[FoRK] Smoking

Zee Roe zero at rawbw.com
Wed Apr 13 08:06:00 PDT 2005

On Wed, 13 Apr 2005, Mark Day wrote:

> > spurious paternalistic "public health"
> > reasons
> Do you object to the entire concept of public health as a motivation for
> restricting individual liberty (e.g. quarantines and the like), or only as
> it's been applied to smoking?

I (can't speak for JB, but...) object to it as it's been applied to

> If you're OK with public health as a legitimate government function in at
> least some cases, can you clarify who you think should be able to make
> decisions about what does or doesn't constitute a public health hazard?  In
> particular, are you in favor of allowing exceptions to public health rules
> for anyone who happens to loudly complain about the spurious and
> paternalistic nature of those rules?

I object to public health rules based on majority rules.  I'm not sure who
should be the one deciding on a public health hazard, to be honest, but it
certainly isn't our government as it exists now.  For disclosure, I am
pro-drug legalization, &c... I think the harm tobacco causes is certainly
less than, say, alcohol, and even less than fatty foods (though, for the
purposes of this argument, I think the 2nd-hand effects of fatty foods are
less harmful).

There are plenty of things to do, bars to go to (even here in DC, where
smoking is legal in restaurants and bars still), people to date, and so on
which are entirely smoke-free.  I'm all for the choice.  I don't like
anti-smoking laws in (for example) CA, because they /aren't/ based on
public health rules.  This may have been the motivation behind some of the
legislators voting it in, of course, but it wasn't the cause-and-effect
you imply above, which I would have less of a problem with.

> If you're opposed to public health as a legitimate government function, can
> you say a little more about why?  I would tend to think that public health
> is a pretty good example of a public good in the economic sense.

As I noted above, I think the "public health" in the broad sense is
hampered more by alcohol, mcdonalds, heavy reliance on automobiles, and a
host of other things more than by smoking in bars.

To address  a point someone else made, I am /very/ uncomfortable with
bringing community standards of 'deviant behavior' in to the discussion --
that's one of the ways the religious zealots are trying to regulate, among
other things, books, music, cable television, and the internet. But that's
a subject for another time. :)

In closing, I should note that I am /not/ a smoker, though I used to be
~10 years ago.


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