Posted by: notdeaddinosaur | January 5, 2009

Joining the Discussion: Public Smoking Ban

Finally, I have a little extra time on my hands. So what’s the first thing I do? Wade into the dangerous territory where the Happy Hospitalist and the Cranky Professor are at each other’s throats over the topic of a federal smoking ban in public places. Strange idea of fun, I know.

Much as I hate to admit it (and I can only hope the general public recognizes as well as I’m sure Cranky does just how much I hate it) HH is correct in this particular case. Cranky is (I assume unintentionally) misreading HH’s point to generate invective against the nanny state. I actually agree with Cranky and others who bemoan the nanny state, but the problem here is that it is not the issue being argued.

I believe the premise involves a Federal smoking ban IN PUBLIC PLACES. This is not the same as criminalizing all tobacco use, thus the anaology to Prohibition simply does not apply. The issue is that of second-hand smoke; my right (and Cranky’s; and her kids’) to fresh air unsullied by the carcinogens emitted from tobacco products smoked by others. Frankly, I don’t give a rodent’s patootie about the health of public smokers (when they aren’t my patients, and even when they are my patients, when they’re not in my office they’re out of my jurisdiction.) Thus, all the ranting about the futility of legislating healthful behavior, while correct, is irrelevant to this specific discussion.

Cranky: say you were out somewhere with your kids swimming in a lovely, clean pond and saw someone on the shore relieving themselves into the water. I’m pretty sure you’d have the same, visceral “ewww” that I would (though I know your invective would be orders of magnitude more colorful than any I could ever dream of crafting.) Would you be so quick to condemn the powers-that-be for putting up a sign saying “SHITTING IN THE POND IS PROHIBITED” for trampling on the rights of the poor, benighted shitters who choose to continue their unhealthful ways despite massive public campaigns about the dangers of disease contracted from shit-filled water?

Laws against dumping toxic waste have nothing to do with the dumpers, and everything to do with the general public. The idea of a smoking ban is more analogous to laws against pollution than to seatbelt or helmet laws. A proposed federal PUBLIC smoking ban has nothing to do with the smokers and everything to do with me and you (and asthmatics) and the air we breathe. Nothing about such a ban would prevent people from filling their homes and cars with all the toxic fumes they want. Of course, this begs the issue of their children. Adults may have the right to poison their own lungs, but the nanny state could easily make the case that children need to be protected and thus remove kids from the homes of smokers. This is the real slant of that slippery slope you deplore.

You’re trying to run a thoroughbred at a NASCAR event. Come on back over to the right racetrack and I’ll buy you a beer.


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