September 27th, 2006

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01:51 pm - on banning public smoking...

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on banning public smoking... - graffiti.maverick — LiveJournal

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[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: September 27th, 2006 - 11:05 pm (Link)
See, you probably think I am going to disagree here. I don't. I agree with everything you said except for the usage of the word "problem".

The tobacco companies should have just as much a right to make a living and run a successful business as anyone else. Your diamond engagement ring example is excellent. Yes, the De Beers diamond cartel invented that tradition, but I would be just as against the government stepping in and stopping the diamond cartel from sucessfully selling advertising. I don't want the government to protect my welfare, because if they can decide that I can't kill myself by smoking then they also can decide that I can't bind myself for eternal damnation by having an abortion or entering a monogomus relationship with a homosexual partner. Its just not their place. On the other hand, I am all for advertising against the dangers of smoking by private parties or even government subsidized ones. The fact that the cigarette manufactuers are better at advertising than The Truth is, is just tough shit. There are a lot of social pressures. And you're right, one of the hardest things to block out when I want to quit smoking is other smokers. But social pressure also makes me interested in pro-wrestling, video games, comic books and sex with hot women, and it would be immoral to want to ban me from liking those as well.
[User Picture]From: zyrain Date: September 27th, 2006 - 11:39 pm (Link)
In general, I agree with you. However, you're not making a distinction between "things the government shouldn't control" and "things the government should". This discussion has been around forever. It's why we explicitly separated church and state in the constitution, because we know government have this tendency to overstep the meaning of "for the public good". However, public health *IS* one of those narrow areas where I take exception. It's just like the exceptions of monopolies and collusion to free enterprise theory. At some point, the freedom becomes detrimental. When it does and ONLY when it does so I advocate a government response.

This is a health issue. This one is not a moral issue, or to maintain power, or to impose a utopian view. This will help prevent a whole lot of people from becoming sick. As such, it's MUCH closer to preventing shootings than to banning wrestling. People do not have the freedom to market clearly and INHERENTLY dangerous substances. Guns, used properly, are safe. Drinking, in moderation, is safe. Smoking, simply isn't for the public as a whole. Its addictive nature makes sure of that. Marketing + addictive nature + social pressure = loss of choice and freedom. If the percentage of alcoholics (5-10% of people who drink) was anywhere near the percentage of people who become addicted to smoking (80%-90%) then I'd say it meets this same threshold, but it doesn't.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: September 28th, 2006 - 12:28 am (Link)
ok... see I really like the argument you're posing now. Because you're boiling it down to the real issue instead of the side issues (like how your clothes smell or what is and isn't a public place or whether second hand smoke is harmful).

So the real issue is does the government have a right to regulate my health. And while I respect your argument, I disagree with it. I do not agree that the government has the right to save me from my choice to risk cancer. Is smoking a risk to my health? Absolutely. But your argument hinges on the theory that it provides no real benefit. First of all it does, there are many studies that show that nicotene combats alzheimers and several other neurogical problems. And it certainly does a lot to keep my stress level down and combat depression. That said, it comes with a very real problem of added susceptibilty to cancer and lung problems. But if I allow the government to protect me from voluntary exposure to this dangerous activity, then they are can absolutely protect me from voluntary exposure to heart disease by drinking alcohol (and in fact, they did just this some 80 years ago). And they can stop me from voluntary exposure to viral immunodeficiency disease by limited my promiscuity or sexual preference. Hell, they'd be able to protect me from blunt force trauma to the head by stopping me from white water rafting or sky diving. Sky diving is never "safe" it never provides any real benefit. Its simply recreation. And telling me I can't do it is wrong. Even though there's a very real possibility that I could go splat and die. In fact, there's a very real possibility that I might happen to go splat on you as you happen to be walking across and open field and you die. I do not approve of the government's right to infringe upon any of my personal freedoms unless there is a very real, immediate and unavoidable danger to others. You can for the most part avoid the dangers of second hand smoke simply by not hanging out in bars that smokers frequent. I already said that I support banning smoking in public parks.

Now as for the marketing being a loss of freedom. That's simply not true. Its a myth perpetuated by anti-smokers and smokers trying to pass the buck. I assure you that when I smoked my first cigarette I knew full well the risks and I knew full well what I was doing. I am also quite willing to bet that 9 out of 10 smokers today will tell you the same. When's the last time you saw a cigarette ad on TV? Exactly. While I will acknowledge the addictive nature of tobacco, I will not pass the buck on the tobacco industry anymore than I will lend any credence to the idiots trying to sue McDonalds for making them fat. Yes, McDonald's is unhealthy. Yes it is addictive. But personal responsibility means that you deal with that or you don't.
[User Picture]From: zyrain Date: September 28th, 2006 - 06:00 am (Link)
Two disagreements:

"But if I allow the government to protect me from voluntary exposure to
this dangerous activity, then they are can absolutely protect me from
voluntary exposure to heart disease by drinking alcohol"

This is an assertion that you do not back up. This 'slippery slope' is exactly what we need to put government controls on. I think it is possible to put a very high threshold on how dangerous something has to be before givernment intervention is allowed. We can debate IF smoking meets this threshold seperately from if there should be a threshold (as I'm arguing now). Incidentally, skydiving causes the death of far, far fewer people year, and again, can be conducted safely.

"I assure you that when I smoked my first cigarette I knew full well
the risks and I knew full well what I was doing. I am also quite willing
to bet that 9 out of 10 smokers today will tell you the same."

Two replies, sure, you took your first puff knowingly, but not everyone is like you. 70% of smoking addicts want to quit, and cannot, also polls on teenage smoking suggest that peer pressure is the reason for nearly a third of teens to start smoking, and 20% is for coolness/image reasons. Therefore, you'd likely lose that bet (assuming you meant that the decision was a wholly independent one).

[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: September 28th, 2006 - 07:22 am (Link)
1) sure its possible. I (or you or Bush, or whoever) can simply say "no slippery slope, smoking is within our rights to ban abortion is not." or "abortion is within our rights to ban, guns are not" or "guns are within our right and fuck it, so is everything else." But that is by definition what a slippery slope is. I do not trust anyone to make those decisions for me, and I shouldn't have to. I believe in a minimalist government which does what it needs to in order to ensure the public safety and the day to day running of society. At the end of the day, no matter how much the non smokers bitch and moan, your safety is not infringed upon by the existence of smoking bars. You are well within your rights to not go. But you need to understand something, the very fact that we are even having this conversation is pure evidence of the fact that you among others are discriminatory against smokers. You are saying I don't have the right to go somewhere and be left alone to my dirty filthy habit. And that's all that I am asking for. I'm not asking the government to give me a place to smoke. I'm not asking them to force a non-smoking place to give me a smoking area. I'm simply asking them to stay the fuck away from the Cage, a bar that pretty much only exists for people to come in and relax and have cigarettes and beers in peace and not be judged by the non-smoking world around us. Please understand, and this isn't personal, but if you look below at the comments of max1975, another Cage patron, you'll see. And I assure you that every other regular patron of the tiny little bar feels the same way. We don't want you at the cage. Not you personally, but we don't want non-smokers there. The Cage doesn't want non-smokers there. We don't want bands. We don't want dancing. We don't special consideration. We just want to be left to our coffee, tobacco, beer, pinball, poetry, sketching and misery. You can go into any of the other 20 restaurants on Forbes Avenue between murrary and shady and breathe clean air all you want to. But all anyone in that bar wants is one place where they can go and smoke in peace. And until yesterday, we had that. Now tell me how that's fair. And tell me how tomorrow the government can't make the same decision about gay bars. And the next day about black ones? The fact that smoking isn't healthy is irrelevant. What's relevant is that you are trying to determine when its ok to discriminate against someone. The answer is, it never is.

2) Why I started smoking isn't relevant. Nor is whether or not I want to quit. Yes, actually, I do. Yes, its hard. Yes I am an addict. None of that has anything to do with whether or not its my personal responsibility or why this law was passed. It is not the government's job to help me. And for the same reasons I detailed before. If my addiction to nicotene is a flaw that the government should seek to eradicate, then why shouldn't they do the same thing with an alternative sexual preference, or with african american culture. At the end of the day, you know what, people who smoke are cooler than people who don't. You know why? Consensus reality. But that's subjective. If you don't like smoking, you're going to say we're not cool. And you know what else? It totally doesn't matter. Because you know who else is cool? People who wear leather jackets. But the government doesn't owe PeTA a damn thing.
[User Picture]From: max1975 Date: September 28th, 2006 - 07:46 am (Link)
Amen to all that.

A point that's being missed in this thread: this isn't at all a question of the government protecting the health of smokers. If they wanted to do that, they'd ban cigarettes (oh, but what would happen to all the tax revenue? bastards). Smokers will still smoke, just never again in comfort. (Remind me to thank county council for watching out for my health in January when I'm freezing to death becaue it's illegal to smoke indoors).

[User Picture]From: zyrain Date: September 28th, 2006 - 08:03 am (Link)
I wholly agree with you that it's not fair. I agree that the Cage and similar places should be able to continue on as they are. The fact that such places will be affected is evidence that this particular solution to the issue is not optimal. This ban, in my view, is a large hammer. Wielding the power in this way will help "the problem", but it will do so with many casualties. This impingment on individual rights is lamentable and tragic. I wish better solutions existed, but frankly, this one is DAMN effective. I see it much like chemotherapy for cancer. A Phillop Morris study in 1960 concluded this about bans: "Smokers facing these restrictions consume 11% to 15% less smoking products than average and quit smoking at a rate that is 84% higher than average."

You and other smokers like you are a victim to the government in that they can't come up with a better solution that doesn't violate individual rights to such a large degree. This is a right you're giving up for the benefit of your idiot fellow man who was hoodwinked into smoking. In any society we give up rights for protection in various forms. Some loss of privacy is necessary to prevent crime. Similarly, some rights of tobacco use are given up for the health welfare of all. We can do better, but no one has figured out how, yet.

"If my addiction to nicotene is a flaw that the government should seek to eradicate, then why shouldn't they do the same thing with an alternative sexual preference"

GLBT men and women aren't killing people. On this point, there is no disagreement, and it's central to why this is an exception. My views are otherwise almost wholly libertarian. Unfettered capitalism in a truly free market doesn't lead to the best welfare for all, it leads to monopolies, a stifling of innovation, and exploitation. Everything, even freedom and choice, has a level that is TOO MUCH that it becomes harmful. One can die of of dehydration, but also of hyperhydration. There is much new research showing that our society's nearly unlimited choice of consumer products is making us miserable. Any society with no socially acceptable way to divorce one's spouse has a high suicide rate, but one where divorce is ubiquitious has low rates of happy marriages. Everything has a compromise, a sweet spot, even personal freedom.

A personal anecdote: I've personally witness someone who was trying to quit, fall off the wagon. It was in response to someone else at another table lighting up. Without that trigger and stimulus, she might not be smoking today. These are her views, not my judgements. I know many people who like going to a place (e.g. the Cage) where they know people, feel comfortable, and fit in. I also know many people who freely say the "Have to" smoke when people around them are.

I'm willing to bet that you will continue to haunt the Cage, and that a year from now, by any objective measurement, you'll be having just as much fun there as you do now. It's regrettable that you have to adapt, but you will, and hey, maybe it'll help you quit, which is what you say you want to do, so there's be a little benefit to it for you after all.

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