New Zealand is working on legislation that got me thinking about the “public health versus personal freedom” debate.
New Zealand will enact a ban on the sale of tobacco with the aim of phasing out smoking. According to the proposal, from 2027, the legal smoking age in New Zealand of 18 would be raised year by year, allowing existing smokers to continue purchasing tobacco products, but effectively making them banned for all. person born after 2008.
At first glance, this seems like a good start to getting rid of a terrible habit.
After all, I’m sure you won’t find a doctor who will tell you that smoking is beneficial and advise you to get into the habit.
A quick Internet search with the question “does smoking cigarettes have any beneficial effects on your health?” Does not go up much.
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However, despite the potential health benefits of an entire nation with the elimination of smoking, in the United States, I don’t think this type of legislation would ever be passed.
As we have clearly seen in recent years, many Americans value their personal freedom more than anything else.
Add to that: the tobacco lobby is so strong that this legislation will never remove the initial barriers.
As we all should know by now, smoking is an established risk factor for cancer and cardiovascular disease and is the leading cause of preventable health problems in most industrialized countries.
However, in the United States, the school of thought is that people should be able to decide whether or not they want to imbibe dangerous substances because they have the freedom.
It doesn’t matter that some drugs are already considered illegal by law in the United States.
However, once something has been legalized, it’s really hard to take it away from people.
We have certainly seen in recent times people convinced that their personal freedom outweighs the effects or threat they may pose to others.
Think about it: second-hand smoke affects others and can cause cancer, people throw cigarette butts out of their car windows, which causes damage to the environment and can start wildfires, and costs health care costs for smokers are generally higher than for non-smokers. In other words, health care costs are driven higher by smokers, and we all suffer as a result.
You might conclude that in many cases non-smokers suffer because of a smoker’s personal freedom to do so. Does this sound fair?
It should be noted that cigarettes have certain limitations. Over the past two decades, cigarettes have been banned in indoor places serving food, as well as in many other businesses and offices. This is a good thing.
The debate of individual freedoms versus public health is one that I cannot settle in one column. I can just point out a few nuances.
Personally, I would be okay if cigarettes went the sleep route.
In practice, however, this would never work.
You know, in a society where smoking is prohibited, a black market will appear. A good example is prohibition in the United States in the 1920s.
You would also have legal battles against the companies that manufacture or sell tobacco products.
In a capitalist society driven by greed and not by public welfare, there is no way the industry will let so much money dry up.
Let’s face it: for heavy tobacco, it’s more profitable to make people sick.
It will be interesting to see how this works for New Zealand. With a population of around five million, this certainly sounds more manageable than in a country of 330 million people.
For now, I will continue to avoid smoky places and scratch my head when I enter a non-smoking establishment that allows smoking right outside the front doors you enter.
Walters can be contacted at [email protected]