Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Smoking and social welfare

from http://www.zoot2.com/justthefacts/tobacco/index.asp
Should smoking be banned from public places?

I will start by taking the stance that we all have a right to do as we please with our lives. However, when our freedoms infringe on the freedoms of others then it becomes a fallacious argument to say that we have a right to do as we please.

Some economics - smoking and social welfare. Like the old adage "one man’s meat is another man’s poison", I will say, "one man’s utility is another man’s disutility". Social welfare is at its best when the allocation of the individual utilities within a particular society is Pareto optimal. That way, nobody is "living large" at someone else’s expense.

Smoking is a personal choice and is not illegal (well, smoking cigarettes isn’t). What surprises me is that the people who smoke actually put themselves through the rough and tough beginning, the initial stage when one’s body rejects the smoke. It is an unpleasant start at best, but for some, like me, it is enough of a deterrent to keep us away from cigarettes. People that smoke have actually put in the effort (in the beginning) to get used to smoking. It is their personal sacrifice, for whatever reason.

However, smoking in public places infringes on the rights of others not to smoke. Whilst the smoker wilfully ignores the health warning, "SMOKING KILLS" they impose the risks caused by secondary smoke on others, decreasing the social welfare of others around them. In fact, people that smoke in public consciously increase their welfare allocation at the expense of the welfare allocation of others. There is nothing polite or considerate about somebody walking in front of you (you can’t get passed them) smoking a cigarette, or worse still, a cigar. The smoke literally chokes you but the smoker wouldn’t care if you dropped dead. Is it selfish? Extremely.

I would like those that smoke in public to put up an argument that actually makes sense. Let them not say that it is their right because it is no longer a right when it infringes on the rights of others. Let them not say that it is their health because it damages the health of the non-smokers around. In fact, asthma sufferers are a case in point. They literally face immediate health risks in the presence of a smoker. All it takes for asthma sufferers is a whiff of smoke to trigger an asthma attack, not the whole pack of cigarettes.

How can a right to smoke override other people’s right and decision for better health? Surely, the smoker that complains about the restrictions to smoking in public places is complaining about a restriction to a fair share as opposed to a lion’s share of social welfare. Aren’t they? If I acquired a massive tree in my garden, at great personal cost, for my viewing pleasure, but my tree sheds ton loads of leaves into my neighbour’s garden (who has a paved backyard to avoid gardening), is my neighbour expected to live with the inconvenience?

We either all have rights or we all have none. The current situation is a manifest disequilibrium, but then again, society at large is a manifest disequilibrium.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a smoker and I think that it is a disgusting habit,but having smoked for 45 years and addicted there is not much I can do about it. but to say that it affects other peoples health is absolutely stupid ther is more pollution caused by other resorses and also as tobacco is not illegal a ban is an infringement on my civil right. If they want to ban smoking then by all means make tobacco illegal if not then just shut up and give the smoker their freedom and up the rest of the non smoking community.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006 1:48:00 am  

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