You wouldn’t blow arsenic in neighbour’s yard
Editor, The News:
An unquestioned fundamental principle in our societies has to do with what they call in economics “negative externalities.”
People have all sorts of freedom and rights, but we do not recognize the freedom or right to expel proven toxins into public spaces (air, water, soil). We take all sorts of legislative steps to prevent health threats from proven pollutants.
This is not about the right of people to smoke, but about their expelling that toxin into other’s homes (close proximity of back doors) and exposing others to something that has long been proven harmful to human health.
No one needs to argue whether that exposure is safe or not– the evidence is in: 800,000 of those six million annual deaths are from second hand smoke.
No one wants their family to be subjected to an experiment multiple times a day with toxins that have been proven unsafe at any exposure.
And again, to be clear on the freedom issue, no one should be subjected to an experiment (how much exposure, how long before damaging impacts, how far the effects may range) with something proven dangerous, especially when they have no choice about being subjected to the toxin.
Children and other defenceless people are having their freedom of choice taken from them when someone expels a toxin into their personal space.
And when moderate requests are made to resolve the problem, but are not respected, then we are obligated to take other steps to protect our families from proven harm.
Orange County and other places are now taking the next logical steps to protect the health and rights of non-smokers, people who are being subjected to dangerous substances and have no choice in the matter. Their freedom is not being respected.
There are simple ways to resolve these things: smoke inside homes.
The issue is not about people’s right to smoke. It’s about taking proper care of our own negative externalities (make sure they are not expelled into other’s space) just as we expect everyone else to do with any toxin, and respecting other people’s rights and freedom not to expose themselves to harmful substances.
Just for example, taking the other things on that same EPA list of cancer-causing substances, while I may think I have freedom to do what I want in my own yard, I would not blow arsenic or asbestos into a neighbour’s yard or home and make arguments that it is alright because its not a small, confined space (the toxins are spread out more).
I would not subject them to an ongoing experiment against their freedom to choose.
No one is picking on smokers or arguing to take away their freedom to smoke. The key issue is about putting something proven dangerous into others’ air space against their choice, not respecting the freedom of others to protect themselves from harm.
So attempts by non-smokers to protect themselves are not about people sticking their noses into others’ rights. It is about protective action against others already expelling their toxins into their personal space.
Let’s be clear about which way the violation of rights and freedoms is occurring. But, hey, let the discussion continue. How do we resolve these issues so we can all live together respecting each others’ rights and freedom?