Fuming About Smoking
In his article “Smoke and Mirrors” (Feb.), Jacob Sullum writes: “By entering a business that allows smoking, you consent to be exposed to tobacco smoke, just as you consent to be subjected to loud music by entering a dance club or attending a rock concert.”
What? Have I missed something? People go to clubs and concerts (as a rule) precisely because they wish to hear music. I have never heard of an establishment which people frequent in order to inhale other peoples’ tobacco smoke.
Lewis Kapell, Manlius, NY
If someone wishes to commit suicide by a such a slow and uncertain method as smoking tobacco, that is their right, though one would first like to see them making adequate provision for their dependents. However, should someone wish to commit hara-kiri, I would hope that they would have the decency to do it in their own home. Were they to do it in my home or my place of work, I would probably feel like suing their estate for my mental anguish, not to mention the cost of cleaning the carpet.
Smokers are eager to claim that their addiction has not been proved to harm others and yet seem curiously insensitive to those who have an allergic reaction to tobacco smoke or who just plain dislike the smell. Every time my employer allocates a smoker to the next office, Mr. Sullum implies, I should be forced to uproot myself. Jobs in my field are rare enough.
The real issue in smoking versus liberty is not the rights of smokers: My right to breathe clean air is surely greater than the smoker’s right to pollute it. The issue is the right of a manufacturer to sell a product which is of no benefit to the purchaser and which is indeed positively harmful to him or her. In the ideal marketplace, given a fully informed public, there would be no purchasers for tobacco or for any of the other worthless and dangerous products on sale today. Until that day arrives I will happily accept government regulation of those who defraud the public. Is this paternalism or simply the enforcement of sound business ethics?
Snake oil did no harm except to the wallet; it might even have made the purchaser feel better. By contrast, smoking has no known benefits. Tobacco users are dependent on a harmful product which makes them feel as good after a cigarette as nonsmokers do all the time. They should be encouraged to stop, if they still can, and every effort should be made at the personal and governmental level to discourage the creation of further addicts.
Thomas M. Napier, North Wales, PA
Smoking is an annoying habit like the indiscriminate discharge of guns in public is an annoying habit. It’s an annoying habit like drunk driving is an annoying habit. It’s a drug addiction, not a habit. It maims and kills people, it doesn’t just annoy us. Jacob Sullum greatly trivializes and euphemizes. Such deception does not belong in a magazine that prides itself on honest reporting.
Second, it makes no difference which end of the cigarette you are on. Smoking indoors results in inhaling the same chemicals and radioactive particles over and over. Your radiation exposure is greater if you smoke than if you work in a nuclear power plant. Tobacco smoke also coats ventilation systems with tar, a perfect substrata for molds and mildews. Third, the free market will not protect us from smokers any more than it will protect us from other crazy people. Laws banning smoking are highly desirable. You cannot reason with a smoker. If he were reasonable, he would not engage in such a senseless activity.
My personal prescription is to send all smokers to the Smith and Wesson Smoking Cessation Clinic, or allow normal people to literally fight back with full protection of the law on the grounds of self-defense. Of course, I realize that won’t work in our society, so a good compromise would be a ban on public smoking and a policy that treats tobacco just like any other deadly drug.
Mark Lamendola, Cleveland, OH
The medical data overwhelmingly proves tobacco smoke to be toxic and carcinogenic. Imagine arriving at a public restaurant to find that all the food has been laced with toxins. You must choose between consuming the toxins or leaving. That’s the choice I face every time I enter an enclosed public place where smoking is permitted. The only difference is the method of consumption.
In this way, smokers have been imposing their preference upon others since tobacco was invented. Our efforts are intended only to correct this long-standing injustice.