Friday, August 15, 2003

Who’s Afraid of Smoking?
Alexander Marriott August 15, 2003

To those of you who think such things matter, I will say now, so as to not have this piece tarnished later, that I indeed do smoke tobacco pipes and cigars, but ones own preferences or affiliations do not and cannot change the truth or falsehood of one’s reasoning.

Just about everyone who doesn’t smoke, that’s who.

Though I don’t intend to enter into the scientific fray over whether or not secondhand smoke is dangerous or not, because 1) I don’t think it particularly relevant to the point of my article and 2) I’m not a scientist. However, there are a couple of general observations worth making. First, it’s convenient that the government bans tobacco companies from advertising, a somewhat dubious act in what is supposed to be a free country, and then spends millions of dollars demonizing tobacco companies who cannot respond. It’s also convenient that the Federal government and most of the states force the tobacco companies to pay billions of dollars supposedly to make amends for all the smoking related illnesses that these governments are unconstitutionally treating, but which is then spent on things like the Nevada Millennium Scholarship and other such non-healthcare programs. These are just two observations that merely tell us that if science did truly back the assertion that smoking and secondhand smoking were the most dangerous things on the planet, then why can’t tobacco companies publicly respond through advertising? Opponents claim that they would merely lie to the public, but when the government lies, as it has done many times particularly during wars, it’s perfectly ok. In addition I can’t sue the government for their fraud like I could a tobacco company that lied in a commercial.

However, the point of this article is to examine the public hysteria about smoking that has led to smoking bans in California, Chicago, New York, and many other places in not only governmental buildings, but private establishments like restaurants and bars. What drives this, and who is behind it? Do the motives involved simply amount to a misguided desire to save people or are they far more sinister? Why should we care?

What drives people to think they can ban things in property over which they have no rights or, in other words, that which belongs to other people? The answer to this question is quite simple, collectivism and altruism. It is the same idea that says anyone, particularly a bureaucrat, can tell any business owner who they can fire and who they will hire. Private property under this auspice of collectivism is subservient to any pressing “group right” or “societal goal.” These are terms that are entirely meaningless simply because a group can have no rights beyond those of the individuals in it and a society cannot have any goals beyond the goals of the individuals who make up that society. The other justification is that all rights must be sacrificed to save others, or a sort of civic altruism. There is a perceived threat of breathing cigarette smoke that may or may not cause harm at some point, therefore all private property rights ought to be sacrificed to possibly save the person or people at risk. The immense dangers in both of these credos ought to be obvious to even the most dimwitted.

Those pushing the smoking bans probably fall into two general groups. The first is the stupid college kids who walk around pestering people about smoking, make those incredibly dumb Truth commercials, and genuinely think they are doing something worthwhile in dictating to people what they should or should not do. The second are the intellectuals who teach the dopey college students and there goal is, in most cases, socialism. The reason for this is obvious; smoking is generally unpopular and makes for an easy way to further degrade private property, which is a giant stumbling block for a socialist state. Of course there are more than just college students and academics in the anti-smoking crowd and many of them sympathize with these or other similar goals in one form or another.

But Alex, what if secondhand smoke does kill and we let it just happen in bars and restaurants, what kind of country would this be? A free one. Most things can kill you if you aren’t careful. A staircase, alcohol, a pair of scissors, an electric outlet, and a bolt of lightning can all be mean your death and have meant the death of many thousands. But if it were the policy of the government to stop all instances where people may get killed then we’d have to have a police state to monitor everyone all day and night to make sure they didn’t do something dangerous. If you hate smoking, smoke, and smokers then go to a restaurant or bar that doesn’t allow it, or if there isn’t one of those, start one, or help someone else start one, or, and this may sound nutty, you could stay on your own property which would be, presumably, smoke-free all the time.

The great thing about owning your own property is that you can do away with those things about the property of others that you don’t like. Whereas if everyone collectively owned all property, and let’s assume for a minute a government wasn’t in place to hold it for everyone, you’d be at the mercy of all other people. If you hated smoking how could you ever stop Bob from smoking in “your” house, because technically, Bob owns the house too, or at least part of it? There is a reason life in socialist and communist countries (i.e. France, the Soviet Union, Cuba) stinks. Not only is there an oppressive government that will either take all of your money or kill you or both, but there is no other way for it to be, if one cannot own the products of one’s own labor then one will not produce anything above subsistence except with a gun in the back, and that is never a great motivator. Smoking may be a bad habit and perhaps it will kill you someday, but this current route of destroying property rights is certain suicide.

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