I tell friends from elsewhere that, despite what they may have heard, Hoosiers aren’t a bunch of rubes. Then, I see things like the report that Indiana is passed only by West Virginia in percentage of adult smokers. At 26.1%, we have more smokers than Kentucky. In this day and age, what in the world would possess you to start or continue smoking? Of course, the fact is, while starting smoking is a free choice, once the habit is established, the decision to stop smoking is not a simple matter of choice. Your body is addicted, and your mind is no longer the free agent we contemplate in simplistic economic scenarios. An Indy Star editorial notes the General Assembly’s failure to adopt a smoking ban and the correlation between smoking cessation efforts in states and lower smoking rates in those states.
It occurs to me that some of the arguments made by social conservatives against normalizing homosexuality in our society actually make some sense when applied to smoking. Smoking is a choice, not how you are born. Smoking is harmful behavior. There is a Tobacco Industry agenda to convert young people to make a lifestyle choice. Smoking in mainstream culture may make my kids think it’s o.k., and cause them to choose a harmful lifestyle. So, while I don’t necessarily support criminalizing smoking, I might be open to the idea of getting the behavior into the closet.
I freely admit to not being perfectly dispassionate on this topic. I grew up with smoking and didn’t like it. I’ve seen family members suffer from health problems attributable to smoking. I’ve seen family and friends wanting to quit but being unable.
Smoking is not a self-contained behavior which causes efforts to paint smoking regulation as solely a property rights issue to miss the mark. Property owners aren’t entirely free to discharge toxins even on their own property, particularly if they hold themselves open to the public.
The Indy Star editorial has this to say about reducing the number of smokers:
Numbers likewise don’t lie when it comes to fighting back against this scourge. The CDC report confirms that states with the lowest incidence of smoking are those that spend the most on tobacco cessation and charge the highest cigarette taxes.
They also are more likely to have state and/or city laws forbidding smoking in all indoor public spaces.
Fewer smokers means a healthier population, lower health costs, and maybe a little extra money at the end of the month to pay bills. This is anecdotal, but in my collection practice, I can’t tell you how many people unable to pay their bills seem to smell of fresh cigarettes, suggesting that they are foregoing paying their obligations in favor of buying another pack of smokes.