to get a job, or might continue smoking to stay hired.

Personally, I am surprised that cigarettes are vilified to the extent that they are when what passes for food in many parts of the industrialized world is fed to children in schools while no one bats an eye. Doubtless there are other issues at work. However, that said, I find the anti-smoking legislation understandable in context.
I very much agree with the ban of smoking in public places. Restaurants, bars, work spaces...anything. It's fine. No one should be forced to
breath my second hand smoke and stink like my filthy habit when they return home.
I have to say that new proposal to  ban smoking in parks and  beaches is an absolute nonsense.
Why not ban   McDonalds and SUVs?
They do more  harm in  one day   than I do in year of smoking.
Plus I'm paying $10 for a pack as opposed to $2.50 for a gallon of  gas or     $1   for a toxic hamburger.
It's all too much really.
Allowing restaurants to choose themselves whether to allow smokers wouldn't just hurt the waiters.  Restaurants could have chosen to be smoke free before the law, but it is unwise commercially. If 5 people go to a restaurant and one of them smokes chances are they would all go to a restaurant which allows smoking. Somehow it is still easier for people to demand the ability to smoke rather than people saying it bothers them. Yes, if one out of the 5 was a non-smoker they could try to demand not to go to into a smoke-pit but it would rarely work. Similar to laws which forbid you to stab someone or assault them, so these laws try to protect people from being harmed by others. There is really no difference.

But you also ask, Patrick and Milena, why does it seem that society tries to force you to stop smoking while you are only hurting yourself (similar to the on drugs discussion)? Well, if the moment you ever smoked a cigarette you would sign an affidavit saying that any disease related to smoking will not be covered by (basic) health insurance and you will not take a dime from the government for any consequences of your actions then you would have a point. But this is not the case. We live in a society where hurting yourself could have grave consequences for others.

If you want to jump off a cliff and commit suicide - fine, but if you jump and survive, why should we be forced to pay any part of your medical bills?
You are hurting your surrounding not simply by second hand smoke, but also by second hand medical bills.

To explain my point: I just found out from talking to a friend that there is no real public option for sick animals. That is, if you have a sick animal, your beloved pet/friend, either you have the money for medical bills or you kill it. Sometimes these are very significant sums. This seems extremely cruel to me, but I somewhat understand it (though I'm not sure I agree with it). You know how many animals could have been saved by the money thrown on dealing with smokers who supposedly "just hurt themselves?"
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Latest Post: March 18, 2012 at 4:51 AM
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