what we’ve been debating for three days

Most days when I walk out the front door to lunch, there are people holding petitions, imploring me to sign in support of a state-wide ban on smoking in most public places. So far I’ve managed to slip by, but last week they caught my husband as he was waiting for me to walk out the door. We haven’t stopped debating it since.

I don’t support such a ban.

Now, understand that I think making all government buildings smoke-free is a good idea: we all have to go into those, like it or not. But all privately owned restaurants and bars? I say it’s the owners right. If they want to work in that environment, absorb the additional wear and tear, and try to maintain a quality staff willing to work in such a health hazard, that’s their right. It’s also your right as a consumer not to walk into any place where there is secondhand smoke. No one is forcing you to give them your money.

My husband contends that smoking in a public place is rude, and therefore this law would simply be courteous. I contend that courtesy, by its very nature, is voluntary and done out of the goodness of one’s heart, therefore to legislate it takes any meaning out of the act. But the whole courtesy/discourtesy debate is really not the point.

In my mind, there are two problems with this legislation. One, it limits freedoms, and two, while purporting to protect health, it removes the requirement for personal responsibility. I’m going to explain these in reverse order.

I am twenty-five years old. I lead what’s considered a “clean” lifestyle; I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I drink plenty of water, I don’t use illegal substances, I don’t even drink caffiene and I rarely take any kind of medication. I try to eat a balanced, unrefined diet, although lately I’ve been eating entirely too much chocolate. Although I don’t exercise as much as I should, I walk a mile and a half to work at least three times a week. I am quite aware that how I treat my body will affect my long and short term health. I suggest that under these circumstances, occasional or even frequent exposure to secondhand smoke is not going to cause me to contract lung cancer or heart disease. Why? Because I am giving my body the tools it needs to fight those potential free-radicals. I resent government’s implication that I cannot take care of myself, that I don’t know when I need to avoid second-hand smoke, that they can care for my health better than I can. And seriously? If the government is going to take on this responsibility for the public’s health, are they prepared for the litigation when, in spite of their best efforts, someone does contract lung cancer?

On personal freedoms: the surgeon general has detirmened that second hand smoke is always harmful to others. What happens when something else slightly less tangible is considered harmful to others? What about…public prayer? What would happen if an atheist decided that having to watch others pray in public offended his sense of morality as much as indecent exposure offends a Christian. (Note: that is not a stretch. Activists for many “alternative lifestyles” claim that current deceny standards are prurient and outdated.) So what happens when prayer in any public place is outlawed? When you’re no longer allowed to bless a meal when you go out to eat? It’s the same thing, and that’s at the heart of why I cannot in good conscience support such a ban.

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~ by wildeyedwonder on July 3, 2006.

One Response to “what we’ve been debating for three days”

  1. I think my darling wife, that you should go on a campain (for consistancy sake) to get liquor into the standard grocery stores of PA. I really feel that the PA state government is denying grocery store patrons their rights, by not allowing any non-government stores to carry the stuff. (Sarc)

    I am for small government, and would love it if my taxes went only for the war machine, but since it is here, why not support the prohibition of things that hurt others, (Such as second hand smoke) and work on downplaying it’s role in the elimination of privacy, religon, personal responsibility, and other things.

    Love you,
    Jafeo

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