Monday, October 09, 2006

France to Ban Smoking in All Public Places: An Expansion of Freedom?

France has banned smoking in all public places (not including streets and hotel rooms) effective January 2008. An apparant curtailing of freedom for smokers. Or, looked at from a different perspective, an expansion of freedom for those who do not have to suffer from inhalation of second hand smoke.

So which is it? Well, both, obviously. So it is then, in deciding whether to institute a ban on smoking, the responsibility of government to determine whether banning smoking would help more people than it hurts. Government must also make a value judgement of smoking, and consider the moral implications of a ban.

Considering that smoking is said to result in an extra tax burden - in order to fund rising health expenses as a result of smoking-related diseases and ailments, and considering the potential harm that smoking results in for both the smoker and those around him, a ban on smoking in public places may seem to be a government action that is beneficial to society.

Not so fast.

It is not the government's responsibility to exercise moral judgements on smoking, nor is its responsibility to curtail the freedom of individuals who would like to smoke. It is indisputable that smoking brings pleasure to smokers. And regardless of the possible harm that smokers can cause non-smokers through so called "passive smoking," a ban on smoking severely limits all people in their choices - smokers and current non smokers alike.

Would a tax on cigarrettes make sense? Yes, because it still gives choice to the individual. A ban eliminates choice, and imposes the government's values on people who should have the right to make their own decisions regarding smoking.

In a related topic, one of which I have the same opinion as on governmental bans on smoking, New York City is considering a ban on trans-fats in order to curb obesity. Government argues that it is helping those who would later run into serious health risks due to obesity.

According to the government.

Why must the government be allowed to decide what is good for us, when we are clearly rational individuals capable of making those choices for ourselves? We must be given the choice to make choices that benefit ourselves and oftentimes that is very different from what the government believes to be beneficial. We do not need a paternalistic state in order to be prosperous and happy. We need freedom.

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