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?