"Mistrust those in whom the urge to punish is strong." Friedrich Nietzche

"Any and all non-violent, non-coercive, non-larcenous, consensual adult behavior that does not physically harm other people or their property or directly and immediately endangers same, that does not disturb the peace or create a public nuisance, and that is done in private, especially on private property, is the inalienable right of all adults. In a truly free and liberty-loving society, ruled by a secular government, no laws should be passed to prohibit such behavior. Any laws now existing that are contrary to the above definition of inalienable rights are violations of the rights of adults and should be made null and void." D. M. Mitchell (from The Myth of Inalienable Rights, at: http://dowehaverights.blogspot.com/)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Smoking Ban In Public

The City of Oakland, California is proposing a law that will ban smoking in public parks, bus stops, outdoor dining facilities, lines for movies, and, in general, every place out in the open.

According to the CDC approximately 38 thousand people died prematurely due to second-hand smoke. This is an obviously big problem. No one has the right to harm others, actively or passively, if those others are not a direct and immediate threat to them, loved ones, or innocent others.

I was a smoker for twenty years. This November it will be twenty-one years since I quit. Still, I don’t hate smokers. I just can’t understand why anyone (who thinks about it in a logical manner) would want to crush up some dried leaves, put them in a tube of paper, light one end and suck the smoke into their lungs . . . and not get high! I understand that nicotine is the addictive substance in tobacco. I understand that nicotine addiction is hard to break. (It took me ten years of trying before I could do it . . . the point being, I never stopped trying until I succeeded.) Nicotine is also a potent poison. A smoker only gets tiny doses of nicotine while smoking, but 35 milligrams of pure nicotine, injected into a vein, will kill you instantly when it reaches your heart. Cool stuff you smokers are dealing with, eh?

Still, I see the banning of cigarette smoking in all public places as a bit extreme. It is known that auto exhaust causes as many, if not more diseases and deaths. In England alone (with a much smaller population than the United States, and fewer cars per capita) it was estimated that there were 24 thousand deaths per year due to auto exhaust pollution, with 1 in 50 heart attacks in London attributed to automobile-created pollution, according to a BBC News article, dated May 6, 1999. If England has 24 thousand such premature auto-pollution-caused deaths, how many more does the U.S. have?

If you are in a public park, with roads on all sides and cars constantly passing by, will you be more likely to be inhaling the deadly concoction of automobile exhaust pollution, or the second-hand smoke from someone sitting and smoking 50 or 100 feet away? “Car exhausts contain a range of toxic substances that can have a serious impact on health. Once released into the air, these substances are breathed in and transported in the bloodstream to all the body's major organs.
Potentially dangerous vehicle emissions include:
• Carbon monoxide
• Nitrogen dioxide
• Sulphur dioxide
• Benzene
• Formaldehyde
• Polycyclic hydrocarbons
• Lead
• Tiny suspended particles
The most obvious health impact of car emissions is on the respiratory system.” (BBC News article, May 6, 1999.)

The law in Oakland will be a "public nuisance" law. But if tobacco smoke, breathed in by non-consenting others, is truly the cause of the estimate 38 thousand deaths in the U.S., shouldn't Congress just ban tobacco smoking outright; make it illegal like the presently illegal, but much less harmful, drugs? And then there is the automobile issue and the deaths that vehicle emissions surely cause just like second-hand smoke, not to mention the very great negative impact that automobiles caused on the environment. Since Congress is our moral master and the issuer of personal privileges (why else is marijuana, and other drugs, the use of which does not violate the rights of others, under federal prohibition?--and no, you don't have to smoke marijuana to get the desired effects), why doesn't Congress just mandate that we all have to use public transportation--to save lives and the environment? Isn't saving people from themselves what the so-called war on drugs is all about?

Well, I don't know. This is all beyond my ken. If I don't smoke or breathe someone else's smoke, but drink five or six beers a day, I am probably setting myself up for one kind of serious disease or another, but at least it will be only be me that I'm hurting, unlike nasty old tobacco smoke and vehicle emissions.

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