Smokers, cut your bitching. Nannies, you do the same.

Lung Cancer distribution rates in the United States. Funny, it looks like KKK membership rates distribution.

If there is one group of people that I don’t want to hear whining, it is the cigarette smoker. Imagine any other habit being half as obnoxious, and yet tolerated. Otherwise clean people smell like they slept in a dumpster (sorry guys, you do). They expel carcinogenic chemicals that you couldn’t even bury in a toxic waste dump without a visit from the feds. Meanwhile, those of us who elect to avoid this pollution are accused of infringing upon smokers’ “freedom” when we demand that they engage in their dirty habit somewhere that it doesn’t affect us.

I am not prudish about the consumption of poison. I think that people should be allowed to consume liquor anywhere they please — in the park, on the street, in a hot air balloon, or even while driving — as long as they are not truly impaired. I wouldn’t care if a guy sat next to me on a public park bench and began shooting heroin into his arm — as long as he took proper precautions to keep from getting blood on me, and he took his needle with him when he left and disposed of it properly. If you want to snort cocaine off a hooker’s ass on the sidewalk, as long as you don’t block the sidewalk, I’m all for it.

What do all those things have in common? Lots of people might find them objectionable, but they really don’t cause any physical discomfort to anyone else. They don’t hurt anyone but the consumer. I think that it is improper for the state to restrict the freedom to do anything that “neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” But when it does either, then that is a proper place for the state to act. This is in sharp contrast to ciggy smoke, which does, in fact, harm people who have chosen not to partake.

We all have a right to a little roving zone of personal autonomy — that zone should be large when we are on our own private property. Therefore, if I commit an act inside my house, and the effects do not break beyond the walls surrounding me, then the state should have no right to interfere. (The state does not agree. See Gonzales v. Raich (previously Ashcroft v. Raich), 545 U.S. 1 (2005). In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court bizarrely held that if a man grows marijuana in his own living room, and smokes it in his own kitchen, he is somehow interfering with interstate commerce sufficiently that the federal government should have a right to restrict his conduct. But, this piece is not about the law as it is, but as I think it should be.)

Once I step out onto the street, my zone of autonomy ebbs and flows depending on my surroundings. If I am in the middle of the desert, and the nearest person is 1 mile away, then my zone of autonomy ought to be pretty wide. I should be able to scream and shout at the top of my lungs, as my crazy behavior will not graze the ears of another. I can, however, accept that doing so in the middle of a crowded sidewalk would be properly punished as “disturbing the peace.” On a lonely sidewalk, if I want to swing my arms around wildly, that ought to be my right, but as soon as I enter a crowd and my hands start slapping faces, I’ve gone beyond my personal autonomy zone, and entered my fellow citizens’ zones. At that point, I’ve broken the law, and the law is no ignoramus for saying so.

You should have every right to do this to yourself. You shouldn't have a goddamned right to do it to me.

So lets talk about cigarette smoke specifically, as nothing is truly analogous. Cigarette smoke contains chemicals that, if you buried them in the ground or discharged them into the air via any other means, you would go to prison. As far as the unpleasant nature of the stuff, most non-smokers would rather tolerate the smell of dog shit. However, if I carried a pail of dog shit with me into a public park, I would likely be shunned if not charged with some appropriate misdemeanor.

Here in San Diego, the lack of cigarette smoke is absolute bliss. You can go into any bar, any nightclub, on to any beach, into any park, and you will not be assaulted by the stench or the poison carried by cigarette smoke. You can sit down on the beach, and you can know with absolute certainty that no asshole will sit right next to you and start belching chemicals and stench into your zone of personal autonomy. New York is seeking to do the same, but the NYT editorial board seems to think that this goes too far — calling it “prohibition.”

Someone at the New York Times needs a new dictionary.

Nothing in the proposed legislation says that people can’t smoke. It simply requires that if they do so, they do so within their zone of personal autonomy, and remain outside of their neighbors’ zones. To define this as “prohibition,” you would have to change the definition of prohibition. If the 18th Amendment said that Americans could not consume alcohol while spitting a portion of it on other people, well then the prohibition analogy would be sustained — and we never would have had the 21st Amendment.

This all said, I am not hostile to the consumption of tobacco, nor to the individual choice to consume it. I think that smokers should have an absolute right to smoke in their homes, so long as they can keep the smoke from penetrating the homes of others. There have been cases where apartment and condo dwellers have gone to legal loggerheads with their neighbors over the stuff, and in those, I side with the neighbor of the smoker. If I can smell your ass or your cigarettes through my wall, you deserve to have your ass kicked.

On the other hand, there is a growing movement to restrict smoking in cars with children inside. Emotionally, I understand the point of the legislation — powerless children should not be subjected to the harm visited upon them by second hand smoke spewed out by an adult in the car. I think this goes too far. Yes, I feel badly for the children. However, 99% of the time, this will be harm visited upon them by their parents. Parents should have a right to raise their children as they see fit — even if that means giving them cancer or emphysema. I recognize that this is a debatable point — that perhaps the children should have a right to health protected by the state. After all, you can’t starve your kids to death, nor can you put tequila in their sippy cups at home. So, why should you be allowed to close them in a hermetically sealed bubble and then fill their little lungs with arsenic, nicotine, and whatever else shit is in ciggy smoke? I say that they’re your kids. Turn them to shit if you want to. If you’re too much of an imbecile to wait to smoke until your kids are out of your car, then perhaps it would be better if your kids die young, before they spawn the next generation of imbeciles.

A recent article in the New York Times, which seems to have hired a new pro-smoking editor, brings us the story of people who are avoiding the high cost of cigarette taxes by growing their own tobacco..

“It’ll make the antismokers apoplectic,” said Ms. Silk. “They’re using the power of taxation to coerce behavior. That’s not what taxation is supposed to be for.”

“We fear that the antismokers are so hysterical that if they start finding that people are doing this, they would craft a law to make it illegal,” Ms. Silk said. “I’m waiting for the black helicopters to start flying over my yard.” (source)

In that fight, I side with the smokers / home tobacco farmers. I’m not a fan of raising the taxes on cigarettes to try and reduce smoking rates. I don’t mind taxing the hell out of them and applying the tax to health care costs in some way, but to influence smokers to give up their habit isn’t a proper use of the power to tax. I’m even more on Ms. Silk’s side when it comes to growing and smoking her own tobacco. As I mentioned above, the feds think it is a proper use of the commerce clause to regulate whether someone grows marijuana in their own home and smokes it there, with the buds never leaving their own private property. Therefore, I’m certain that the government will eventually make life a pain in the ass for home tobacco famers. That, I find intolerable.

The nanny state really rears its ugly head when it comes to the new fashion — banning electronic cigarettes. These are a god-send for smokers and non-smokers alike. As much as I personally despise tobacco smoke, I have had happy dinners sitting right next to friends who were puffing away on their blue-tipped smokeless cigarettes. No carcinogens came my way. No smell came my way. Just the barely perceptible puff of water vapor and the pleasant blue hue from the tip of the device. Despite their inoffensiveness and harmlessness to others, legislative bodies are now trying to add these to the list of naughty sins committed by nicotine addicts. King County, Washington and the New Jersey state assembly have both classified these devices right alongside the real McCoy. This is total, and un-debatable nannyism in its darkest form. (Of course, when a place like Richmond, Kentucky moves to ban them, I suspect tobacco money in the mix).

The solution to the problem is easy: Sit down and draw yourself, top view. You can just make a circle. Then, draw a line around the radius that your conduct will affect. If you’re smoking a cigarette, that line will likely be an oblong oval about 5 feet in one direction, and drifting downwind about 50 feet. You don’t get to own that. That belongs to your fellow citizens. If you’re a smoker, piss off if you want to smear your gaseous crap in my personal autonomy zone.

On the other hand, if you’re a legislator, do the same exercise. Draw yourself. Now show me how the smoker’s conduct affects you or your fellow citizens. If they are smoking in their home or their car, it does not. If they are smoking an electronic cigarette, it affects nobody but themselves. If that is the case, you have no place regulating their conduct.

Now everyone quit their whining. Smokers, you are not an oppressed minority. And government has no business telling anyone what they can and can’t do to their bodies within their personal zone of autonomy.

70 Responses to Smokers, cut your bitching. Nannies, you do the same.

  1. Sounds pretty reasonable. But not a word about addiction. Not a word about helping people who have it. Not a word about the companies who for decades lied about their addictive product or marketed it to kids for profit. Is there any responsibility to help those who want to quit? Is there any–dare I say it–sympathy for the afflicted?

    • Not from me. Everyone who has started smoking since 1920 (maybe before) has known about the risks and the addictive qualities of nicotine. The companies might have lied, but its sorta like when the stripper lies to you at the titty bar — telling you she really likes you and she needs money to work her way through nursing school. Sure, its bullshit. But you have no right to complain if you buy it.

      • Justin T. says:

        Look, we all know that cigarettes are the cool choice for a hot night and where flavor lives, but that doesn’t make them ok to use anywhere and everywhere.

  2. And yet when I was 13, I could buy cigarettes for pocket change out of a gas station vending machine. I think it’s safe to say that I didn’t know or understand the risks. It wasn’t 1920, either.

    • Bullshit. Even at 13 you knew the risk. Come on. I smoked at 13 too. And maybe I didn’t appreciate the risks, but that isn’t the cigarette company’s fault, nor is it the gas station’s fault.

      • I’m not trying to establish fault. I’m trying to establish that, contrary to what you’re saying above, not everyone who smokes became addicted with a full appreciation of the risks of the product.

        • Well of course not. If anyone had a FULL appreciation of the risks, they wouldn’t ever start. But, to have that full appreciation, you’d need the wisdom you gain only by either dying yourself, or at least watching someone you know die.

          • Mad Rocket Scientist says:


            I had learned by the ripe old age of 10 that I was never going to smoke. All I needed to do was watch my father hack up a lung every morning, and watch my grandfather suffer emphysema & die of lung cancer (both men hard core smokers), to figure it out.

  3. And for the record, I’m not saying I want to sue R J Reynolds. I’m saying it would be nice if I could get my insurance company to cover my doctor’s prescription to help me quit. I don’t think that’s too much to ask from the state insurance commissioner. What did Wisconsin do with all that tobacco settlement money, anyway?

  4. Also for the record: I’m completely behind the efforts to ban smoking in restaurants, bars and 25 feet from entrances and all the rest of it. I just don’t like the open moralizing that everyone feels entitled to do. I don’t approach fat people on the street and tell them that they should slim down.

    • I’m against the “moralizing” too — if what you mean is efforts to try and force smokers to quit for their own good. If you can’t figure out that you should quit — or if (gasp) you know the risks but you don’t want to, then that’s your god-given-right.

      But, don’t compare it to fat people. Fat people, unless their fat ass is intruding on your airplane seat, are not walking down the street slathering you in their fat rolls. If you can keep a bag over your head, keeping your smoke inside it, then I wouldn’t give a hot damn if you do that all day long.

      • I’ve been an ex-smoker several times. Once for over five years. But I never looked at another smoker without a little sympathy. Even people passing by upwind of a smoker feel perfectly justified giving you dirty looks and making hostile comments. It’s not their health that they’re defending. It’s nothing but finger-wagging moralizing.

        I don’t know what “force” means, but yes i’m all for encouraging people to quit for their own good.

        • Nobody gave you a dirty look or made a hostile comment because you had a bad habit. If you were huffing on an e-cig, nobody would look at you funny.

          They were pissy toward you because you stank like shit, and you were spraying your stinky shit on them.

          • I’m sorry, you’re wrong. There is a very real element of moralizing quite independent of who smells like what.

          • Well, if that’s the case, then anyone doing such “moralizing” should mind their own damn business. But, I can say that as much as second hand smoke pisses me off, it doesn’t bother me if I see it on TV, or through a plate glass window. So, perhaps I’m just not able to put myself in the mindset of those moralizers.

  5. teacher says:

    Whatever, it’s moralizing, and d-holes like picking fights against smokers because they delight in their addiction. Why not ban letting a car idle next to a grocery store? Why no obsession with it? Oh, because it is just a part of life and not as good of a subject for moralizing.

  6. Part of the reason we have an inadequate response to unwanted pregnancy is because we are obsessed with the morality of it all. It’s just part of the American character, it seems. We never miss an opportunity to let a good “shame shame!” get in the way of being helpful, solving problems or even mustering a tiny bit of empathy.

  7. Marc R says:

    LOL, these comments did not turn out how Marc Ra expected. Sure, calling out smokers in moralizing unless they’re smoking indoors right next to you all day. Nobody ever got cancer because they hung out with a smoker outdoors.
    I remember growing up in my grandparents’ house sitting in the small kitchen as nana would make some veal parm. Well, she’s still alive today, me too, and my grandfather died…from diabetes complications.
    Yeah smoking is bad for you, can cause cancer, but so can millions of other things. I think people abhor smokers not because they fear getting smoke-related diseases but because it’s the one socially acceptable way to tear into the ass of a complete stranger who is not harming you in any way.
    Marc Ra, for a freedom fighter, keep picking on hypocritical politicians and judges, leave the goth kids alone.

  8. Scott Nazzarine says:

    Alright, I’m gonna bitch on behalf of the smokers.
    Quick test: would you rather sit in a closed garage for five hours with a car idling or with 10 people smoking cigarettes? Unless you really want to find out for sure if there is a god or not right now, I’d personally go with the smokers. I’d rather be in there with 100 smokers. Probably a thousand. That’s cuz the carbon monoxide and other “icky,” smelly, dangerous stuff from a single car is way worse than that from hundreds, even thousands of cigarettes. So until you are willing to give up driving your car in MY “zone of privacy” that follows me as I’m walking down the sidewalk near the street you so inconsiderately want to drive in, I’m not willing to buy your second-hand yucky-poisoning argument.
    And you’re “it’s swell to ban smoking in bars and restaurants” comments are totally inconsistent with your supposedly libertarian attitude and your “a man’s home is his castle” premise. Unless we’ve totally surrendered to the nanny state or become a totally socialist country when I wasn’t looking, most businesses are still privately owned and not too many people are forced to go into a given bar or restaurant against their will. Until the day a non-consenting adult is forced to walk into a bar, a child is compelled by the government to eat at a particular restaurant, or a person is conscripted into working at a specific business, I refuse to accept the initial premise, that these are “public” places. To the contrary, these are private establishments that choose (at least in some cases) to open their doors to the public. No one is forced to enter and no one is forced to work there, and thus no one can rightfully claim that their supposed “right” to breathe clean air supercedes the proprietor’s right to run his or her business behind closed doors as he or she sees best. Thus, as long as a private business has a sign on their door that says something to the effect of “we allow smoking in here; if you don’t like it then fuck off and go somewhere else” you can’t bitch if you decide to patronize that place.
    I’m personally sick of all the NON-smokers whining until they get the freakin state to mandate their personal preferences on the rest of us. What, 20% of people at most smoke? Can’t the rest of you all just vote with your feet and pocketbooks? Jesus christ, most businesses were/are already going smoke-free voluntarily — but no, that’s not enough for you all. You have to ensure that no place is allowed to cater to those of us who don’t want to stand outside in 5 degree weather to have a smoke with our drink because you might want to walk within five feet of that bar and it might hurt your ittle-bittle lungs and make you smelly. (which, as another example of the law of unintended consequences, now makes you have to deal with the smoke even more because now we’re all out on the street smoking instead of inside at a place you can avoid).
    Yes, us smokers do bitch cuz we’re the nanny state’s target du jour. It may not be “prohibition” just yet, but we’re well on our way. Just like alcohol in the 18th-19th century; and drugs in the 20th century; it starts with propaganda, then ridiculous “sin” taxes, then local restrictions, then state restrictions, more taxes, people buying into all the bullshit propaganda, until … viola … its outlawed! I give it five years at most until some state totally prohibits it. What’s next, gangs smuggling cigs in to do-gooder California from China (cuz that’s the last “free” place on earth to buy smokes for less than $100 a pack). Seriously, when supposedly libertarian-leaning posts like this advocate for *more* restrictions on cigarettes, that scenario is not as ridiculous as I’d like to believe it is.

    • And you’re “it’s swell to ban smoking in bars and restaurants” comments are totally inconsistent with your supposedly libertarian attitude and your “a man’s home is his castle” premise. Unless we’ve totally surrendered to the nanny state or become a totally socialist country when I wasn’t looking, most businesses are still privately owned and not too many people are forced to go into a given bar or restaurant against their will.

      I can dig what you’re saying, but we have health code regulations that require a restaurant or a bar to wash the glasses, keep the food in a refrigerator, and to use cleaning products. In a pure libertarian paradise, we’d just let restaurants and bars clean as they see fit, right? Then people could vote with their dollars and only go to the cleanest restaurants. It doesn’t work that way, and it shouldn’t.

      • Rogier says:

        “we have health code regulations that require a restaurant or a bar to wash the glasses, keep the food in a refrigerator…”

        Bullshit. No one wants to frequent a bar where the glasses are dirty or a restaurant where perishable foods are unrefrigerated, but millions of people want to frequent establishments where they may light up.
        All that’s important here is that consumers can and do vote with their wallets as long as proper disclosures are made about the product or service they are interested in. If a bar owner (bizarrely) decided to never wash the glasses, and prominently posted signs to that effect, why would I care? The idiots who love drinking from dirty glasses may flock there, and I will go to the more sanitary establishment next door.

        Why aren’t we applying the same rule to smoking? Different strokes for different folks, remember?

      • “No one wants to frequent a bar where the glasses are dirty or a restaurant where perishable foods are unrefrigerated,”

        They don’t? What if the savings were passed on to the customers and they only had to pay $1 for a beer, where the regulation-saddled bar next door had to charge $3?

        And the reason why we don’t want that to happen? Unless you live on an isolated island in Maine, the rest of us (for the most part) live crowded together. Disease spreads. Then, some poor bastard who didn’t go to either bar winds up with the diseases that spread through the urban environment.

  9. tommy says:

    Marc, you’re a wuss with a sensitive nose. Or perhaps it’s your “allergies.” Merely smelling cig smoke doesn’t do one tiny bit of harm to you other than offending your sense of smell. I’m equally (or more) offended by douches who wear too much cologne/perfume but there’s no health risk.

    And I doubt you *really* started smoking at 13 (as opposed to perhaps puffing a little) – if you did (I picked it up in 6th grade and didn’t quit until 4 yrs ago when I was 30) then you would know, at that age, you don’t even have a concept of addiction, much less mortality. It wasn’t until late high school/college that I realized I couldn’t quit without a serious struggle and if I continued, I would really hurt my body.

    • U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Coordinating Center for Health Promotion; National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion; Office on Smoking and Health (2006-06-27). The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, Ga.: Surgeon General of the United States. O2NLM: WA 754 H4325 2006. “Secondhand smoke exposure causes disease and premature death in children and adults who do not smoke”. (source)

      WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (PDF). World Health Organization. “Parties recognize that scientific evidence has unequivocally established that exposure to tobacco causes death, disease and disability”

      “Secondhand smoke contains over 4000 chemicals including more than 40 cancer causing agents and 200 known poisons.
      Secondhand smoke has been classified by the EPA as a Class A carcinogen – a substance known to cause cancer in humans.
      Secondhand smoke contains twice as much tar and nicotine per unit volume as does smoke inhaled from a cigarette. It contains 3X as much cancer-causing benzpyrene, 5X as much carbon monoxide, and 50X as much ammonia. Secondhand smoke from pipes and cigars is equally as harmful, if not more so (Mayo Clinic release, Aug 97).” (source)

      Oh, and that thing about the earth being flat? That’s not true either.

      • tommy says:

        Sorry, I should have clarified, though I thought you would have taken the factual premise into account. *Occasionally* smelling cigs won’t hurt you. Constant exposure (such as living in a home with a smoker over many years or working in a smoky environment) may lead to problems but isn’t the situation you face.

        So YOUR smelling smoke isn’t going to have adverse health consequences to YOU in any environment in which you find yourself. A stewardess on a 1970s transcontinental flight might be a different story.

        Oh, and the lawyer who argues a non-existent fact pattern? Still wrong.

  10. Scott Nazzarine says:

    Fuck yes, it *should* work that way! If I wanna drink out of dirty glasses at home, I’m allowed to. Why can’t I choose to do the same at a restaurant? *Especially* if they have signs that say “Drink at Joe’s. We reuse our glasses without washing them.” May be a bad marketing strategy, but hey, it’s their business. Just cuz we’ve given up a lot of our liberties, doesn’t mean we have to give in completely.
    Could the government ban Mexican food if 51% of the people determined it was bad for you and didn’t like the way it made their clothes smell after they ate there? Or, maybe closer to home, can the state ban strip clubs cuz some repressed assholes don’t like the way stripper’s perfume smells up their hair when they leave? Talk about adverse secondary effects!

    • I think you’re going ad absurdum to defend your position with your arguments about Mexican food and stripper perfume. The equivalent is if you could only eat Mexican food by throwing bits of it on people around you, then it would stick. If strippers didn’t just wear perfume, but for some bizarre reason, HAD to spray it in your face at all times, then yes, maybe we would have a long talk about strip clubs. But, for your analogies to work, you’ve got to enter an alternate reality.

      Mind you, I don’t see a problem with someone smoking an e-cig anywhere they want. Comping nicotine gum until they choke. Chewing tobaccky, fine by me unless you spit it on my shoes, then we got a problem. This isn’t a Libertarian issue, man. If I don’t have a right to sneeze in your face, you don’t have a right to blow your smoke in mine.

      Of course, to the extent that you’re advocating removing all licensing and health code regulations from restaurants: While I think that would be a bad idea, I would at least say that if we did dispense with all such regulations, then dispensing with smoking regs would be consistent with that idea. Of course, this would be the first society (aside from modern Somalia) to abandon all public health laws, but hey, lets give it a whirl and see how it works.

      • Scott Nazzarine says:

        OK, granted, the mexican food and stripper arguments were a bit (intentionally) absurd, but were meant to emphasize the point that you can’t go into a private business knowing what’s gonna happen in there and then bitch about it and make them change their business model simply because you don’t like it. And to show that just because 50% + 1 of people could theoretically convince their legislative reps that something is “bad” doesn’t mean it can be outlawed in supposedly free country. But yes, those examples were meant to be absurd.
        However, I think the automobile pollution analogy is legit and is something you HAVE to deal with if you want your argument to succeed. Basically, as I understand it, your premise is: do what you want to yourself, as long as you don’t invade my zone. I’m with you 100% there. But you’re next step is: my cigarette smoke invades your zone when you’re walking down a public street (this may be a *slight* exaggeration in open air, but I’ll grant you the premise for the sake of argument). And thus your conclusion seems to be that because my smoke harms you, it can therefore be regulated/prohibited in that particular context. But the problem is that car exhaust is WAY more harmful (and I’m not talking in the aggregate here, but your particular car as it drives past me on the street). In fact, it is exponentially more harmful. So unless you are willing to admit that the government could prohibit your car because it hurts me (or maybe I could sue you for trespass of my lungs from your exhaust pollution), I think the logic just doesn’t work.
        But I guess until cars are outlawed; or cigarettes and dirty glasses are freed from the tyranny of the nanny state, Silverman and I’ll move to a free country like Somalia. PS: please don’t sneeze within my fifty foot zone of privacy or I will contact my legislature about this threat to my health. haha.

      • No, the car analogy does not work. The fact is, yes, the government COULD prohibit internal combustion engines at some point. Perhaps it should, and will, one day if there is an alternative that won’t throw society into chaos.

        We allow power plants to run, despite some pollution, because we need electricity. We allow the internal combustion engine to run, because we all need the internal combustion engine (for now). We don’t allow burning tires in the front yard, because we don’t all need to burn tires in the front yard. And, we don’t allow cigarettes everywhere, because the 20% of you who want to do this to yourselves aren’t providing a give-and-take part of the social contract. You are addicted to a drug, Nicotine, which I think you have every right to consume. Use a method of consumption that doesn’t affect me, or anyone else, and you’re on easy street. What’s so hard about that?

        • I for one don’t *want* the right to consume it. I’d much rather have the problem treated as a public health issue, with all the support of government regulators, health care professionals and insurance companies that such a designation implies. One cannot be shamed out of an addiction. And the freedom to practice that addiction is a dubious comfort indeed.

  11. Rogier says:

    Oh for fuck’s sake, this AGAIN?

    The average gasoline-powered car produces almost twenty pounds of CO2 PER GALLON. (CO2 emissions are said to total between 300 and 400 million metric tons a year in the U.S. alone.) So, if you get to slap a smoker for lighting up outside, ten or twenty or fifty feet from you, do I get to slug you in the face every time you start and then drive your car in my or anyone else’s vicinity? And don’t tell me that driving is a necessity — my lungs don’t care. Your “right” to gas-powered transportation surely can’t trump my right to keep my body free of toxic pollutants spewed by SUV aficionados and Moto Guzzi owners.

    Funny story: I visited the Bodies exhibit in Amsterdam about four or five years ago. It contained a display case with a set of fairly blackened lungs. Yep, a life-long smoker’s. Next to it was another pair of lungs, from a non-smoker, for comparison’s sake. You’d think THEY’d be pinkish and healthy-looking, but you’d be wrong. They were black, too. OK, not quite black — they were grey and mottled. An information panel helpfully explained that the discoloration was the result of air pollution.

    It’s not just cars. You pollute the commons (in this case, the world’s breathable air) every time you buy some toy or trinket — think what went into the manufacture and transportation of that product). And you do it again when you don’t turn off the lights as you leave a room, and when you take a hot shower (perhaps it evens lasts more than 90 seconds, you selfish prick ;-), and on and on.

    So what makes you so much more virtuous than a smoker?

    Circling back to cars… I’ve asked you this before and you never bothered to answer, so please indulge me this time: If you had to get locked in a garage for ten minutes with either a smoker or a running car, which would you prefer? [EDIT: I just saw that Scott essentially asked you the same question.]

    I’m not a smoker, Marc, I just loathe the shrill, neo-prohibitionist mindset that Scott alludes to. It’s entirely possible that smoking will be outlawed in another generation, maybe two, just like it already is in Bhutan ( If that’s where we end up, it will be due to the massive dishonesty and hysteria to which you’re now (it appears) fully subscribed.

    For the record, I have a couple of cars, and enjoy driving them. I’m not making the car analogy because I’m looking to ban cars; I’m making it to point out that your indignation is HIGHLY selective, and that therefore your entire point rings hollow. Sorry, counselor.

    • Again, its the ad absurdum argument, which is why I don’t respect it nor respond to it. Would you rather be raped by a gorilla, or stand next to a smoker? See, I can play too! Would you rather be shot in the face with a shotgun, or have to smoke a cigar? See? that proves that cigarette smoking is just fine!

      I don’t know why you think this is about “virtue.” I see nothing wrong with someone choosing to smoke. I don’t even think we should tax the poor fuckers as hard as we do. My only beef, if you actually read the piece before going to your talking points, is when one person forces another to smoke.

      If you’re worried about smoking being outlawed, well, I simply think that there should be no plant that is outlawed — be it dope or tobacco.

      Your car analogy is fucking retarded. That’s why I don’t reply to it. Do better and I’ll engage you.

      • teacher says:

        A car, when idling next to a store front, is more dangerous to a person than being near someone who is smoking. That is a fact, unless the smoker is ashing in the nonsmoker’s nose.

        Douchebags who complain about people who smoke outside are as bad about moralizing as Pat Robertson. Just admit and move on: ironically douchebag like the evangelicals on this issue.

  12. Rogier says:

    Ah, I see. You’re comparing cigarette smoking to getting involuntarily ass-reamed by a gorilla, and *I’m* the one who is guilty of making an ad absurdum argument. Got it.

    In fact, I thought my argument (degree of harmful pollution from cigarette smoking versus harmful pollution from driving a car) was classic apples to apples. Your argument, on the other hand? Comparing apples to gorilla cum.


  13. Well, you’re comparing pollution in general to direct person-to-person battery. Your comparison would be well-placed if I was supporting a ban on Hummers because they pollute too much, and saying that everyone should drive a Prius.

    I mean, what harm is it if I take a shit in a public place? Why can’t I crap on the grass at a public park? If you don’t like it, then just walk around it. What’s the big deal?

  14. Rogier says:

    Person-to-battery as in, you starting your car or motorcycle within ten feet of another person? Nah, you would never do that, right?

    Here’s a picture for you to gaze at:

    Tell me how much of that you think was caused by cigarette smokers.

    • Again, your high-school-debate-team handbook doesn’t really apply in big-boy debate world. This is not about smog. This is about person-to-person battery.

      I’m not addressing urban pollution. Should we deal with urban pollution too? Sure. We have. Tight emissions controls (ugh, more gubmint reg’lation) has helped. When I was a kid, you couldn’t see Boston from Gloucester. Now, you can make out the buildings in Boston so clearly that you can identify them by name. But, this discussion is not about overall air pollution.

      And again, your motor vehicle analogy is just retarded. It doesn’t even warrant dissection.

  15. Rogier says:

    Sorry, “person-to-person battery.”

  16. Rogier says:

    “Your motor vehicle analogy is just retarded. It doesn’t even warrant dissection.”

    Oh, but it’s pretty much exactly on target. Apples to apples, or close enough for purposes of a principled discussion about relative harm.

    I note that quite often when you begin to lose an argument on the LS, or at least when people vehemently disagree with you and make a good case, the “ad absurdum” claim comes out. Same deal when you were defending the German asshole who cut of the balls of his legal-age daughter’s suitor.

    I hope you come up with something better than this reflexive insult when you argue a case in front of a panel of inquisitive judges. I don’t think that calling their line of questioning retarded will impress them. And hey, I feel the same way.

  17. Look, when a dipshit of a judge comes up with an ab absurdum analogy, then I am compelled to engage him. It is his courtroom.

    When a remarkably intelligent friend does the same, I’m not so compelled. This is my courtroom.

  18. Ken says:

    “… to have that full appreciation, you’d need the wisdom you gain only by either dying yourself, or at least watching someone you know die.” MR

    My Father died of diseases related to smoking in late 2005. He started smoking when he was just fifteen. Back then everyone knew it was bad, but it was the cool thing to do. It was popularized in almost every form of media. Hell, even doctors approved of smoking.

    By his mid twenties he was completely addicted. He smoked, even around his children, not because it was cool but because he was scared to stop. Smoking became a crutch for the struggles in his life. It put him at ease every time he pulled a Marlboro from his pack. Growing up, I and others tried to get him to stop. I was even willing to except his wrath when I’d try to through away his box of cigarettes.

    My Father died alone in his truck on a hot autumn day in 2005. They didn’t find him for two days. When my older brother and I went to collect his truck from the police impound, there in the cup holder were the last of his cigarettes. Because of a settlement agreement between Florida and the tobacco industry years ago the morgue was not aloud to check off his cause of death related to smoking.

    A great day it will be when smoking is banished from the face of this Earth.

    • I have nothing but compassion for your experience … but I have to disagree with you on the “banishment from the face of this Earth” wish. It does suck. Cigarettes are awful things, and not only do they cause people to die, they cause them to die in terrible ways.

      Nevertheless, I don’t think the things should be outlawed. Tobacco is a naturally-occurring plant. People should be free to grow, eat, smoke, or wrap themselves in any plant they want. That doesn’t diminish what you went through, but there is no justification for prohibition. People are free to make these choices. If they make the wrong one, that shouldn’t limit my ability to make the choice for myself.

  19. Ken says:

    “The solution to the problem is easy: Sit down and draw yourself, top view. You can just make a circle. Then, draw a line around the radius that your conduct will affect. If you’re smoking a cigarette, that line will likely be an oblong oval about 5 feet in one direction, and drifting downwind about 50 feet. You don’t get to own that.” MR

    Our middle son wants to try smoking. He’s only nine. He’s been seeing it in all sorts of media and around him when we go out. He knows we don’t like it and it makes him controversial. This is how it starts. Every smoker’s line of intrusion imposes and exposes it to each new generation.

    If tobacco somehow served a greater good things would be different. But, it doesn’t and it would not be missed among the many. For the few, stopping it’s use could save their lives and their families. Banishment by the government or by the will of the people.; I’m good with either moderated measure.

    I believe in free speech and freedom of choice. But the freedom to smoke has been curtailed for a generation, and will be for many years to come, because too many loved ones have died and are dying because of it.

  20. […] Civil Liberties: Randazza writes an interesting piece on smoking. I tend to agree with him though I am conflicted on the child in an enclosed space being subjected to high doses of cigarette … […]

  21. Rogier says:

    Every time someone says “I believe in free speech, but…” I want to barf.

    I’m only slightly less nauseated by non-arguments regarding family members who came to harm, if those non-arguments lead to the specious conclusions that the thing causing the harm must be outlawed.

    Sorry to be harsh, but I don’t care if someone’s pappy died of smoking — or at least, my sympathy turns to disgust the moment one of the survivors begins yakking about the need for tobacco prohibition. Try this on for size: “My brother died of syphilis, Congress should outlaw sleeping around.” “My daughter died while rock-climbing, let’s ban it.” At heart, it’s no different. And it’s clearly absurd.

    Invoking dead family members in a discussion (in pursuit of a prohibitionist cause, no less) is pretty low. It neither gives anyone the moral upper hand, nor does it mask the fact that a facile appeal to emotion is no substitute for a rational argument.

    • Does it also make you want to barf when people’s children are disabled by lead poisoning and someone wants to ban it? Surely it’s not all as simple as you describe.

      • You gotta give him some credit for his point. If your kid is disabled by lead poisoning, you lose the ability to rationally discuss how the laws should be changed.

        • I don’t think it’s particularly insightful. It’s so obvious as to be built right into our criminal justice system, as I’m sure you’re aware. We don’t allow victims to determine someone’s guilt, nor do we allow them to choose punishments.

          He also seems to be making the point that people dying or being injured by something is no reason to ban it. Actually, it’s one of the best reasons.

          • MadRocketScientist says:

            No it’s not. People die of, or get injured by, something every day. If we were to ban anything that could hurt or kill someone…

            No, the threshold for a ban must be higher than merely a potential for harm.

            • So, like lead paint? it has a “potential for harm.” Banning it make you want to barf? I’m just trying to point out it’s not as simple as you imply in your above remarks. Nobody wants to “ban everything” that has the potential for harm. It’s equally ridiculous to say that the potential for harm never justifies a ban.

  22. I have to agree with you on this, Rogier. While I am sympathetic to Ken, I have often said that having a family member die of something should automatically disqualify you from being part of any discussion of how the laws should regulate the behavior leading to their death.

  23. Rogier says:

    @Scott: I suppose the defining difference between your example and mine is that in mine, people knowingly accept the dangers of their behavior. Smoking, sleeping around, rock climbing, and so on.

    The danger in using lead-based paint (lbp) is not acute — and until not so long ago, those dangers were poorly understood. The biggest problem with lbp is not so much that people expose themselves to it (if they knowingly did because, for instance, they like the look or the viscosity better than latex, I’d have no issue with it), but that the dangers are deferred to others who may own/use the lbp-painted property decades later.

    I can support a ban on lbp, and on asbestos, but not on behaviors that people freely choose. That includes smoking and using drugs (although the next commenter will no doubt argue that tobacco and drugs are addictive and that free choice has nothing to with it; and so the cycle goes).

  24. Ken says:

    I do “believe” in free speech and free choice, but that’s all it is, a belief. It doesn’t exist and it never has. Your freedoms only go as far as established laws allow or to the extent those in power let you have some of it. Even your friends, family and neighbors restrict your freedoms in one way or another. There are no absolute freedoms; they will always be limited.

    – “… specious conclusions that the thing causing the harm must be outlawed.” Rogier

    Specious? No. It is the wisdom I’ve gained by watching someone I knew most of my life slowly die for over twenty years.

    – ““ ‘My brother died of syphilis, Congress should outlaw sleeping around. My daughter died while rock-climbing, let’s ban it.’ At heart, it’s no different.” Rogier

    Your argument is absurd. It is against the law for someone to knowingly spread a communicable disease. The daughter climbing a rock isn’t against the law, but if that daughter fell on someone and caused injury or death she or her estate would be held accountable. I can play too, Fucktard.

    – “Sorry to be harsh, but I don’t care if someone’s pappy died of smoking … ” Rogier

    You’re not sorry, that’s just you being a pussy. In the words of my Father, fuck you dipshit!

    – “Invoking dead family members in a discussion (in pursuit of a prohibitionist cause, no less) is pretty low.”

    Really? How high does your bar have to rise before you invoke a dead family member, in this instance a father. Oh that’s right, you don’t care you callous ass!

    The rationalizing and arguing about risks to the common good of America’s citizens was accomplished years ago. The laws against smoking and the tobacco industry grow every year. I have the majority will of the People behind me. I have established scientific proof and case law behind me. I have the living memory of my Father behind me.

    Who and what do you have backing you dipshit. Hell, you don’t even have your dead or passing family members behind you. Why should they, you could care less.

    P.S. Marc, which part of dipshit’s comment do you agree with, in hole or in part?

    • Rogier says:

      Too funny that my argument was precisely about emotion (more precisely, emotional blackmail) versus reason. Thanks for proving my point.

      Incidentally, my father died of lung cancer when I was 11. Shall we duel to the death over whose opinion is therefore more virtuous? Please.

      Invoking dead relatives does not bestow legitimacy on an argument. Instead, the attempt alone pretty much disqualifies one from further discourse (at least the kind I take seriously).

      • Ken says:

        Have my reasons not been on the basis that I believe my father was addicted to tobacco and that he died because of it? Have I not explained my justifications for banning such a toxic product that leads to death and heartache for families everywhere? I have enveloped the vary definition of Reason which, in itself, requires emotion and experience to form sound conclusions.

        We are not robots, which you portend we should be. You are but a child spouting off at the mouth and closing your mind while hoping everyone else will only believe in what you say.

  25. Ken says:

    “I can support a ban on lbp, and on asbestos, but not on behaviors that people freely choose.” Rogier

    The people who manufactured, sold, bought, installed, and used asbestos did so out of free will of choice. Yet, you support a ban (prohibition) on it. You blinked dipshit!

  26. Ok, stop it with the dipshit stuff. Debate respectfully please.

  27. Rogier says:

    Re “I have the majority will of the People behind me.”

    This passes for an argument? “50 million Elvis fans can’t be wrong” — something like that?

    The majority of people can kiss my ass.

    The majority of people are extremely capable of making colossal mistakes (George W. Bush, to name just one of them). The majority of people will sell their liberty for the mere promise of a little bit of security, and they’ll say please and thank you in the process.

    Rile up the masses just a bit more and you’ll be able to construct a solid majority for torturing suspected terrorists, for castrating every last sex offender, for sending a CIA hit squad after Julian Assange, and for STILL declaring the United States the bestest and greatest nation on the face of the planet (“We’re Number One!”).

  28. Ken says:

    – “This passes for an argument? “50 million Elvis fans can’t be wrong” — something like that?” Rogier

    No, not something like that. Not in part but in the whole of my statement. Your attempt to put some cliche line in quote does not pass for what I stated. Yet, that’s what you build from instead of having the guts to respond to the entirety of my statement. I’ve given you at least that common courtesy. Fucking cherry-picker.

    – “The majority of people are extremely capable of making colossal mistakes (George W. Bush, to name just one of them).”

    You using Bush’s minority point of view to suggest what the majority believes is ridiculous.

    – “The majority of people will sell their liberty for the mere promise of a little bit of security, and they’ll say please and thank you in the process.” Rogier

    I’m not talking about wars on terror or national security or any other nonsense you keep bringing up.

    So, what path have I been on since my last statement. Your complete fucking lack of compassion or respect for my Father and my right to invoke him in a conversation for starters.

    “Rile up the masses just a bit more” Rogier

    What sort of writhing tangent are you on? I’m not talking about any of that. Stop being such a lowland stubborn antagonist who loves to tell others what to think.

    Marc says “debate respectfully” but how can that even be possible when Rogier goal is to antagonize, bait and disrespect. It gets Marc more hits and Rogier gets his jollies off but in the end it dose nothing.

    “Smokers, cut your bitching. Nannies, you do the same.” Marc

    Shit, that’s what both of you are doing. Opine away and say you disagree with me, that’s fine. With or without my point of view it’s not going to matter. The right to smoke in almost every conceivable way will be gone within a few decades and the tobacco industry will be litigated and taxed out of business.

  29. Rogier says:

    And you favorite vice will be next. When that time comes, I will defend your right to engage in it. All your unpleasant, over-the-top invective “(pussy, shit, dispshit, fucktard, etc.) does nothing to change that. Peace.

  30. Rogier says:

    And your favorite vice will be next. When that time comes, I will defend your right to engage in it. All your unpleasant, over-the-top invective “(pussy, shit, dispshit, fucktard, etc.) does nothing to change that. Peace.

  31. MadRocketScientist says:

    Was a ban on LBP necessary? I remember that once upon a time, wrist watches used radium paint on the face so you could see your watch at night. A combination of better technologies and the fact that people were getting cancer under the watch body caused radium to fall out of use, without a legal ban on it.

    I’d bet that lbp would have fallen out of popular use based on a solid information campaign alone, coupled with disclosure rules during the sale of a home.

    We are often too quick to pass a law without trying other avenues of social behavior modification first. It’s one of the reasons I agree with a lot of smoking bans (although bans against “smoking bars” are taking it too far), because smokers are generally rude about it, and the info campaigns, etc have done little to curb their crappy attitudes.

    • scott says:

      A view that completely and totally leaves out the fact that tobacco smokers are addicted to a drug called nicotine. Saying that they’re “rude” or have ‘crappy attitudes” pretty much indicates that you haven’t got the slightest clue as to what’s going on. Too busy clucking your tongue and wagging your finger to notice that it’s a public health problem and should be dealt with as such.

      Your libertarian philosophy that polluting industries or makers of dangerous products will just stop doing it because people don’t like pollution and danger is breathtakingly naive. Stop masturbating with Adam Smith’s invisible hand and wake up.

      • MadRocketScientist says:

        And your actual debating skills rise to the surface.

        • scott says:

          Let me break it down for you, coach. 1) Where does the nature of addiction factor into your analysis above regarding “bad attitudes”? 2) You’re not seriously suggesting that businesses who pollute or sell dangerous products will always stop doing so just because people don’t like pollution or danger, are you?

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