Sunday, April 5, 2009

Banning Cigarettes

Scott Haig, a physician and columnist for Time, doesn't want to regulate tobacco. He wants to ban cigarettes all together.

Which begs the question: Why regulate it at all? Why put cigarettes under the jurisdiction of the agency charged with making sure our food and drugs are safe, when cigarettes are, as we all know by now, unsafe by definition. Used as intended, they are bound to make you sick. Rather than equate them with food and drugs, if lawmakers were serious about the health costs of smoking, they would take the logical next step and just make the damn things illegal.

This is a great idea. In fact, why stop there? Let's make a list of other bad things we should completely outlaw.

  • Alcohol - I think we tried this before, but apparently we didn't have the guts to stick with it. We're not as weak now, so no more liquor!

  • Cars - About 42,000 people die every year in the U.S. due to auto accidents. Banning cars would eliminate that little problem, wouldn't it?

  • Lightning - How horrible is it that lightning occasionally strikes people, killing them, or starts a fire which kills people and destroys property? That's just not right. I say outlaw lightning.

  • Unhealthy foods - There's way too much junk food out there and people clearly do not have the willpower to resist it. If we take it away, we don't have to worry about weak will anymore.

  • Mean Words - Know what happens when you say mean things to people over and over? They snap and kill a bunch of people. What a pain. If we make it against the law for people to say mean things to each other, this wouldn't ever happen. Problem solved.

  • Sex - This is just messy. It leads to pregnancy which either leads to abortion (which causes a lot of stress to many people) or children. And what do those children do? Grow up and become middle managers, dictators, mass murderers, bullies, pimps, people who put the toilet paper on the roll incorrectly (if they do at all) and other unsavory types. Get rid of sex and you don't have to worry about this little problem anymore.

I'm sure I'll think of more things later, so I'll be sure to update my list.

Ahem. Back to the Land of the Non-Sarcastic (sarcasm is most certainly not going on the list of things to ban) for a moment, this is a ludicrous notion. Yes, it would be a better world if no one smoked. No one doubts that. But, we can't save people from themselves. Prohibition failed spectacularly for a reason. No one likes being told what they can and cannot do. We need to have programs and policies in place to discourage smoking and to help people who do and want to quit do so; but we cannot be everyone's overbearing parent, telling them what they can and cannot do at all times.

It's the same reason I am against seatbelt laws, helmet laws, and other measures designed to protect someone's safety. Why can an adult not make the decision on their own whether or not to take safety precautions? People have argued, as Haig does in his article, that it puts a burden on the rest of society because the healthcare costs associated with accidents or smoking complications are enormous. But, isn't that an argument for healthcare reform and not being everyone's nanny?

Adults are adults and we need to let them make their own choices for good or for ill. After all, how does anyone learn anything if they are never allowed to fail?

If you can think of anything else we should ban, though, let me know.

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