What’s wrong with the Smoking Ban

Posted on June 8, 2005, under general.

I’ve always been very anti-smoking, but at the same time I am a liberal – if people want to give themselves all sorts of awful diseases through smoking, that’s their prerogative – just don’t make me take the same risk, please.

But to my mind, the ban on smoking in the workplace is still a flawed, unneccessary, law which does not achieve as much as a real solution would. Take that;

  1. Passive smoking causes physical harm.

    There are some good collations of the scientific facts at BUPA and ASH, but even if there was zero evidence for health-related problems, I’m certain that it irritates my eyes and throat to the point where I don’t want to be in a smoky room – something I definitely consider physical harm.

  2. Causing others physical harm is wrong, and should be regulated by law.

    I need to qualify this a little, in that the issue of consent is important and that some people like a bit a consentual physical harm now and then but in general, society does not tolerate physical abuse, assault or attack and makes these acts punishable under the force of law, rightly.

So, why don’t we categorise smoking as assault? You’d be hard-pressed to find a doctor who would not agree that it causes bodily injury, and according to dictionary.com;

as┬Ěsault n

3. Law
a. An unlawful threat or attempt to do bodily injury to another.
b. The act or an instance of unlawfully threatening or attempting to injure another.

The biggest problem left untouched by the smoking ban is that of child abuse through passive smoking. Young children, whose quality of life and life-expectancies are being lowered by neglectful, smoking, parents have no protection currently. If a parent were to spread asbestos around the house, there would at least be grounds for something to be done. But the comparable situation of two 40-a-day parents smoking in the house is grounds for nothing. This needs a fix.

Whenever I bring up my wacky idea of smoking == assault, I get some common reactions;

  1. People should be able to do what they like in their own home

    I don’t much agree with this. Can you punch me because it makes you feel good, just because I’m in your home? I don’t think so, and this argument is equally non-sensical.

  2. Intent matters, and smokers don’t intend any harm

    Ignorance is not an excuse. Sure, smokers may just want to enjoy some death-sticks but I’m afraid that doesn’t absolve them of their responsibilities to others. Unless you’ve been comatose for 40 years, it’s pretty hard to be unaware of the harm cigarette smoke causes others. Having the unbridled arrogance to put your own enjoyment before others’ health really isn’t much of an excuse.

    Smokers are aware of the harm they are causing, they just don’t care much, sounds like the thugish mentality typical of assaulters to me.

  3. It’s unworkable, how can you say you’re a liberal when in reality this would outlaw smoking totally?

    Three words; not my problem. Smoking is assault, it genuinely causes others harm. This is wrong. This is the kind of thing society exists to prevent. I really don’t care how inconvenient for you that is.

    But I would still fight for your right to smoke. As long as you’re a consenting adult and it doesn’t affect others, I do not care what you do to your body. If you want to continue to smoke, you’ll have to invent some kind of smoking hood, smoking pods or some equally ridiculous contraption. Tough.

    No matter how much inconvenience it causes you, it does not outweigh the rights others have to a healthy environment.

  4. You’re crazy, I could apply that same argument to car pollution.


Of course it really is crazy, unworkable and absolutist, for all sorts of reasons – but it should at least be the declared aim of the anti-smoking efforts. We need to lose any pretence that passive smoking should ever be socially acceptable. Because really, it’s not.

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