Judging from Chris Flynn’s May 16 response, “Secondhand smoke is the enemy,” it appears that the debate on the socialization of health care costs is off the table. Flynn states: “The main thrust behind banning smoking in most places is to reduce the harmful effects of secondhand smoke on nonsmokers.”
I couldn’t agree more. My position is based on the idea that people should be free to do whatever they want as long as nonconsenting parties are not harmed. If the evidence shows that secondhand smoke is harmful to nonconsenting third parties, then it is morally necessary that such harm be prevented.
So let’s talk about limits. Smoking should be banned in public places, but not on private property. Owners of homes, restaurants and bars should be free to determine their own smoking policy. Entry to such places is not compulsory in the way that we must visit hospitals or government buildings from time to time in order to fully participate in society.
Secondhand smoke does pose a health risk to people who work in bars and restaurants that allow smoking, but those workers are consenting third parties. Many jobs are hazardous, even frivolous ones like a stunt actor. Why should we allow people to engage in dangerous acts that are purely for entertainment purposes? It’s because the people in question freely choose to do so; they believe that the benefits of the job (money, fame, thrills) outweigh the costs (danger to life and limb). We cannot and should not assume that we know what is best for other people.
Flynn writes that “Smoking is not illegal in Australia …” But my original question remains: Should it be illegal? If the ultimate goal is to improve the health of as many people as possible, would the costs of outright prohibition (violence, higher incarceration rates, corruption) result in a net increase or decrease in public health?
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.