Relatively uninhibited philosophizings on self and kosmos whenever the mood strikes...
Sunday, June 08, 2008
New Outdoor Smoking Ban
Soon, smoking will no longer be allowed anywhere on the grounds of the large medical center where I work. Smoking is currently allowed outside as long as it isn't too close to building entrances. I don't know what visitors and staff who smoke are going to do when the new prohibition goes into effect.
Perhaps I shouldn't care. After all, I abhor cigarettes and cigarette smoke. I still remember the old Steve Martin comedy routine where he steps into an elevator and someone who's about to light up asks, "Do you mind if I smoke?," and Martin says, "Do you mind if I fart?" Except to my mind, a fart would be vastly preferable.
The little boy in me might find this joke funny, but there's nothing funny about obnoxious cigarette smoke. How I used to hate going to public places such as bowling alleys and restaurants and sneezing, suffering a runny nose, watery eyes, and a headache from the concentrated smoke, and coming home with my clothes and hair reeking of cigarettes. I was so happy when indoor smoking in virtually all public places was banned.
I suppose that libertarians would argue that people should be free to smoke indoors, at least in private business establishments that permit it, and that those who don't wish to be exposed to secondhand smoke are free not to patronize these establishments. However, I disagree. I like to eat out, and I love to bowl. I don't think I should have to choose between forsaking these activities and suffering the considerable discomforts and health hazards of secondhand smoke.
Yet, having said this, I think the new smoking prohibition about to go into effect in my workplace is too restrictive. There's no need to prevent people from smoking everywhere outdoors on the medical center campus in order to spare the rest of us the unpleasantness of their smoke.
If I were to express my stance on this issue as a moral and legal principle, I suppose I'd say something like, "Adults should be free to do what they wish, including smoke cigarettes, so long as it doesn't unreasonably infringe on other adults' right to do what they wish, including avoiding secondhand smoke without having to take unreasonable measures to do so, and smoking in outdoor places currently allowed by campus policy does not constitute such an infringement."
Smoking may be stupid, but it shouldn't be a crime to smoke outdoors in places readily avoidable by the public without posing a significant inconvenience.