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Proposal to Reduce Smoking

This site leans to being libertarian about most personal choices, but smoking gets our ire up.  Smokers trample on our rights, and we do not see enough done about that.  People think it is acceptable to smoke on crowded sidewalks and in bars, regardless of who has to breathe their effluent.  It is not.  Most smokers toss out their cancer sticks on the street (still lit!), as if we lived in some sort of third world country.  We do not.  Now, we are not ready to call for totally banning the stuff.  However, we do say we stop discriminating in favor of smoking by doing the following --

a)     Spend proportionally as much money destroying tobacco fields using helicopters and herbicides as we do on marijuana.  The proportion would be in terms of size of the crop or number of users, so that would mean enough resources to wipe out every acre of the stuff.  Or, we could do the converse, which would mean zero dollars for bombing marijuana.

b)     Sentence people who contribute to addicting a person (especially minors) to tobacco to the same number of years in jail as those doing so with cocaine.

c)     Prohibit smoking in any public place where we do not allow drinking or use of boom boxes.  Sony and Anheuser-Busch do not object to the rules that apply to them, so why do tobacco companies?

d)     Make smoking as legal as other substances to which the great majority of users become addicted, in particular cocaine and heroin.  Note -- this is inapplicable to either marijuana or alcohol, as most users of those drugs do not become addicted.

e)     Place the same mandatory deposit on cigarettes as we do on soda & beer bottles and cans.  Require their sellers to operate redemption centers.  For that matter, do so for wine bottles, too.  This will make our streets cleaner.  It might even prevent an occasional forest fire.

f)      Set the same drinking age for tobacco as we have for alcohol.

Item b) would be effective and fair.  Selling tobacco to a minor is a disgusting act, which can permanently harm the kid, for which the seller should be sued for all their assets and jailed.

Item f) seems to contradict our claim to be libertarian with regard to personal choices.  Morally, the rationale is that most smokers do become addicted, and almost all tobacco addicts get addicted before age 18.  If the legal age were 21, then 17 year olds would mostly be unable to obtain the stuff.  Realistically, high school kids can easily get ahold of cigarettes when the smoking age is 18.

Still, philosophically, we think that minimum ages, in general, are a bad idea.  And, minimum ages above 18 are especially disgusting.  People who are old enough to fight for their country and old enough to be treated as adults by the legal system should be able to legally drink.  If states in the US would lower the drinking age, as some of us believe we should, much of the case for a 21-year-old smoking age would be undercut.  We do believe, though, that the minimum age for smoking should be higher than for alcohol, because tobacco is much more addictive.  Anyway, as long as the drinking age is 21, no one has an argument against increasing the smoking age to the same level.

By the way, the author of this piece confesses to being a hypocrite; as he cheerfully lets those few friends of his who smoke do so around him.

Some Laws Restricting Smoking

  • New York City has banned smoking in all work places. The definition of work place is broad. It includes offices, restaurants, bars, and "common areas of a multiple dwelling containing ten or more dwelling units". See Local Law 47 of 2002, New York City Smoke-Free Air Act. New York State has a similar law, though it is not quite as strong. See Bill Text. And bars are thriving despite the ban. See A Smoke-Free New York Works.
  • New Jersey has banned smoking in bars and restaurants as of April 15, 2006.
  • California prohibits smoking in bars and restaurants. The law doing this is messy, see Labor Code Section 6400-6413.5.
  • Connecticut bans smoking in cafes, taverns, restaurants and public facilities, excepting those with a club permit that were established before May 2003.
  • Ireland bans smoking in public work places including pubs and restaurants.
  • England will ban smoking in pubs, clubs and restaurants in summer 2007.
  • Norway banned outlaw smoking in bars and restaurants nationwide, effective June 2004. Norway had previously banned smoking in public places like railway stations or offices with more than one worker.
  • Italy prohibited smoking in restaurants, bars, offices and factories, as of 10 January 2005. The law does allow smoking in sealed rooms with smoke extractors.
  • The Netherlands bans smoking in all trains, train stations, and workplaces, including restaurants. Train stations can have designated smoking areas. Some Dutch are concerned about the effect of the law on marijuana cafes.
  • Sweden bans smoking in bars and restaurants.
  • Most awesome of all, Calabasas, California has prohibited smoking in all public places, indoor or outdoor, where someone could be exposed to secondhand smoke. Let's hope Calabasas becomes a role model.

The U.K.'s Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) has a list of International developments on smoke-free policies.


Tobacco farmers grow an addictive substance that is sold to minors and then eventually kills them.  How do they live with themselves?

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Last Update: 19 March 2006

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