I don’t smoke. I have never smoked. I don’t plan on smoking. But I respect smokers’ right to decide how they want to live their own lives.I understand smoking restrictions are set up to keep smoke away from non-smokers. Whether second-hand smoke is as bad as they say is irrelevant, because when it’s not a factor, anti-smoking groups still want bans to be implemented.
It is wrong to not allow smokers to have separate rooms in office buildings or restaurants where they can smoke (which is not allowed anywhere in New York and many other places in the United States). It’s also wrong to levy heavy taxes on tobacco.
Every smoker knows cigarettes are unhealthy, but we should give people the liberty to choose to take risks with their own lives as long as long as they don’t hurt others. We allow people to abuse their own bodies. We allow people to skydive, bungee jump and hang glide. Nearly 200,000 children ages 5 to 14 are treated in hospital emergency rooms for basket-ball-related injuries each year. People can eat extremely unhealthy foods and become overweight. If we restricted smoking because it hurts the user and annoys bystanders, then we should limit the consumption of McDonald’s food because it isn’t healthy in large quantities and its smell sickens me. At what point do we let people decide what risks they want to take?
Stanton Glantz, a University of California-San Francisco School of Medicine professor, through his group Smoke Free Movies, has been taking out ads, appearing on talk shows and lobbying industry leaders on behalf of his idea that smoking should be considered the same as disembowelment, dismemberment, decapitation, torture and all other forms of film violence, along with nudity and excessive use of expletives, as far as film ratings are concerned. If your neighbor had to learn one habit from movies, which would you rather he learn? Would you rather him be violent or smoke?
The anti-smoking lobbyists have gone so far as to try to wipe out the images of people smoking by trying to take smoking out of remakes of movies and trying to restrict smoking in new films.
They have taken it too far when they decided to revise history. The movie “Pearl Harbor” shows virtually no one, including President Roosevelt, smoking at a time when cigarettes were actually included in the military’s C rations. For the entertainment and art industry that likes to congratulate itself for its devotion to freedom of ideas and expression, this is a surprising trend.
In January 1999, the United States Postal Service released a new stamp depicting the famous abstract expressionist artist Jackson Pollack, who loved to smoke. He even embedded some cigarette butts in a number of his canvases. They decided to take the cigarette out of his mouth. This rewriting of history isn’t the first time they did this. The United States Postal Service has done this to stamps depicting actor James Dean, playwright Thornton Wilder and blues guitarist Robert Johnson, who were all illustrated without their cigarettes, even though they were clearly smoking in the original photos.
Smokers are being discriminated against when they apply for jobs. The city of Savannah, Georgia, as part of that anti-smoking plan, requires newly hired police officers and firefighters to sign a pledge promising to be tobacco free. What is the correlation between a good police officer or firefighter and smoking? This is clearly discrimination. Both Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky smoked cigars and they were able to perform their job well. If a good police officer or firefighter can meet the physical demands that the job requires, then smoking shouldn’t make a difference in who gets the job.
I’m not going to claim that smoking doesn’t often cause health problems. But I struggle to explain how Japan has one of the longest life expectancies at birth in the world, but Japan is also ranked fourth in the world in cigarette consumption. In 1998, Japanese over the age of 15 consumed on average over 3,000 cigarettes each.
I respect people who try to discourage smoking, but we must also respect the smoker’s freedom of choice. We would certainly reduce the number of deaths by dropping the speed limit to 10 mph or if we forced every driver to wear a helmet, but in our society we have the freedom to choose how much risk we want to take. This issue here is clearly infringing on people’s right to decide how they want to live their own lives. Should the government force us to live risk-free lives?