Overlegislating smoking

Senior Star columnist, VK Chin had some interesting vitriolic on offer:

All that the Government can do is to make it more expensive for smokers and to introduce legislation to stop them from smoking in designated areas. So far, both attempts have yet to be successful in discouraging people from smoking, and some really drastic action may be necessary for the Government to achieve its target.

Anti-smokers have had a large voice in society for many, many years, to the point where the rights of those who choose to smoke have been drowned out. Its come to the point where everyone, publicly at least, has become virulently anti-smoking, and even smokers themselves are generally apologetic for exercising their right of consumption. Its a sorry state of affairs, and just goes to show how a democracy can quickly descend into a tyranny of the majority.

If the anti-smoking lobby had their way (perhaps what Mr Chin was alluding to), what they would probably be looking for is a total tobacco ban. For many reasons that’s not going to work, but that’s not the point: it shouldn’t even go that far, and i would argue that even now, with massive taxation on tobacco, its probably already over the top.
The truth of the matter is, smoking is probably not very good for you. Inhalation of a foreign substance into your body sounds like a pretty stupid thing to do, and the likelihood of you dying from doing something stupid is obviously a lot higher than if you didn’t do it.
But take a moment, step back from the haze of distraction the anti-smoking lobby has created and consider for a moment two things:
1. Is it the function of the Government to stop people from doing stupid things to themselves?
2. People do A LOT of stupid things — why doesn’t the Government legislate against that too?
Point #1 is probably debatable to death — the key of the debate is where does the Government draw the line? The social contract gives the Government some authority in protecting the people, even if it means protecting them against themselves. So, as far as debates go, that’s a dead end as both sides could wage a ding-dong argument battle ad infinitum, ad nauseum.
Point #2 is a bit more tricky. For all the heat tobacco has drawn from society, it seems more than a bit unfair that so much legislative focus (and resources, and newspaper ink too) has been put on tobacco and controlling its ill effects. If legislation to discourage tobacco use is put in place, why not legislation to discourage all the other stupid things people do?
Obesity and heart disease probably kill more people each year than smoking does — why doesn’t the Government legislate against the Super Size Me-culture? Why doesn’t the Government legislate against fatty foods and sweets while they’re at it? How about legislating against the ice cream vendor who attracts small kids with his bells to buy fattening ice cream (these things add up, and i’m sure we could find some hack to put together a report saying what we eat when we’re young kills us 50 years later)? Why not just ban outright all advertising for any type of non-naturally processed and prepared food? Hell, why not ban all advertising for ANY type of food (too much veggies will make you fat too, leading to obesity, heart attacks and death)? Preposterous? Of course it is! That’s exactly how smokers feel about legislation discouraging their freedom of choice. The fact is, lots of other things kill us far more efficiently that tobacco does — you don’t see anyone doing anything about it.
How about the number of deaths on the roads each year — i’ll bet a pound against a brass farthing that more people die this way than to diseases directly contributed to tobacco use. Why doesn’t the Government legislate harsher laws against speeding? Anyone who speeds, gets thrown in jail! Or why not raise taxes (or remove those silly subsidies) for petrol? Slap on a 100% sales tax on petrol (why not, that’s what the government does for tobacco), and we’ll see a drastic drop in the number of cars and bikes on the road, i’ll guarantee you that. Then you’ll have very much fewer road deaths. Preposterous? Of course it is!
All you anti-smokers out there — face it: smokers are a convenient scapegoat, and easy target for criticism, ridicule, and condemnation. Therefore, it makes it all so easy to legislate against the rights of smokers. If i were you, i would reprioritise the resources of the Government to solve more pressing concerns — issues that are far more efficient killers of the people. Shut down the McDonald’s, mamak stores, and all fatty food producers. Make it prohibitively expensive to own and drive a car. Preposterous? Of course it is! Now you know how smokers feel each year the Budget is released, and when senior Star columnists have nothing better to write about.


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