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Butt out

By Mark Christensen - posted Monday, 4 April 2011


My old man torched three packs of fags a day during my childhood. With his cuppa first thing in the morning, in the car, lazing in his prized leather recliner after milking the cows. I hated it. Nearly as much as I loathed scouring the farmhouse for his crumpled, half-empty packet of Marlboros.

"Anyone seen my smokes? Jeez, go look for 'em will ya? I just sat down!"

Changed attitudes toward smoking are symptomatic of progressive liberalism, raising consciousness of unwanted personal pollution, while improving awareness of the health risks (not that it changed my father's habits; nor was it what killed him in the end).

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As with all grand remedial schemes, however, the early gains of the anti-smoking cause have given way to unabashed dogmatism. The in-your-face advertisements showing smokers at death's door, coughing up internal organs, mandated plain packaging and shrill lobbyists complaining about glorification of tobacco products in popular culture, are not concerned with helping people make more informed choices or respecting the (relatively) clean air of others.

Like so many other occupational health and safety initiatives in our so-called civilized society, it's all about control.

It's not easy to see the line we crossed some time ago, since the moral tyranny is confected with other, mostly good, intentions.

It's a well-known strategy of men. Church leaders declare Christian schools give kids a quality education and that religion serves the poor and needy, when really the end-game is indoctrination. A husband offers to duck out to the corner store adjacent to a TAB for some needed household groceries, five minutes before his hot tip jumps in the sixth at Randwick.

Sure, it's being helpful but on your terms, with a hidden agenda.

The control freaks running modern democracies are cloaked in Teflon-based righteousness, always up for justifying, with suitable indignation, their scare campaigns and interventions with supposed bullet-proof reasoning. What, isn't smoking less and living longer a good thing? You want the bad old days and the second-hand smoke?

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These aren't the right questions.

What about the core issue of whether we can socially engineer outcomes? The decision to smoke is an individual choice a third party can't make on our behalf. Threats only make sense if control is possible, yet we all know deep down this isn't the case.

Another relevant question: what value life?

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About the Author

Mark is a social and political commentator, with a background in economics. He also has an abiding interest in philosophy and theology, and is trying to write a book on the nature of reality. He blogs here.

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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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