The Smoking Gun

I recently joined an online community (helium.com) which allows the members to submit articles on various subjects. It is possible to earn small (and I mean small) amounts of money based on the site sharing a portion of advertising dollars. The more people read my postings, the more money I get, at least in theory. Here is an article I just submitted about smoking, duplicated here for your reading enjoyment. The article title is "The Smoking Debate: Free Choice or Not." If you go to the site and search for that title you can see all the submitted articles. If you do a search for "Joel Hiller," you will see some of my articles (I'm not sure why they don't all appear; it may simply take several days).

In theory, we have the right to choose what we will do to our bodies, whether it be piercing, smoking, or growing a mullet. Tobacco companies also have the right to make whatever products they want, provided they do not attempt to sell them to young people, whose decision-making capabilities have not yet fully formed.

In practice, however, people who smoke invariably infringe on the freedom of others by exposing them to the smoke. Setting aside health issues for a moment, non-smokers have the right to not be affected by what smokers decide to do to their bodies. Therefore, regulations have been introduced in many areas of the United States regarding smoking in public places.

It is still, of course, permitted for people to smoke within the privacy of their own homes. Again, this is right in theory. Others who live within the home, however, are inevitably affected, to a more serious degree even that those exposed to smoke in public places. Children and other non-smokers have a right to breathe clean air within their own homes. Add to this that there is absolutely zero positive benefit even to the smoker beyond temporarily enjoyable physiological effects, and there is no logical argument to permit smoking at all.

We are all exposed to tobacco smoke at least occasionally, which violates the rights of non-smokers to breathe air unaffected by the choices of others. The argument might be made that we are all exposed to indecent language and pollution. Commercial pollution is regulated (it is necessary to provide commercial goods), and language is of course much more difficult to regulate and presents a host of arguments regarding constitutionality. The freedom to smoke is not mentioned in the Bill of Rights (neither is the right to breathe, but that is covered by the word “life,” which the Declaration of Independence guarantees us, which actually reinforces the right to not inhale cigarette smoke).

Logically, smoking, while theoretically a matter of individual choice, cannot exist without violating the rights of others.

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