In re: Rights, Responsibility & Smoking

I think often times here in America we get swept up in asserting our rights, forgeting that excercising such rights may infringe on others rights and altogether forgetting that we may or should also have responsibilites. I’ll first mentioned that on the smoking issue I am a big biased as I was an intern for the World Health Organization for their Tobacco Free Initative, where we were working towards a treaty to help curb smoking. That said, I am not really opposed to folks smoking on their own, having legalized smoking (or having other substances be illegal for that matter) but I will speak to public smoking.
Here In Columbus, Ohio, where I live we have a smoking ban, and I voted for it, and I really like it. I really noticed the difference however when I was back in Cleveland over the holiday and was at a number of bars where the smoke, which prior to the ban I was fairly used to, was really noticeable and quite annoying. The smell on your clothes and in your hair is quite extreme and can even make falling asleep, even after a few pints, quite a bit less enjoyable. So is it fair to protect my right to not experiencing ETS (environmental tobacco smoke, or second hand smoke as it is more frequently called), or to protect the rights of smokers, or to protect properitors who wish to choose if their particular establishment should be smoke free, or smoke filled.
Part of the question concerns what is public and what is private, any place that is open for business can be argued is public, however some argue they are private, but this doesn’t excuse them from fire codes, or from having disabled toliet access, etc.
Clearly both sides have an argument, but I feel from myside there is clearly a strong argument that their smoke is infringing on some right of less containmenanted air. I could of course go elsewhere, but somehow I think the idea of having to step outside for a smoke (and possibly meet a few other smokers in the process?) isn’t that bad a compromise, maybe its because I am not being forced outside to grab breathes of fresh air. Similarly, and possibly not the best argument, but it came to mind non the less would be the fact that most folks and including smokers wouldn’t like it if I came into a restaraunt and brought the smell of barnyard animals to imprint into their clothing I suspect.
Also an aside is cigarette butt litter, just wanted to mention that for some reason it seems a number of smokers don’t seem to recongize these as litter and throw them out of their cars (don’t want the smell to linger I guess?) or to side walks. I found out the hard way of having no ash tray on my porches after a party how annoying it is to clean up even a relatively small number of butts that lined my sidewalks.
Next up is the issue of rights to smoke at all, why can’t we ban it, or why don’t we, or why do we ban drugs? I feel like sometimes we do become to much of a paternalistic state in some fashions, why not let drugs be freely sold, abused and the consequences suffered? We don’t choose to offer everyone healthcare, which too would be paternalistic. I recongize that heroin addicts generally become very unproductive members of society, and constitute and undue burden. Possibly this falls into the realm of responsibility then for members to not become wasted shells of the community, and to contribute and pay their fair share. Its complex and I want to address again the issue of drugs, their illegality and the numerous sides to it, but for now I’ll leave this at that. Kind of an open ended argument I guess, but being back in Columbus and really enjoying the lack of smoke really brought it to mind. I feel if Ireland could ban smoking, and now Spain, cities like NY, clearly it can work. Selfishly possibily I enjoy it.


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