A Real Smoking Ban

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In an editorial pushing a U.K. ban on smoking in "public places," The Lancet blithely adds: Why not make that a ban on smoking everywhere?

Calling for a ban on smoking in public places is a start, but it is missing the point. Tim Lord, the Chief Executive of the Tobacco Manufacturers' Association, believes that price is the main determinant of how many smokers there are. We disagree. Availability and acceptability are more important. If tobacco were an illegal substance, possession of cigarettes would become a crime, and the number of smokers would drastically fall. Cigarette smoking is a dangerous addiction. We should be doing a great deal more to prevent this disease and to help its victims. We call on Tony Blair's government to ban tobacco.

In other words, since cigarette smoking is a disease, we should make it a crime. The best way to help those poor tobacco junkies is to put them in jail. Someday they'll thank us–just like all those pot smokers who are grateful when the police guide them back to the straight and narrow. Or should I say, cure them?

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  1. In a truly privatized system you wouldn’t have to pay for other people’s bad habits. You could pick an insurance provider that only accepted healthy people with healthy habits.

  2. This from the country that used to sneer at us for outlawing booze.

  3. Madog, who decides what is a healthy habit? If I buy a season pass to my local ski resort, as I do every year, will I still be able to get health insurance?

    As for the common cig smoker;

    “We had to destroy the village to save it….”

  4. “…who decides what is a healthy habit?”

    The private insurer, freely solicited by his presumably free customer, both of whom are free to negotiate or shop elsewhere. Note the repeated use of that old-fashioned word: “free.”

  5. JSM

    “If I buy a season pass to my local ski resort, as I do every year, will I still be able to get health insurance?”

    I would say that at least you would need to pay a higher premium. It’s standard practice for ins cos to charge more for extra risks.

    To deal with the topic, I wonder if they’ve considered banning alcohol; nobody’s tried that, have they?:)

  6. Smokers should have every right to healthcare in a socialized system, just like people who eat too much, drink too much, have too much sex, and live too dangerously. Of course I guess you could ban all of that stuff too. That would be justified under the lefty argument.

    Should I be forced to pay for health problems related to overeating? My terse answer would be no; my full answer would be: why do I have to pay for ANYONE else?s healthcare?

    Lefties love pulling down the top 75% of society as long as the bottom 10% gets raised a little bit.

  7. It seems reasonable. If the public is going to subsidize health care why not outlaw certain high risk behaviors? I for one don’t want to pay for health problems related to tobacco.

    So then, ban activities that are risky – driving motorcycles, skiing, parachuting, eating fatty foods, eating sugary foods – etc. Here’s the problem with socialized medicine – people like Matt think that that gives government to ban any activity that costs Matt money. I hope Matt leads a very dull life for his benefit and my pocketbook.

  8. Next thing they should think about is banning unprotected sex because you can get a deadly disease this way.

  9. Arjay;
    If I opt out of the ski pass to save on the premium ins rate, do I then still have to pay another premium for my now Sedentary lifestyle, which is risky for obesity and related diseases?

    I know you can’t answer that and it ultimately is between myself the ins provider to negotiate, but it does represent dilemmas. Probably the best solution is working out forms of credits. Minus 2 credits for skiing, plus one for excercise, plus 3 for healthy diet to perform well on ski slopes, plus 4 for never having a skiing related injury claim.

    Another dilemma is high risk jobs. If I am a cop, fire fighter, taxi driver or late night liquor store clerk, I may never be able to afford those premiums!

  10. DC et al, how about you back it off of Matt? I don’t think he was advocating this ban or universal health coverage. Rather, he was remarking that given the absurdity of universal health coverage, this ban makes sense. I quite agree with him. If univeral health care is a coerced reality, then I, for one, would demand that people cannot take risks as a way of keeping down costs. The exception would be for life threatening risks like sky-diving in which case failure results in death (cheap) as opposed to prolonged injury or illness (expensive).

    Of course we’d all like privitized health coverage, personal responsibilities and freedom etc etc. Simma down now.

  11. I find it very amusing that Lancet’s November 8th issue was agitating for relaxed marijuana law, and their December 8th issue is agitating for harsher tobacco law. Journalistic schizophrenia? Maybe.

  12. I think the writer of this little section presents a good debate point, But the suggested answer is pretty unintelligent. Almost like it was written bu a complete MORON!

  13. I think it’s tragic when I suggest someone is a moron and then I misspell a word in the process! ;o)

  14. Haven’t there been a couple studies published which conclude that smokers consume fewer healthcare dollars in the long run? I thought that since they tended to die earlier, and tended to die from rapidly fatal maladays (lung cancer, heart attack, major strokes…), they don’t get into the really expensive long slow death expenses.

    If these studies exist somewhere, please could someone refer me to them so I won’t be lacking citations in the future? Thanks.

  15. One of the little epiphanies that got me to stop voting for Democrats was when I heard the student government on campus debating a ban on cigarette sales in the campus store. I was at the meeting for the free pizza (all students are welcome, and all who come are fed pizza).

    Somebody pointed out that we should do everything possible to stamp out smoking because of higher health care costs. (Even though we don’t have a British or Canadian health care system, by the time most people get emphyzema or lung cancer they’re old enough for Medicare.) Now, I couldn’t really care less whether the campus store sells cigarettes. There’s no smoking allowed in campus buildings anyway, so it won’t affect me if they sell it, and since I don’t smoke it won’t affect me if they don’t sell it.

    But what did get me was the realization that when the taxpayers pay for your doctor your personal choices have a direct impact on public policy, so it should be no surprise if people feel that public policy should have a direct impact on your personal choices. That changed a lot of my thinking…

  16. “Probably the best solution is working out forms of credits.”

    –Isn’t this called “Actuarial Science” ?

  17. Citizen,

    Yeah, that must be it. How about it, Matt? You were being sarcastic, right? PLEASE tell me you were being sarcastic.

    If not, you deserve some kind of special award for excellence in the art of reductio creep.

  18. If they really want to pass laws to minimize preventable deaths, why not go after driving? Granted, smoking and second hand smoking has been definitively shown to kill hundreds of thousands of millions of people a year, but these all take years of exposure. Traffic deaths number around 40,000, all sudden and immediate, taking years of productivity from society. Given that virtually none of these deaths occur at speeds over 20 mph, why not make 20 mph the absolute speed limit. Furthermore, all cars must be fashioned to not go higher than this, any cars that are made or modified to go higher can be immediately confiscated and anyone involved jailed. This will save many years of lost productivity.

    Hell, lets sue the car companies now for making cars that are capable of going speeds higher than than the current speed limits.

    Some days I hate people more than others. Out to go drinking and smoking while I still can. Cheers all.

  19. The editorial has it bass-ackwards.

    If tobacco were an illegal substance, possession of cigarettes would become a crime, and the number of
    criminals would drastically increase.

  20. GREGSMITH: I find it very amusing that Lancet’s November 8th issue was agitating for relaxed marijuana law, and their December 8th issue is agitating for harsher tobacco law. Journalistic schizophrenia? Maybe.

    SinC: Not at all. Other than both being ‘weeds’ and that both are most commonly ingested by inhaling the smoke of said burning plant, tobacco and marijuana have very little in common.

    Virtually all of the alleged similarities between the two regarding health risks/effects are outright lies promoted by those who are against people using marijuana for any reason.

    The Lancet editorial board is likely composed of mostly MDS as opposed to politicians and moralisers, thus the appearance of paradoxical thinking on their part.

  21. I wasn’t aware you could cure disease with law. That’s great news! How much time have research doctors wasted?

  22. Well, we all know how damn hard it is to find drugs in American cities. In fact, just yesterday I heard a complaint from the crack-whore across the street about one of her five dealers charging a little more for his junk because one of HIS two or three connections went to jail for a little while.
    VICTORY!

  23. Hmmm.. Price of drugs is rising? Might be a good time to invest.

  24. I wish they would make having a cold illegal; that way, I wouldn’t catch one every fall.

  25. No, no, Frenk. You have it all wrong. They put you in jail if you have a cold, so that everyone on the outside is cold free by definition …

  26. When viruses are outlawed, only outlaws. . . etc.

  27. It seems reasonable. If the public is going to subsidize health care why not outlaw certain high risk behaviors? I for one don’t want to pay for health problems related to tobacco.

  28. Tobacco is a recreational drug. Probably the mildest recreational drug in terms of mental effects in common usage in our society. The problem with tobacco is its delivery system (smoking), which is where almost all the negative health effects of tobacco come from to the user and to people around him. The inherent messiness of smoking and the propensity of smokers to indulge their habit wherever and whenever, regardless of the nonsmokers around them, is undoubtably the source of the hatred engendered against smoking today.

    While there seems to be increasing support for ending prohibition on current illegal drugs, the push to outlaw tobacco appears to be growing in strength and will have equally negative effects on society.

  29. Kevin,
    It’s not sarcasm. At least, I’m serious. It’s a logical next step from universal heath care.

  30. MJ, I see the two coming together. The “legalization” of drugs will occur under the auspices of a new category of “legal controlled substances.” Tobacco and alcohol will then be put into this category. Not ideal, perhaps, but doable.

  31. Andy D. asked for references on the question of whether smokers impose costs on taxpayers. Here are a few:

    “Health care costs for smokers at a given age are as much as 40 percent higher than those for nonsmokers, but in a population in which no one smoked the costs would be 7 percent higher among men and 4 percent higher among women than the costs in the current mixed population of smokers and nonsmokers.”

    –Jan J. Barendregt et al., “The Health Care Costs of Smoking,” The New England Journal of Medicine, 337 (October 9, 1997), pp. 1052-1057

    “At reasonable rates of discount, the cost savings that results because of the premature deaths of smokers through their lower Social Security and pension costs will more than compensate for the added costs imposed by smokers.?On balance there is a net cost savings to society even excluding consideration of the current cigarette taxes paid by smokers.”

    –W. Kip Viscusi, “Cigarette Taxation and the Social Consequences of Smoking,” National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper #4891, October 1994, pp. 11-14

    A careful review of the issue also can be found in Jane G. Gravelle and Dennis Zimmerman, Cigarette Taxes to Fund Health Care Reform: An Economic Analysis, Congressional Research Service, 1994.

  32. just because cigarrettes may become illegal doesn’t mean there will be less smokers. there will just be more people getting arrested for having them.

  33. just because cigarrettes may become illegal doesn’t mean there will be less smokers. there will just be more people getting arrested for having them.

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