They Can't Stop, So We Have to Make Them

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Yesterday the National Institute on Drug Abuse announced that it will no longer hold conferences in cities without "a comprehensive smoke-free policy, unless specific circumstances justify an exemption." NIDA Director Nora Volkow explains:

Most smokers use tobacco regularly because they are addicted to nicotine. Addiction is characterized by compulsive use, even in the face of negative health consequences. Reducing such exposure will not only improve public health but may also facilitate quit attempts by those addicted to tobacco, benefiting their health as well.

The same day NIDA announced its new policy, Volkow was at an anti-smoking conference in New York, where she asserted that once a smoker is hooked on nicotine, the act of lighting up a cigarette and inhaling smoke from it is "no longer voluntary behavior." If so, how can smokers be expected to quit in response to smoking bans? I'm confused. Or maybe Volkow is.

[Thanks to Tom Angell for the tip.]

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  1. If that keeps these bluenose totalitarians out of my town, I’m all for it. Unfortunately, I expect a public smoking ban to be extended to restaurants soon. I don’t even smoke and I hate these guys.

    What I would do if they held one of their hoedowns here is join a “smoke ring” around whatever facility they held it at. Imagine hundreds, even thousands of “nicotine fiends” strolling the public sidewalks surrounding the conference venue, puffing their pipes, sucking on their cigs and firing up their stogies. I have enough of a taste for tobacco to enjoy a cigar every once in a great while, so I’d risk a temporary sore throat for Liberty. The protest could have some marshalls, who would enforce gaps in the circle so people could enter and leave the cite peacefully. These “firebreaks” would be non-smoking, of course. 🙂

    Come to think of it, that’d make a good protest against the city council, should they ever bring the proposed changes in the anti-smoking ordinances to a vote.

    This new policy is reminiscent of NOW’s ban on holding its convention in any state that hadn’t ratified the ERA, and similar bans promoted by civil rights groups regarding the MLK holiday. Sometimes it works as a pressure tactic, and sometimes it doesn’t.

    Kevin

  2. So, what are they going to do about America’s addiction to oil? Will they vote to hold their meetings online? Will they promise only to bike to meetings? Will they get a life and work in their own communities instead of endangering the public health by traveling to meetings that benefit their egos?

    “Most travelers use gasoline regularly because they are addicted to oil. Addiction is characterized by compulsive use, even in the face of negative health consequences. Reducing such exposure will not only improve public health but may also facilitate quit attempts by those addicted to gasoline, benefiting their health as well.”

    Get a grip, folks.

  3. Just WTF is a “comprehensive smoke-free policy”?

    For more information on tobacco abuse and addiction, please visit http://www.drugabuse.gov.

    I guess now that we’re couching tobacco use in the language of illicit “drug abuse”, a “comprehensive smoke-free policy” would have to include random searches, no-knock raids, and hard time for offenders, wouldn’t it? This is getting ri-goddamn-diculous.

  4. Just WTF is a “comprehensive smoke-free policy”?

    For more information on tobacco abuse and addiction, please visit http://www.drugabuse.gov.

    I guess now that we’re couching tobacco use in the language of illicit “drug abuse”, a “comprehensive smoke-free policy” would have to include random searches, no-knock raids, and hard time for offenders, wouldn’t it? This is getting ri-goddamn-diculous.

  5. But rhywun, they are doing it for your protection!!

  6. Most smokers want to quit to some degree. However, quitting is a very significant and stressful event and not everyone has such a stress free life that they can just quit at any time. And if they are living such a wonderful stress free life, do they really want to screw it up by taking on that challenge?

  7. Whoa – the squirrels are getting sneaky. I swear I hit Post and my page came back without my post, so I went back and hit Post again. What are they smoking back there?? They must be seriously abusing the ‘bacco.

  8. Compulsive at what time, is the thing that resolves your paradox.

    Simple example : you can’t refrain from eating as many kaiser rolls as you have in the house. Kaiser roll addiction.

    Solution : it’s easy to avoid buying Kaiser rolls while in the store. Don’t buy any.

    Something at time A makes consumption at time B, when you are at your weakest, avoidable.

    There are other problems nannyism but the paradox cited isn’t one of them’

  9. Tobacco abuse, huh? Then what’s the correct use of tobacco?

  10. Tobacco abuse, huh? Then what’s the correct use of tobacco?

    Smoking during a protest against anti-freedom laws.

    Government abuse, huh? Then what’s the correct use of government?

  11. Sullum’s purported paradox points to an interesting point about language — you can’t say everything at once. Of course, by “no longer voluntary behavior,” the anti-smoking types mean “behavior which is to some extent constrained by cravings.” There are many shades of “voluntary” behavior, from breathing, which is almost impossible to voluntarily refrain from, to refraining from wathing Twins baseball, which is a minor annoyance. Smoking, for the smoker, is somewhere in between — you can refrain from it, but it is uncomforatble to do so for any length of time. In context, NIDA’s claim is a rhetorical overstatement; reduced to its real meaning (“Once you start, you don’t want to stop”), it hardly contradicts the claim that you can stop, and you can learn to want to stop.

  12. What we really need is a government cessation program for people addicted to running other people’s lives.

    Talk about “Once you start, you don’t want to stop.”

  13. Well, I imagine that NIDA hopes to at least start a counter-balance to the fears a lot of towns have that conferences will avoid them if they have bans in place. Madison WI, for example, decided they wanted a smoking ban more than they wanted an annual bowling championship. Still, NIDA… or bowling tournaments. I have to think the latter would be more lucrative. But then, it’s probably a mistake to think that economic reasoning plays any role in the minds of politicians who support such bans.

  14. In context, NIDA’s claim is a rhetorical overstatement; reduced to its real meaning (“Once you start, you don’t want to stop”)

    Of course, because if they said its real meaning, as above, that’s an advertisement in favor of smoking!

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