Monday, June 20, 2005

The Smoking Debate

I've been listening with great interest, to the radio with voxpops of people's varying opinions on the subject of banning smoking in public places.

I am not, nor ever have been a smoker (that is unless you consider my time in the womb as counting). Everyone else in my family is, although my sister has recently quit. I respect that it's not just a pastime, but an addiction and many people smoke purely because they find it hard to stop.
There is an argument for smokers rights, and I'm glad that this is a debate that is happening with large scale public consultation. However, one lady was very ignorant when defending it. She claimed that excessive drinking was harmful too, so perhaps they should ban drinking. Can anyone else spot the fundamental flaw in her argument?
It reminds me of a wonderful but rather crude Dave Allen observation in which he attended a dinner party after quitting smoking. A guest offered him a cigarette but he turned it down explaining he had quit. The guest took slight offence saying that there was nothing wrong with it and that only the smoker was harmed... people around him only got the residue... besides, every man has a few vices... pointing out that Allen was a drinking man... to which Allen wonderfully retorted that although this wasn't true, he didn't expose his companions to the "residue" of his vice (by urinating on them).
Of course, the lady defending smoking by attacking drinking misses one very crucial point... apart from random acts of violence, the only person a persistent drunk will likely harm, through illness or injury... is themselves. Smoking is a different ball game altogether. Yes, you mess up your own organs, but then you breathe out smoke that damages other people... look at the late Roy Castle - never smoked, often played trumpet in smokey environments... died of lung cancer. Ok, so most people don't spend all their time in smoke filled clubs... but the guiding principle should be the same. The only person you have a right to do that to... is yourself. Smokers pay a heavy tax on their habit, which helps fund the medical bills they stack up in later life.

I think people have a right to eat and drink smoke-free in an enclosed area. In fairness though, many of the traditional pubs in Britain have a character that is in part defined by a smokey atmosphere. I personally feel some pubs should be allowed under license to carry on allowing smoking, but that a clear distinction should be made on the door before you go in.
I feel sorry for heavier smokers... if and when this comes in, the withdrawal symptoms are going to be harsh for them. It would be a cold person indeed who would bring in such a law and have no sympathy for those "negatively" affected by it.
This then raises other issues. What if we drive? Are we not doing the same damage as smokers? I believe a similar approach is needed. I DO drive. I don't live in an area where public transport is readily available. However, whenever I've been to a metropolitan area, I have always used public transport. I must point out though, that public transport in my experience has been sporadic in it's efficiency... and that must be resolved.
I think in both issues, it all boils down to how close you are to the people around you. If you are out in the open, or on your own property, the risk to other people is minimised, and that is all anyone can expect or ask (even in this scenario I'm still at risk because both my parents smoke).
That's just how I see it now. I'm open to other opinions and I welcome you to add your views even if they are at odds with this. All I ask, is that you reply with respect.

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