Beyond California

A non-smoking American couldn't light up if he wanted to.

Victor Rortvedt

Topics Politics

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A 56-year-old Australian man died on 11 February 2001, after being refused a life-saving organ transplant. The reason for his rejection? He was a smoker.

This man is the first to become a casualty of a new Australian plan to discourage smoking: a plan that has been condemned by its critics as ‘moral fascism’. That label goes too far: but it often takes a measure of extreme authoritarianism – however absurd – to show just how far one social prejudice has impacted upon national policy and law.

The US clampdown on smoking in public places began in the early 1990s, with the Californian ban on smoking in restaurants. In New Mexico in 2000, a drug-bust-style operation was staged to confiscate ashtrays that violated the ban on smoking in bars in Las Cruces.

Many other US states have adopted or are considering even more extreme measures. In Connecticut, a bill proposes to make smoking illegal in all public places and within 25ft of the entrance to a public place. Outdoor public parks are now tobacco-free in some states, and in California smoking has been banned in all bars.

North of the USA, Canada has forced cigarette packagers to carry anti-smoking images on the packs, such as a photo of a cancerous lung or a statement linking smoking to impotence. How soon can we expect surveillance smoke detectors that photograph and ticket the offender for so much as lighting a match?
Dostoevsky once wrote that, without alcohol and tobacco, life would be unbearable. Today’s lifestyle police would have us believe that it is unbearable because of these two diversions. Smokers are subject to public chastisement, and those who preach on the matter can sleep better for the knowledge that they are doing their part to save the species.

It has become so popular to define one’s personality by the things one abstains from – vegetarianism, sexual abstinence, sobriety, drug-clean – that you wonder if the ideal world is characterised by a vacuum of behaviour. The mores of anti-health-risk crusaders seem to have filled the gap left by religious piety, as a source of self-definition. I feel proud to list myself as a non-baby killer and non-ethnic cleanser, thank you very much.

The personal health risk of smoking has been significantly publicised, most notably on the packages themselves – so there is no more missionary work to be done to convert the smoking heathens.

Yet we still tend to forget that most non-smokers are fully capable of avoiding smoky environments, thanks to the recent developments of bipedal legs and free will.
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No smoking issue

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Topics Politics


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