Friday, September 28, 2007

To ban or not to ban

I grew up in a family of smokers. Well, my mum didn’t smoke, but my dad smoked a pipe, and in their teen years all my sisters picked up the habit. Dad quit before I hit ten, and two of my sisters quit in later life. The third is still carrying on, though she’s moved on to cigars on the theory its better if she doesn’t inhale.

I never got the habit myself. Tried it a couple times, but never enough to get past the coughing phase. My personal philosophy though is to worry about myself and mine, but not bother too much about others choices. I’m not a strident anti smoker, though I’ve twice asked people to stop when they blatantly light up in non-smoking areas. If friends wanted to smoke around me, their company was more important, and they have always been welcome.

Now though, this report. I always thought the smoking ban was too heavy handed. It seriously limited a persons freedom of choice. The facts about smoking are clear, and if people want to ruin their future lives, so be it. Yet if just one factor, heart attacks in non smokers, has decreased by 20%, that means something. I would never have attributed that big a factor to passive smoke.

That changes the balance in my mind. The right of non smokers to not inhale smoke is greater than the right of smokers to smoke. So long as there was little attributable risk to non smokers, my personal opinion weighed on the side of the smokers. Personal choice and will is the definition of freedom. However, personal choice is just that, you can do what you want to improve or ruin your own life, if your doing so adversely effects the life of another, then you do not have the right to do it. To me that is the basis that can’t be denied.

So, smokers, I’m ever so sorry. I was on your side, thought the laws pushing you to the frigid streets for a quick fag was too extreme, too much an attack on your personal freedom. Now though, the evidence is against you. If your being on the streets means 20% fewer non smokers will have a heart attack, then get your jacket on. Better yet, put that packet of ciggies away. In the end though, that is your choice, and I will die to defend your right to do as you choose. Just not next to me, OK?


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