I’m not one to advocate having the government messing into people’s personal lives, particularly when they tend to screw things up when they do. But sometimes, the government needs to step up and take on its primary role of protecting the people. Usually, it does so by securing borders (er, sort of) or bombing bad guys. There are those times, however, when the action needed is a little closer to home.
Case in point: Cigarettes.
Look, for forty years we’ve known that they can kill you. We suspected it a lot longer back than that. As a society, we keep taking baby steps in the general direction of outlawing them, but nothing so large as to be seen as radical. We slap a label on the side. We ban advertising. We tax the crap out of them. We keep taking the little steps, when we all know what needs to be done. Hell, even the tobacco companies feel guilty – why do you think they have their own “quit smoking” sites? They’re praying that it will placate the politicians long enough to rake in more dough while their products keep killing.
Now, I know what you’re thinking – it goes something like “hey, it’s a free country and I should be able to kill myself with cigarettes if I want to.” Normally, I’d agree with you. I certainly do when it comes to other similar products, like alcohol. Problem is, you getting drunk in the corner won’t kill me (unless you’re dumb enough to try and drive). But cigarettes will:
“I am here to say the debate is over, the science is clear,” Surgeon General Richard H. Carmon said during a televised news conference from Washington. “Secondhand smoke is not a mere annoyance. It is a serious health hazard.”
Again, this is something we all thought, but couldn’t prove. Now we can; the research is done and is irrefutable. If you light up, you don’t just kill yourself, you kill me, too. That is unacceptable.
I’m willing to entertain solutions for the many farmers whose lives will be disrupted by the ban. Pay them to grow grain for ethanol-based fuels instead of tobacco – there’s a win-win. But it doesn’t matter how you resolve it – allowing one person to act in a fashion that will injure or kill another is not just wrong – it’s illegal. If it were a car or a stick or a gun, we wouldn’t even question it. Nor should we with a cigarette.
All these years when as we laughed at those who smoked their “coffin nails” – little did we know the coffin being nailed was our own …