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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Michigan to go smoke free, yet we still cringe

Michigan passed a seat ban on smoking in public places recently. This includes restaurants and bars. My wife came into the house and smiled as she told me she just learned this. I said glumly, "That sounds great!"

"Aren't you excited," she said.

"Well, I don't know."

"I thought you'd be excited because you always complain that people are smoking in a restaurant you're in. You hate it when you are seated in a non smoking booth, and the one next to you is a smoking booth."

"I am happy," I said. "I think the government screwed up in that they are responsible for generations getting addicted to smoking, what with their free war cigarettes and their lies. Still, whenever the government makes another law telling people what they can and can't do, I feel terrible in the pit of my stomach."

"I see," she said.

Do you guys see where I'm coming from? I think that my right to fresh air trumps your right to pollute it. Yet for legislators to decide they know what's best for us and tell us what we can and can't do just gives me the eebie jeebies.

And, yes, it is true government lies got our grandparent's or great grand parents addicted to smoking. Then, even while there was documented evidence that smoking was dangerous as early as 1920, the government hid this information to the benefit of the big tobacco companies who were helping out the economy.

So it only seems just that the government undo the lies and get the U.S. un-addicted. And through public relations and public choice that is exactly what has happened over the past 60 years.

While smoking was once the in-thing, cool, and most people smoked, today smoking is rare, uncool, and very few people do it. Consider the following trends in adult smoking by sex as recorded in the U.S. between 1955 and 2005, and reported by the Center for Disease Control:
  • 1955 Males = 54% smoked, females 24%
  • 1965 Males = 52% smoked, females 34%
  • 1975 Males = 44% smoked, females 30%
  • 1985 Males = 34% smoked, females 28%
  • 1995 Males - 23.9% smoked, females 18.0%

This is a perfect example of how, by our own accord, most Americans have decided not to smoke. They did not need a law to ban their right to do so.

Likewise, many restaurants and bars are going smoke free, and many of those that do go smoke free are thriving even more so than bars that allow smokers. Which shows by providing such competition, well educated consumers make wise choices. In this way, through capitalism, smoking has become the uncool thing, extremely unpopular, the outward trend, and the exception instead of the rule.

Still, we must consider that high taxes on cigarettes has almost made them unaffordable, which baffles me when I see a person who doesn't have a job, or who can't afford food, or who can't afford healthcare, lighting up. It simply baffles me.

Yet, because government lies caused the smoking crisis, I have always believed it is the job of the government to educate and end the smoking crisis. Now the smoking beast is "butt" on it's last breath, withering and moaning yet refusing to die a timely death. And so it's time for Uncle Sam to come in for the final jab and end it all -- it's time to go in for the kill.

Granted it is unconstitutional for the Federal government to step in here based on the 10th Amendment leaving anything that is not covered in the U.S. Constitution up to the states and to the people to decide. And I hereby give my permission for my state to ban smoking in public places to protect our right to clean air.

Still I cringe. I cringe because as I give my state government this permission, I wonder what freedom they will want to take away next. And the next time it may be a freedom that I don't want to give up. So, it only makes sense that I cringe as I learn the news that Michigan's legislature has ruled to ban smoking in public places as of 2010. We all should cringe.

1 comment:

David in Houston said...

This is a public health issue, and it should not make anyone cringe. If cigarettes were brought to the market today the would not pass FDA guidelines for good reasons.

I don't want to be exposed to unfiltered secondhand smoke while I'm in public spaces anymore than I would want a TB patient coughing on me. Government is not inherently bad, it is part of a civil society. The key is to balance individual rights vs. the rights of public.