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Does the pro-smoking argument that smokers "human rights" are damaged by laws that prohibit smoking in public places hold water?

How is "no" for an answer..

There is no longer a debate for whether or not smoking cigarettes or exposure to second hand cigarette smoke is harmful: everyone knows cigarette smoke is harmful to human health, carcinogenic, and stinks.

Recent research has shown that it only takes one single puff of cigarette smoke to damage human cells.

There is no question that smoke from cigarettes is harmful to humans.

Because of this, governments at the civic, provincial/ state, and national level over the last few years have been implementing by-laws and laws that prohibit smoking cigarettes in public places for the purpose of protecting people from the known harmful effect of cigarette smoke.

There are effectively two groups of people who are directly effected by these new laws:

Those who smoke, and those who do not smoke.

The nonsmokers are happy that don't have to be faced with potentially inhaling cigarette smoke when they go to or work in shops, restaurants, indoor sports events, and virtually any building that has public access.

The pro-smokers believe their individual human rights are being revoked because the new laws prevent them from exercising their free will to smoke cigarettes, despite the fact that doing so causes harm to them and to others who inhale smoke from the smokers cigarette.

I find this point interesting. The smoker understands they cause themselves harm by smoking, and therefore they smoke with their own informed consent. - I don't have a problem with that.

What I have a problem with is that the smoker who knows that their cigarette smoke will harm others around them as well, has decided that the individual right to smoke is more important than an individuals right not to be harmed by the actions of another person, such as inhaling second hand smoke from a smoker.

In the very specific interpretation of the very spirit that forms human rights laws and articles - everyone has the right to life, liberty, and security of person; and, nothing within the articles of human rights may be used to support actions that engage in the destruction of the rights of others. - Meaning that for instance one could not interpret the right to free assembly of people means that assembling a group of people to burn buildings down is OK because free assembly is a basic human right. You can assemble, just don't hurt anyone.

If a person wants to smoke themselves into oblivion they can, so long as it does not harm others that don't want to partake in smoking.

To counter this point the pro-smokers have argued that those who don't want to inhale cigarette smoke should then decide not to go to places where second hand cigarette smoke may be. In presenting this argument the pro-smokers are attempting to demonstrate that it is the free will of nonsmokers to inhale second hand smoke. For the nonsmoker to avoid inhaling second hand smoke, they need only exercise their own free will to not expose themselves to secondhand cigarette smoke. This sounds very egalitarian at first.

However, this asinine contortion of what "free will" is, and what exercising inalienable human rights is, cannot withstand scrutiny.

If we accept that people have the right to enter public places without harm coming to them,

..and we accept that one group of people cannot use their beliefs, practices, policies, or religions, to supersede the rights of free access to public places for all persons regardless of their beliefs, practices, policies, or religions,

..then it follows that the practices of smokers - producing secondhand smoke that is harmful to others - cannot supersede the right of others who will be harmed by the secondhand smoke to access the same public areas.

The caveat here is that beliefs, practices, policies, or religions of groups or individuals cannot bring harm to others. Do what you want, just don't hurt anyone.

It isn't right for a smoker to enter a public place, empty smoke into it, and then say, "Hey you nonsmokers, you can take it or leave it." It is not up to the smoker to decide by their will or by their actions to decide for others or to prevent others from entering the same publicly accessed space.

The pro-smokers selfishly and incorrectly interpret that it is their rights that are infringed upon. Lets make this as crystal clear as it can be:

Suppose that spraying toxic compounds directly into the path of people was the self-elected pass time of a group of individuals. This group of individuals enters a public building and starts spraying. The toxic sprayers then announce to all others in the building, "We're here now, if you don't like our spray, you have the freedom to leave." Is that freedom?

"I'm going to fire a gun in your direction, if you get yourself in the way of the bullet, you only have your self to blame for shooting your self." This is one of the lines of reasoning that the pro-smokers use. There is no freedom here. The smoker does not need, despite their desire, to smoke in a public place, but a public place needs to be free of smoke.

This isn't about the right to smoke, as the pro-smokers have made it out to be in another of their lines of reasoning- this is not a tragedy of the human rights of smokers. This is about recognizing that smoke from cigarettes is harmful to humans, and to remove this harm from the majority, smoking is prohibited in places that have public access to all persons, those who smoke and those who do not smoke.

If smoking is allowed in places of public access, then the only way to gain access to those places would be to be harmed by the smoke, should smoke from cigarettes be present. The purpose of the bylaws is to completely eliminate this cause of harm to health. The pro-smokers show their true colors when they outright dismiss the right to not have personal health harmed in nonsmokers.

Lets quantify any perceivable harm done to smokers who are prevented from smoking in public places;

The smoker wants to feel they can light up with when they choose. Since they can't in public places, it is their feelings that are harmed, and that is all that is harmed. Our feelings are not unimportant. The feelings of smokers are not unimportant, but when it's temporary hurt feelings verses long term harm to health caused by cigarette smoke, I declare the winner by knock out, to be harm to health. The smoker feels very strongly about their right to choose, and they trumpet this like they are the only ones with a sense of rights. The feeling of the "right to choose" or exercising free will is held very strongly by all persons in a democracy, not just smokers.

In fact, in their supporting arguments, pro-smokers abuse the emotional and psychological paradigms that are born out of the visceral concept of human rights and liberties. These are powerful emotions that reflect very important societal laws. Pro-smokers cloud the true health issue with their emotional appeal on how smoker's rights are damaged. This results in the focus being exactly where the pro-smokers want it: away from the true issue of health and onto the visceral and emotional issue of human rights. Ironically it is the right to health of those who don't smoke that is being upheld with these laws, and in no way are the rights of smokers being harmed.

Second hand smoke from cigarettes is harmful to humans. Therefore where people are expected to visit or gather publicly, smoking is not allowed, the intent being that no harm may come to people by inhaling secondhand smoke from cigarettes. I don't see any intent or result of these smoking laws, implied or otherwise that effects the basic human rights of those who smoke. A person can smoke, so long as the act of doing so does not bring harm to others. Do what you want, just don't hurt anyone.

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2004 Cris LaBossiere Rhino Fitness www.rhinofitness.ca



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