As I did my usual check on happenings in the news, I found an article that fascinated me. The town of Westminster, Massachusetts has set to work in an attempt to ban the sale and purchase of any and all tobacco products.
You would think that, given our modern attitudes towards smoking, people would be happy to see tobacco go the way of lawn darts; a terrible idea that does more harm than good. But you’d be surprised. A shocking number of people, many of them non-smokers, oppose the ban as they feel it’s an infringement on personal liberties.
This causes a rather uncomfortable situation. On one side of the issue, everyone agrees that smoking is a disgusting habit that harms your health irreversibly.
But on the other hand, you could make a legitimate argument that people have the right to put anything into bodies that they want – health risks be damned. If we set out to ban the every consumable product harmful to us, I’m sure many of the people reading this would rush out to defend their right to eat at Burger King whenever they choose.
On the OTHER other hand, there’s also plenty of evidence to say that a complete tobacco ban is exactly what we need. Studies show that cities and states that issue out smoking bans see large drops in tobacco related illnesses very quickly and the more comprehensive and all encompassing the law is, the larger that drop becomes.
This brings us to that “uncomfortable situation” that I mentioned earlier. This is a scenario where we need to make a serious choice; do we put health and the well-being of ourselves and our fellow humans first and protect them against their own will or should we put personal freedom ahead of logic and allow people to continue doing the things that harm them even when they themselves know it will harm them?
Really, all of this comes down to one saddening thought that boils in my mind; none of us really knows what we want. We want our governments to protect us from threats both internal and external, but not at the cost of personal freedoms and vice versa. This is why so many people were and still are upset about things like the nature of airport security and censorship.
If I had to choose (and I realize that this may sound cruel when I explain it), I’d say that I agree with the people opposing the ban despite being a non-smoker myself. I try to think of it in terms of natural selection; if a person was foolish enough to start a highly addictive and harmful habit given the wealth of knowledge to confirm the fact, they probably deserve what they get.
That said, the fact that I have to make that choice at all is painful. One side corals and controls human behavior while the other feels like sending people to their deaths. I both look forward to and dread the final decision that they make.