Forcing Our Preferences on Others


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Public misunderstanding, ignorance and possibly contempt for liberty play into the hands of people who want to control our lives. Responses to my recent column “Compliant Americans” brought this home to me. In it, I argued that the anti-tobacco movement became the template and inspiration for other forms of government intrusion, such as bans on restaurants serving foie gras, McDonald’s giving Happy Meals with toys, and confiscating a child’s home-prepared lunch because it didn’t meet Department of Agriculture guidelines. A few responses read like this: “Smoking is different because that actually affects other people. We should be living by the notion that you should be able to do whatever you want as long as you don’t hurt other people. Smoking hurts other people.”

If we banned or restricted all activities that affect, harm or have the possibility of harming other people, it wouldn’t be a very nice life. Let’s look at what can affect or harm other people. Non-obese people are harmed by obesity, as they have to pay more for health care, through either higher taxes or higher insurance premiums. That harm could be reduced by a national version of a measure introduced in the Mississippi Legislature in 2008 by state Rep. W.T. Mayhall that in part read, “An act to prohibit certain food establishments from serving food to any person who is obese, based on criteria prescribed by the state Department of Health.” The measure would have revoked licenses of food establishments that violated the provisions of the act. Fortunately, the measure never passed, but there’s always a next time.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that in 2010, nearly 33,000 people were killed in auto crashes. That’s a lot of harm that could be reduced by lowering the speed limit to 5 or 10 miles an hour.

You say, “Williams, that’s ridiculous!” What you really mean to say but don’t have the courage to is that to save all of those lives by making the speed limit 5 or 10 miles per hour is not worth the inconvenience. Needless to say — or almost so — there are many activities we engage in that either cause harm to others or have the potential for doing so, but we don’t ban all of these activities.

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  • southwood

    This article argues for too much freedom. The fact is smoking should be banned. The smoker risks his own health with virtually no benefits. He can also endanger others. Smoking also poses a degree of fire risk, especailly when practiced by heavy drinkers. Banning smoking in public places does not go far enough. It should be made illegal, period. Smoking is a ridiculous practice. It is just the fact that tobacco is big business and brings in government taxes in huge amounts that keeps it from being outlawed. It provides no behefits to society. Road traffic on the other hand has many benefits. It must go at speed to achieve those benefits. Think about this: enforcing a slow speed limit would be totally impractical. Certain traffic MUST go at speed e.g. ambulances, police cars, delivery trucks etc. Most drivers drive at moderate or, when applicable, high speeds, responsibly. How can smoking be done responsibly ? It can't. Refusing obese people food in restaurants is pretty useless since they can easily purchase the food in supermarkets and stores. They are advised about the health risks but food is a bodily necessity.

    • Larry

      Show me the study that proves smoking harms others. Over thirty years and tens of millions of dollars and they still can't prove that passive smoking is harmful.

      They have bred specific strains of rats that are so susceptible to cancer that they have to be kept in specifically designed and maintained (and very expensive) sterile environments. They are so cancer susceptible that they will get pancreatic cancer if you look at them harshly, but they still can't get them to develop lung cancer from passive smoking.

      • southwood

        The medical profession have been saying it does for years. Entertainers who were non-smokers but worked smoke-filled clubs have contracted lung cancer. Obviously if the air your breathing is full of nicotine it is as bad as smoking. What are you trying to say anyway ? Certain drugs are banned because they are dangerous. Not everyone who takes them dies from taking them but they are still, correctly, banned. Smoking is just as dangerous. i knew a man who died when he was smoking after taking too much alcohol. He set the house on fire. And smoking and alcohol go together a lot of the time. Smoking should never have been introduced in the first place. King James I wrote a treatise against it. It's big business so it doesn't get banned. I used to smoke many years ago. I had a chest cough through smoking. After I stopped smoking the cough eventually cleared up. It's not just various cancers that it causes; it causes cardio-vascular diseases too. If you smoke, I advise you to stop. You will be healthier – and you will save a lot of money !

        • Lee Poteet

          Saying is one thing, but proving scientifically a far different one. If you fail to understand and accept that, nothing in your reply is worth the reading or the considering. But fanatics never consider that. They only want "their way" with no consideration for the freedom of others.

          • southwood

            Oh just read this and go away and smoke yourself to death if you want. It's still your idiotic choice :
            http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-11844169

          • Lee Poteet

            I don't smoke and never have, but I believe the freedom for individuals to decide these issue for themselves is paramount among people who want to remain free and not the serfs of Big Brother or Big Sis. If you don't like smoking and smokers stay away from people and places where it is going to happen just as smokers should respect the ability of the owners of business and places of entertainment to make the decision of what they will allow and where. But the government should now be allowed to force things one way or the other.

          • southwood

            The government imposes laws and rules all the time or haven't you noticed ? Smoking is a health hazard. Ban it.

      • omnivoice

        I don't care whether Passive Smoking is harmful or not. I just hate it as much as you love to do it. Respect others who do not like passive smoking
        – Raj

      • Justanopinionnow

        People die from alcohol also. They even died during prohibition due to alcohol use. Even if we banned it people would still smoke. Cocaine is banned as is heroine…how many junkies do you know?

        The article isn't about smoking, it is about the introduction of personal property being violated by the government. We have had lawmakers trying to pass laws in states regarding "no smoking in your car, house, etc…you can't send your kid to school with a homemade lunch (which is better than the crap they serve in the cafeteria by far) if it does not pass "inspection". It is a violation of our God given rights for the government to tell us how to live our personal lives. As far as I am concerned, Big Brother can stay out of my life…are any of you too lazy or that "stupid" to make your own decisions? The government is hoping you will think this way.

        • southwood

          The fact is people ARE stupid. You are stupid if you don't think so. Cocaine is banned. Why not tobacco ?

          • Wideband

            "People ARE stupid" Just not the people who agree with you? That's the whole point of the article – admitting that the other guy has just as much a right to his thoughts and opinions as you do. If you don't think so, you're a hubristic fool, and a liberal.

          • southwood

            This is highly ironic. Are you allowing ME the right to my thoughts and opinions ? Doesn't look like it. So who is the "hubristic fool, and a liberal" now.?

    • tagalog

      Let's start with prohibiting that kind of smoking we already have prohibitory laws in place right now to forbid, namely, smoking pot. Secondhand pot smoke KILLS!

    • Whitehunter2

      Would you also support a return to our Puritan forefathers' laws against, say, fornication–and the reinstitution of their 17th century punishments, like putting violators in the stocks? After all, like smoking, fornication "is a ridiculous practice [that] provides no behefits [sic] to society"–or do you claim that it somehow DOES? Eh?

      After all, if we could just eliminate fornication, there's be an immediate, and total, reduction in STDs and out-of-wedlock births and all of the expense, crime, and heartbreak that fornication brings. Right?

      • southwood

        Oh right, so because it would be impossible to legislate against fornication, which btw has the commandment of God condemning it as a sanction whether people obey or not, we should just also allow smoking ? Because we can't get rid of one evil, let's just allow the other ? Superb inductive logic. Not.

  • Schlomotion

    I would love to see this argument expanded to the to idea that Muslims should be free to choose to live in countries with finite borders in which they may indulge in every aspect of their religion in all of its restrictive and fanatical fervor, fly their own flag and elect Allah as President every year.

    • Larry

      Muslims should be free to live in only their own countries, and leave the rest of the civilized world alone to go on progressing, rather than living in the 7th century.

      • RoguePatriot6

        Their doctrine won't allow it nor will the Islamist nutjobs who live for Jihad against Western Civilization.

        • Schlomotion

          Their doctrine has changed over the years. It will continue to.

          • cjk

            I see you abide by their historical doctrine of outright lying to Kaffirs.

          • Schlomotion

            You are sorely mistaken if you accuse me of being a Muslim. Also, if you think there have not been well-known Islamic philosophers who have changed the shape of Islam, then you are pitiably ignorant.

          • cjk

            NEVER accused you of being a Mohammedan, just of acting like one as does precedent Oscumma.
            It is you are pitiably ignorant if you think Mohammedanism has changed in any major or meaningful way since it was concocted in Baghdad over 1300 years ago

          • RoguePatriot6

            Changed over the years? In what way?

          • Schlomotion

            Ibn Muqla invented cursive Arabic.

            Ibn Sina reconciled Aristotelianism and Neoplatonism with Kalam (discursive theology).

            Al Ghazali threw Islam open to Western influence, by making Christian theologians interested in Arabic writers. He also reduced Aristotelian influence and incorporated Sufism and gave Sunnism primacy.

            Ibn Rushd defended Aristotelianism against Al Ghazali.

            The truth is, Islam infuences the West greatly, and the West influences Islam greatly.

          • Whitehunter2

            And what have they invented lately–i.e. within the past 1,000 years–apart from suicide vests for children, that is?

          • Schlomotion

            Catgut sutures, Caesarean sections, Forceps, Coffee, Chess.

            More broadly, Algebra and Chemistry.

  • sedoanman

    Look. As a black belt non-smoker, I admit that smoking should be banned in most places because cigarette smoke stinks and causes an allergic reaction in me. I make no appeal to higher ideals. My reasons for wanting it banned are purely personal and selfish, no different from those who want to smoke anywhere they want. That said, I do believe that smokers should be able to light up in bars, gambling casinos, and such because those are places we expect to find it allowed. I fear that pushing the issue by banning it in more places will backfire, and we will be forced back to accepting it in more places than now.

  • http://rau.3littlefoxes.com Lfox328

    As an asthmatic, I have breathing difficulties when in an environment that has smoke. Nonetheless, I am anti a smoker not being able to smoke by government decree. I would, however, like that person to courteously abstain if requested.

  • Big Rich

    Smoking tobacco is a perfect illustration of the social narcissism of the Progressive agenda. Anti smoking laws are TYRRANY plain and simple. At least 65% of "second hand smoke" studies are fallacious. The EPA's findings were invalidated by a judicial investigation ( U.S. District Court Judge William Osteen 1998 ) which showed the EPA "cherry-picked" data and completely ignored the primary conclusion that showed no statistically significant health risk from second hand smoke ( J.L. Singer 2004 "Public Smoking Ban Simply Tyrrany", Arizona Republic, 24 November).The EPA's defense was "It's for a worthy cause". The CDC also released erroneous data on obesity ( D. Yee "Math Error led CDC to Overstate Obesity Problem: Agency Admits Bungling Study" Associated Press 24 November 2004).
    Government has no business regulating our behavior regarding our personal habits. If Legislation is enacted on the basis of "sensitivities", at best it enshrines social blackmail into law, at worst it descends into absolute subjugation and enslavement.

  • bubbles

    Anti-smoking laws were used as a political agenda and to gouge smokers with taxes so high they should be illegal .

    If governments wanted to protect the public they'd do something about issues we already have laws against.
    Like illegal drugs and all it entails.
    Illegal guns.
    Illegal immigration
    Exotic pet markets.
    Alcohol abuse.
    Prescription drug abuse.
    Sex slavery

    Everyone of these already has unenforced laws ,physical and financial damage and death rates far exceding cigarettes .But turning smoking into a pc sin pays well for politicians and requires no investigations or work.

  • Infovoyeur

    FTLOG, the evil of anti-govt. gone too far, due not to social need, but to a person's psychological needs. (His stretchy arguments, obesity, traffic, etc., move from hilarious to dismaying.) Has nobody ever heard of Win-Win? (Or are we all adrift away from Responsible Civil Cooperation?) Smoking and nonsmoking areas. Smokers may have to step out but they can then smoke. A small price to pay for helping avoid proven toxic harm to others, plus they don't have to go cold turkie etc. in their homeland. I must be mkissing something here as I often seem to these daze. TTFN…