Should Smoking Be Allowed in Public Places?
Long after the world became addicted to tobacco, the scientific community discovered that it is quite unhealthy to smoke, or chew, tobacco. Despite its addictive and carcinogenic nature, an epidemic number of people continue to engage in the deadly practice while these individuals firmly believe they have the right to smoke in public areas. Although the Constitution does not enumerate a right to smoke, it does strive to maximize the greatest number of privileges and freedoms that US citizens hold as the Nineteenth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment guarantee all American citizens individual rights, which extend beyond those enumerated in the Constitution, and prevents any level of government from denying an individual those rights. On the other hand, smoking is not simply a personal choose, which only affects the individual, as it is also a matter of public health.
The first question, which must be answered when considering a smoking ban, is whether or not a ban is Constitutional. The Constitution is designed to balance the rights of the individual with the interests of the state. In the case of smoking, the state interest is in protecting public health and the rights of those individuals who choose not to smoke. Because scientific research continually reaffirms the dangers of smoking, government clearly has an interest in protecting individuals from such a hazard. On the other hand, the Constitution does not simply allow government to act against individual freedoms because it has an interest as it must demonstrate that the actions will be fruitful and impact as few rights as possible. Therefore, a smoking ban must respect the rights of those who choose to smoke while protecting those who do not.
In general, legislation limiting the personal behavior of individuals must be narrowly tailored and accomplish the specific interest of the state without unnecessarily infringing upon the rights of individuals. If someone chooses to smoke, government should let them, but those who choose to smoke cannot be allowed to infringe upon the rights of those who choose not to smoke. Furthermore, the extremely addictive nature of tobacco leaves government with an interest in protecting those who may have chosen to smoke in the past but later choose wish to quit. Moreover, government has a responsibility to protect those individual with addictions that cigarette companies and other influences would pray on.
A smoking ban would fail to respect the rights of smokers if it attempted to ban the use of tobacco products. So long as smokers do not endanger the health of a nonsmoker by using tobacco products, the tobacco industry probably has the right to sell their products to well informed consumers. On the other hand, the Eighteenth Amendment, which lawfully banned the personal choice to consume alcohol, suggests there is a legal basis for banning the consumption of tobacco entirely while our nation is more and more likely to accept our legislators taking such action. Moreover, cigarettes are an extremely toxic and poisonous product; therefore, regulators may have the authority to ban the sale of certain tobacco products.
For a smoking ban to be Constitutional and respect the rights of smokers, it should focus on smoking in public areas and private properties, where nonsmokers are likely to be present, as smokers are infringing upon the rights of nonsmokers, including those who cannot protest against a smoker, i.e. children of smokers and public servants. Furthermore, a ban can include privately owned businesses, such as a bar, as their employees have a right to work in a healthy environment. Moreover, claiming nonsmokers can simply choose to walk away from a smoker or work somewhere else is completely disrespectful to those individuals' rights and infringes upon those guaranteed rights. Accepting such a justification would be tantamount to saying a black individual cannot patronize a business or hold a job in a specific company because they have racists as clients.
Finally, there is an additional point to be made as the economic impact of smoking has been used to justify government action against smoking. Although government cannot deny an individual their rights due to economic realities, looking at the financial burden smoking places on a society does help a community understand how important it is to fight such an unhealthy practice. It is true that our Nation does make money through taxes when a smoker buys tobacco while it is also true that tobacco costs us a great deal more in medical and social costs. On the other hand, China's economy has benefited enormously from tobacco sales and, as the occupation in Iraq continues, China grows economically stronger. If we could curb the world's addiction to tobacco, it would not only make people around the world healthier, it would help slow Chinese's economic growth. This, in turn, would help us promote democracy around the world.
Ending the practice of smoking tobacco would be largely beneficial to our society and the world as a whole. Moreover, the United States is moving in the proper direction, but more needs to be done to stop individuals from beginning to consume tobacco and continue smoking. Although smoking bans would be helpful in discouraging tobacco use, government action must strive to respect the rights of all individuals and, therefore, efforts need to be designed so they will holdup to any and all Constitutional challenges brought against them.