Moving towards a divided world

You know, this no longer surprises me:

The Boston Public Health Commission has just banned the sale of all tobacco products at colleges. Not high schools. Colleges.

Anti-smoking activists are ecstatic. "Boston has taken another step that puts it in the forefront in the United States in protecting people against secondhand smoke," says the president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. But the Boston regulations don't just restrict smoking. They forbid the sale of "any substance containing tobacco leaf, including but not limited to cigarettes, cigars, pipe, tobacco, snuff, chewing tobacco and dipping tobacco." Last I heard, there's no secondhand smoke from chewing tobacco. And the tobacco industry is constantly developing new products that confound the equation of tobacco with smoking. That's not because tobacco companies care deeply about public health. It's because secondhand smoke has become a political problem for them—and because, while addicting customers is good business, killing them isn't.

In a press release, the executive director of the Boston commission says the new regulations "will help reduce young people's exposure to tobacco products." Young people? That phrase used to mean minors. Now, apparently, it includes the targets of the new rule: students at "any public or private college, normal school, professional school, scientific or technical institution, university or other institution furnishing a program of higher education."

On what grounds do college students—not to mention students at professional schools—deserve the kind of paternalism previously reserved for minors? The commission offers two reasons. First, "educational institutions in the City of Boston also sell tobacco products to the younger population, which is particularly at risk for becoming smokers." Second, "the sale of tobacco products is also incompatible with the mission of educational institutions which educate the younger population about social, environmental and health risks and harms."

In other words, college students (henceforth known as "the younger population") are so vulnerable to smoking and to deception about the harms of smoking that their access to any tobacco products on campus must be legally forbidden.

People who know me know that I don't smoke cigarettes or for that matter chew Tobacco- which is gross btw- , but I firmly believe in the smokers right to smoke, even if it harmful for them. It's their right to decide what they do to their bodies, and being an anti-smoking nazi about it, to the point you are restricting its sale to college freakin students, that's just crossing the line. But it's ok to cross the line in the name of "the greater good" and "public welfare"', isn't it? After all, people just don't know whats good for them, right? Well, with all due respect to whatever personal tragedy you will throw in my face to guilt my ass into believing that taking away some people's freedom is really in their best interest, fuck that shit!

You know, in 10 years or so I can totally see this world divided up into two very different worlds: One, where the citizens of the  so called advanced and civilized nations get to have their full political rights and freedom (freedom pf speech, democracy, blah blah), but won't have the right or freedom to do much else, because "it's bad for them"; and the other, made up of "less advanced nations", where you won't really have your full- or any- political rights, but you could do whatever you damn well please otherwise. It's happening as we speak, although less subtle-y, and when it finally takes shape, we will suddenly have a really fucked up debate over Liberty: which of the two worlds is more free? Which would you, average joe or Moe, rather live in? Suddenly the merits of political rights will be challenged ,for the first time ever, by the merits of personal liberties. What is the point of being politically free if you live in a sterile society where people keep putting limitations on your life in the name of what's best for you? How many times are you going to challenge the political establishment anyway? How many of you would rather give that up, to live in a society that doesn't allow you to shape the country's policies, but let's do whatever you damn well please otherwise? This is the road we are all heading towards, and it sucks, because you shouldn't have to choose between the two. Don't you think so?

Comments

  1. Where do you stand on mandatory seatbelt usage?

  2. Let me ruin your straw-man’s argument before it even gets started: I don’t think they are mandatory! Ok? And if they are to be used as an example to justify further limitations on my life, I say remove them all together! If you don’t wear your seatbelt, and end up flying through the goddamned windshield because of a car accident, then you have died thanks to a personal choice you made. Not a smart one, but one that should be within your rights.

  3. I agree- I’ve always thought that about the US & Egypt.

  4. Sam, looking at your seatbelt arguement… How do you propose the state treat the now parent-less kids of car accidents? How about the old lady that died from being hit by the body of the catapulted driver? There are certainly things that should be regulated in a modern society, at the very least things that have a profound impact on other peoples lives…

    Back on tobacco-topic: In a country like Denmark, where public healthcare is free at the expense of tax-payers (something most of us consider a good thing, since it greatly reduces the amount of dead people lying about in the streets!) it can easily be argued that smoking and perhaps even the use of chewing tobacco should be banned because of the severe strain on public funds it inevitably causes. The same could be said about alcohol consumption, which I would be most saddened to have to abstain from!

    The answer is not necessarily rigid laws, but perhaps rather a set of regulations, where the general risk you expose yourself to is taken into consideration when determining your taxes. If you’re liable to put yourself at great risk healthwise, your taxes could reflect the likely expense you will pose to society…

  5. I come from Iceland where in fact seatbelts are mandatory and we try to keep tobacco away from teenagers.

    I understand your libertarian streak but it is my belief that a civilized society cannot simply let the stupid or those who made stupid decisions die off so easily. We should prevent atrocities from happening, be it restricting access to dangerous drugs, preventing dangerous practices or restricting behavior which endangers others.

  6. Adam, let’s be sensible: Of course if the parent of a baby didn’t put her in a seatbelt and they died in a car accident than they are negligent. If people diie because of the choice you made, then yes, of course you should be held responsible. But the thing about the old lady that got killed from the flying body thing is a bit too much, because freak accidents do happen. I have heard of people who died because they were wearing seatbelts. Either trapped in cars or the way their body was thrown cause the seatbelts to insjure them in a way that killed them. That being the case, I wouldn’t use thate xample to advocate the banning of seatbelts. Like many many things, it both has benefits and drawbacks, and basing the policy on the drawbacks alone is simply ill-informed and stupid.

    Now, the issue at hand wasn;t seatbelts, it was cigarettes: And while I understand that logically you would be opposed to cigarettes because of the socialized helathcare there, you have to be careful of what kind of slippery slope you are getting yourself on. You just conceded both cigarettes and alcohol, but what about fatty foods? The #1 Killer in the US is heart disease based on cholestorol, are we to start regulating, by law, what we eat as well? Should we start taxing fatty foods heavier, in order to discourage people from eating them? What about candy, and cake? What about Pepsi and coke? Those are all bad for you scientifiucally, so would you like your government to start regulating or banning their sale as well?

    Listen, I know it sucks, but the pleasure we have in life usually come with a price, and while we should be aware of the price, we shouldn’t have to have the choice made up for us by people who know best. And this is what kills me about this anti-smoking regulation thing in Boston: EVERYONE KNOWS THAT CIGARETTES CAN KILL YOU. Everyone. Especially know-it-all-college students. Why prevent its sale to them? They are above the legal age, no? “Oh, its because we want to reduce the harms. Even though they legally have the choice, we believe they shouldn’t, cause they are morons who think differently than us. So we enact this step, hoping it would eventually elad to a smoke-free society, where we force cigarette smokers to start being illegal drug addicts.” Stop making laws that tell people how to best live their lives: Longevity and perfect health are not always preferrible if they come with the price of leading a sterile existence. Let people have a chocie in the matter! That’s all I am saying!

  7. Sig, and there we probably differ: I think maybe the biggest problem with society today is that the stupid aren;t allowed to die off, the way natural selection intended. You keep doing this, and soon you will have the kind of safe world where natural selection will favor whomever reproduces more, not whomever is smarter, fitter or stronger. And guess what? Stupid ignorant people have more children than smart educated people, and they have equal voting rights. You sure that’s the world where you want your kids to be raised?

    I dunno Sig, I don;t think a society, any society, should start telling individuals to behave the way the majority woud like them to behave, without respecting their rights to be different. The kind of society you are advocating is called the conformist society, where everyone conforms to society’s rules on how best to live their lives. I don;t know about you, but I have only this one life, and its mine. I get to do with it as I please, and you do not have the right to tell me how to live it, no matter how self-righteous, or even right, you can be. Mind you, this right of mine goes away when I endanger your right to a safe life, so yes, that includes me drinking and driving, or-if you believe in second hand smoking- me forcing you to stay in a smoke-filled enviroment. But goddamn it, let people buy cigarettes. Let them have smoking bars, if you get to have your smoke-free ones. Let people do what they please, as long as they are only hurting themselves and they know what they are doing. But let’s ignore all of this for a second: how is it going in Iceland these days? How are you guys wetahering the crisis?

  8. I’m just not sure that we are heading down a slippery slope here. Yes, I can agree that college kids are capable to make up their own mind and I cannot really justify _banning_ the sale of tobacco to certain segment of the adult population.

    However, I can´t subscribe to your rather harsh view on how societies should cull their weak members- the main point of having a civilization is to avoid this darwinian struggle. I choose to live in a society that takes care of the weak and uses public funds to do so – those public funds mean that we are all responsible and as such my own health is no longer truly private. If I fu.k up my health, society pays. Ergo, I should avoid damaging my health.
    Yes, there is a certain amount of conformity but not excessively so. I would perhaps call it responsibility – you are supposed to behave in a responsible manner in a society like that. There is still room to be different though…

    And… speaking of responsible societies. Iceland is truly buggered. I’m one of the lucky ones as I work abroad but my property in Iceland has plummeted in value, my mortgage has risen dramatically and many of my friends have lost tremendous amounts of money.

    I went home last weekend and there is a deep undercurrent of anger, resentment and impotence. The whole nation has been hoodwinked by a handful of slick bankers who, with the help of weak submissive ministers and owned media, managed to roll their massive debts on the nation as a whole.
    And now, while the reconstruction is just beginning, these same characters are back at their game. Now snapping up their old companies at a fraction of the cost.

  9. I agree with SM, if somebody wants to smoke let him/her smoke.
    I have been smoking for quite a long while but recently I quit. I still believe that if someone wants to smoke he/she should be allowed to. Some of my acquaintances smoke and I would not tell them not to smoke. It is their life and if they want to spend a lot of money buying cigarettes and harming themselves in the process, they can – it’s their decision.
    I think there is too much of “let’s ban things for people’s own good” thinking. But people like things which are forbidden and the results of banning things may not be up to do-gooders liking.

  10. I agree that they shouldn’t be banning sales of tobacco to college kids. They are legally adults, and therefore legally entitled to make their own decisions about whether to buy and consume those perfectly legal products. Of course, by that same logic, the legal drinking age in the US *should* be 18. Either that, or the age of legal majority should be raised to 21. This idea that you are old enough at 18 to make wise decisions in a voting booth or when you are signing up to serve in the military, but you aren’t old enough to decide whether to drink or smoke is ludicrous. Either you’re an adult, and old enough to be responsible for your own choices, or you’re not.

    Now, if an individual college wanted to ban the sales of tobacco on their property, they have that right, since it is their property. But then the campus would have to go completely smoke-free, and the staff wouldn’t stand for it.

  11. brooklynjon says:

    “How do you propose the state treat the now parent-less kids of car accidents?”

    It seems self-evident that causing your children to become orphans is its own punishment.

    The real question is, if we are going to allow someone else to decide what is permissible and what is impermissible for us, what is the basis for that decision? Permitting that which is “good for you” begs the question of what is good for you. How do you define that? Leading to a longer life?

    Then perhaps elevators should be banned. People would use the stairs more and get more exercise.

    In warm climates, air conditioning encourages people to stay inside. Ban it, and they’ll escape their hot apartments and get some physical activity.

    Football is fun. But oy, those injuries! Ban it!

    And swimming at the beach? Riptides! Sunburns! Jellyfish!

    And how certain are we as to what prolongs life and what shortens it? I assure you as a physician and medical scientist, we are not very sure of it, and as sure as we think we are about the population as a whole, we are not sure how to apply that generalization to smaller segments of the population.

    One thing that is seemingly ubiquitous in American medical studies is that being black is associated with poorer health. Should blackness be banned? Being short is similarly problematic. So we should ban shortness. Or play it safe and just ban short blacks.

    Of course, what if someone thinks “good for you” is something other than long life. What if it’s the chance to enter heaven? Do we therefore ban music? Or caffeine? Or dancing? Or ham sandwiches? All depending on the religion, of course.

    Or what if “good for you” means ideological purity? Do we ban all things that promote some line other than the official line?

    And who decides all of this? On what basis?

    And if you break the law, you get imprisoned? That’s about the worst thing possible for your health!

    Silly, silly, silly. No wonder it’s Boston!

  12. If there were a law that could force my daughter to stop smoking, I would fully support it because I love her. I don’t care if it goes against her right to choose to smoke; what does she know…she’s addicted to the stuff.

  13. BJ, seriously…! There’s a friggin’ difference between freakish accidents like being stung by jellyfish, and knowingly decreasing your health severely by smoking or seriously decreasing your chances of walking away from an accident by driving without a seatbelt!

    Even if I conceeded the argument of “it’s your own life, you can do with it what you please” both of these behaviours have a serious impact on society as a whole. Most of us have families which, to a lesser or greater extent, depend on us, if nothing else then for our income.

    What would become of the kids if mom and dad both died simply because they insisted on their right to choose NOT to use seatbelts? Besides the sheer mental trauma, they would now be the responsibility, socially and economically, of the society.

    The same can be said of smoking, a passtime that serves absolutely no practical purpose whatsoever. What’s even worse, in addition to their own increased mortality, smokers also subject the rest of us to a heightened chance of an early death. Sure, cars do the same, but at least they serve a purpose in society. Would you also agree that it would be alright for me to fire a gun blindfolded in a crowded street once a year, just because I got a thrill from it? The effect would be more or less the same…

    Chewing tobacco is less of a problem to society, seeing as it doesn’t expose innocent bystanders to toxic substances, but cigarettes and the like should certainly be banned sooner rather than later…!

  14. Oh, by the way… Consuming lots of fatty foods would also fit the bill of “health-reducing behaviour” which could result in a greater taxation in order to balance out your potential burden on society, as per my first post. :)

  15. Marie Claude says:
  16. brooklynjon says:

    Adam,

    But don’t you see that it’s just how YOU see it that’s important to you. Plenty of smokers would say that they derive great benefit from smoking. Many smoke who are not addicted. And many who are addicted quit, only to start again, presumably because it met some need.

    As far as the risk of second hand smoke, it has been wildly exaggerated. In fact, last I checked (and I do check this sort of thing often), there have been exactly ZERO studies that have definitively demonstrated any effect of second hand smoke. In fact, the link between smoking and respiratory disease, particularly lung cancer, turns out to be a great deal more tenuous than previously believed.

    As for the economic effects, it is a mixed picture. The economy in tobacco growing locations would take a hit if smoking were banned. And while smokers die younger than nonsmokers, it is far from certain that (restricting our gaze to economic effects) smokers burden society more than nonsmokers. Rather, the opposite is likely to be true. And that doesn’t count the salutary effects of cigarette taxes.

    Lastly, we in America did a nicely conducted, controlled experiment on what happens when you ban a substance that there is significant demand for. It was alcohol that was banned in Prohibition. The effect was that there was a profit margin in illegal alcohol, and therefore crime, corruption and, yes, alcohol consumption all increased! Make it legal, and there was actually less consumption.

  17. BJ, their “benefit” is subjective at best – society doesn’t benefit from pleasure, only from any industry that trades pleasure. In this case, however, the residual cost of the pleasure far outweighs any income the society might have, and as such it provides no benefit to society.

    Come on, this is old news by now… Tobacco taxes are not some form of strange currency that would disappear the moment tobacco vanished from the earth… The money would be directed at other consumer goods, which would likely have much less degenerate effects. Saying that tobacco users pay back the burden they lay on society is blowing smoke – if they didn’t buy cigarettes, they’d buy something else and contribute to society that way. They’d even do it for several years more, statistically!

    As for your opinion about the risks of second hand smoking, that too belongs in the “I’ll-just-turn-a-blind-eye” category. Inhaling tons of poison will not damage your health? Come on…!!! If you’ll accept no other arguement, at least respect my right not to choke on your fumes or have to wash my clothes (and myself) twice as much because of the smell…

  18. SM-

    Post #8 is spot on. America is doing it’s best to make sure people who are capable of drowning in a shower stall are taken care of so they can breed. And for the commentators with the societal cost models: those models ensure every generation becomes less productive, less willing to take risk for gain, and more dependant on others to make decisions for them. Do the rest of us a favor and move to Japan, you’ll love the overwhelming societal pressure to conform and subsume your individualism. The rest of us will practice what you talk about; tolerance. It’s that thing you do when you find someone’s habits annoying, but don’t believe it’s ethical to have a screaming hissy fit over it or attempt to have the government punish them for inconveniencing your beliefs.

    America: on the path to being Britain writ large, thanks to socialists.

  19. Eva, Canada says:

    What I dislike about this shrinking of personal choices is primarily the selective opprobium of one segment of society. In the matter of health costs, there is a conspiratory silence concerning sport injuries. Yet sport is so unsafe that it has its own branch of medicine. How long and costly, I ask, is the societal burden of a young paraplegic? Should we ban sport altogether? Should we tax sporting goods? Let’s remember that people endanger their lives in many ways.

  20. “two very different worlds” i think the two worlds you picture for the future is already here. and it depends on your social status which one is favorable. the wealthy can bypass set laws in so-called democracies (a general statement, and by no means absolute, however true on so many different levels). But if you are poor, your fcked in both places. If you are rich, you want your business interests protected in some form under some formal legislation. If you are poor, your still fcked.

    So, in the US. They started making laws in 1776 with constitution and bill o rights. how many laws have been made since? at that rate, how many more years to reach a society reminiscent of georgy boy orwells depiction of za future? throw in events like that one september and this years financial fiasco, and it only expedites law making that is not even fully considered before being enacted (ie Patriot Act, 700 billion..etc).

    the Monkey is right, less laws.

  21. Gee if gay sex acts were banned we would not have the terrific expense of HIV/AIDS. Heroin addicts and other addicts, how much to cost society? Morons on welfare, the list is nearly endless.

    At least smokers pay on average a lot more via the sin tax than they cost; especially since they die much younger on average and don’t collect retirement for as many years in addition to having relatively less long term health costs of chronic disease by virtue of dying off much sooner.

    What Boston is saying is college kids are not mature enough to handle the issue of smoking; yet they are old enough and mature enough to vote and bury themselves in college loan debt. You have to be a democrat to believe such things, no ordinary person could be such a fool.

  22. Why do some people insist on ruling the private lives of others?

    Ah yes, because they’re patronizing elitist fucks, that’s why.

  23. Slippery slope it is indeed.

    Adam said: “…public healthcare is free at the expense of tax-payers (something most of us consider a good thing,…”

    Well, no, most of us don’t consider it a good thing. There are several problems with state sponsored health care. One of which is that taking the profit motive out of health care effectively stops the advances of medical science. Worldwide socialized medicine treats it’s subjects using techniques, pharmaceuticals and equipment developed by profit based medicine (primarily the U.S.). I suppose it’s great that the rest of the world can take advantage of the gift of life given to it by the U.S., but that doesn’t mean that state health care is the best thing since sliced bread.

    The other problem is the placing of ones health as a burden on society, and therefore subject to government control as the prior commentators talk of. If one’s body is subject to control by the state it is nothing less than a loss of liberty. Couching it in terms like ‘responsibility’, ‘duty’ or ‘obligation’, while making it more palatable does not negate the loss of freedom entailed.

    In a society where the people have already traded their freedoms in order to be cared for, this conversation is really moot. The deed is done and all that is left is the rationalizing we see here.

    But a society that is still nominally free must guard against the encroaching tide of state sponsored guardianship in the name of equity. Following that path leads to a uniformity of will that is as oppressive as a jail cell.

  24. Slippery slope it is indeed.

    Adam said: “…public healthcare is free at the expense of tax-payers (something most of us consider a good thing,…”

    Well, no, most of us don’t consider it a good thing. There are several problems with state sponsored health care. One of which is that taking the profit motive out of health care effectively stops the advances of medical science. Worldwide socialized medicine treats it’s subjects using techniques, pharmaceuticals and equipment developed by profit based medicine (primarily the U.S.). I suppose it’s great that the rest of the world can take advantage of the gift of life given to it by the U.S., but that doesn’t mean that state health care is the best thing since sliced bread.

    The other problem is the placing of ones health as a burden on society, and therefore subject to government control as the prior commentators talk of. If one’s body is subject to control by the state it is nothing less than a loss of liberty. Couching it in terms like ‘responsibility’, ‘duty’ or ‘obligation’, while making it more palatable does not negate the loss of freedom entailed.

    In a society where the people have already traded their freedoms in order to be cared for, this conversation is really moot. The deed is done and all that is left is the rationalizing we see here.

    But a society that is still nominally free must guard against the encroaching tide of state sponsored guardianship in the name of equity. Following that path leads to a uniformity of will that is as oppressive as a jail cell.