Essay:Smoking violates human rights
I believe that a basic principle of human rights, is that everyone has the right to control what goes into their own body. If I don't want to take drugs, or breathe in cancer-causing chemicals, I have the right not to do so.
Smoking is a violation of that right. Smokers are polluting the air around them with an addictive drug (nicotine), and with cancer-causing chemicals. Other people have the right not to breathe in their noxious emissions. Smokers, by smoking, are violating the rights of others around them.
This is not a drug prohibition issue - the problem is not the drug, nicotine, it's the means of administration. If people want to take nicotine orally, such as by chewing it or using an electronic cigarette, or transdermally, through patches - I have no problem with that. When they take nicotine orally or transdermally, they aren't forcing me to do so at the same time. But when they smoke, they are forcing me to breathe in their smoke. The same logic applies to other drugs which might be smoked, such as marijuana, opium, heroin, cocaine, etc. The problem I am complaining of here is not the drug; it's the smoking.
In recent years, there have been an increasing number of bans on smoking, on aircraft, buses, trains, ferries, and other forms of public transportation, in hospitals, educational institutions, offices and workplaces, in restaurants, cafes, bars, pubs and clubs. While these are good initial steps, they do not go far enough.
Smokers walk down crowded city streets, forcing others to breathe in their noxious emissions. You stand waiting at a bus or tram stop, or at a railway station - and the smokers puff away, forcing all others who wish to use the same public facilities to breathe in their noxious fumes. You sit down on a bench; a smoker comes and sits right next to you and lights up. Many smokers show little consideration for other human beings. You stop in your car at the traffic lights; your senses are suddenly bombarded by the smoke from the car stopped next to you.
Many restaurants and cafes have now been forced legislation to ban smoking indoors. Yet in most places with these bans, smoking is still permitted in outdoor dining. A beautiful day or a pleasant evening, wouldn't it be nice to sit out in the open and enjoy a meal? The smokers at the table next to you soon force you to move indoors, to get away from their obnoxious smoke. Even if there is no one smoking when you start, someone could light up at any minute.
A total ban on smoking would be great for the environment - not only would it reduce harmful air pollution, it would also greatly reduce the enormous litter problem that smoking represents. Who has not seen massive piles of cigarette butts in public parks or at the entrances of office buildings? Smoking is also a fire hazard; many fires have been started by cigarettes. Some of them have even claimed lives.
What about smoking in the home? Many smokers have children, and smoke in their presence; their children breathe in harmful smoke, greatly increasing the likelihood of developing childhood asthma and other respiratory diseases. How is that not a form of child abuse? And with medium and high-density living, you will often find your home stunk out by tobacco smoke if you have the misfortune to have a smoker living next door - the smoke will seep through your walls, ceiling and floors; even if they restrict themselves to smoking outside, it will come into your home through open windows and air vents. Even if it is not a problem when you move in, neighbours come and go; a smoker could move in tomorrow. What right does your neighbour have to stink out your place of residence with their noxious emissions? You are not doing the same to them. And yet, invariably, you will be the one who ends up moving, not them. Why should the non-smoker move, when they have done nothing, and it is the smoker has come along and deprived them of the enjoyment of their own residence?
If smokers want to slowly kill themselves and give themselves cancer, let them; but they have no right to be doing the same to the non-smokers who have the misfortune of living in the same society as them. The only solution is a total ban on smoking, and on the sale of nicotine or any other drug in smokeable form. The sale, posession and smoking of cigarettes, cigars, and of loose tobacco, must be made illegal, in order to protect the rights of non-smokers.
Some people are going to draw a comparison with alcohol or drug prohibition, but that is not appropriate. Those forms of prohibition seek to ban a drug; this is not a proposal to ban any drug, only a particularly harmful and anti-social method of drug administration. People will still have the freedom to consume nicotine in other ways, ways which do not impair the rights of others. Of course, we cannot prevent a black market in tobacco products - in fact, one already exists, to evade tobacco taxation. But, given that the drug itself will still be freely available, and it is only a method of administration that is to be prohibited, there is no reason to assume the black market will be particularly large, or pose a particular problem, in the long run.
Smokers will object that they have rights too - and they do, they have the same rights as everyone else - but they do not have any special rights, unique to smokers, such as a right to smoke. No one has the right to smoke - everyone has the right to be free from the unwanted smoke of others. And the only way to ensure this freedom is to prohibit smoking completely.
There is nothing 'nanny state' about this. It's not about trying to protect smokers from themselves - it is about protecting others from smokers.
I look forward to the day when smoking is banned completely. That day can't come soon enough.
 Appendix: a compromise
I believe the ideal solution to this issue is a total and complete ban on smoking. However, I can envision a compromise: the establishment of smoking clubs, where people are permitted to smoke in an enclosed environment, hermetically sealed from the atmosphere. All air coming out of these smoking clubs will be filtered to remove the resultant air pollution before release to the atmosphere; containment doors will be installed to prevent the escape of smoke from the facility when smokers enter and exit. Smokers will only be permitted to purchase tobacco products on these premises, and not be permitted to remove them (so they don't smoke elsewhere); smokers will only be dispensed a single cigarette (or cigar or whatnot) at a time, which they must smoke under the supervision of staff, to prevent them from removing them from the premises. The staff will work behind an airtight glass or plastic barrier, or via CCTV, with an intercom to permit communication with the patrons, and automated equipment to receive moneys and dispense tobacco products. When staff need to enter the containment area, for cleaning or other purposes, they will do so in an airtight suit, for their own protection. Staff will be required to be non-smokers, to reduce the likelihood of any temptation to undermine the system of controls. No other facilities, other than smoking, shall be provided within the clubs, so that non-smokers do not feel the need to enter into them to gain access to any facilities. From an engineering perspective, these clubs will be straightforward to design, since we already have immense experience with designing contained areas for working with hazardous materials - all that is needed is to apply that experience to the problem of smoking. The cost of the design, construction and running of these clubs will be recouped on a user-pays basis, by charging patrons. Smoking outside of these clubs will be totally prohibited.
However, the disadvantage of this approach, is that the continued legal availability of smoking, even under such tight restrictions, may inevitably increase the incidence of smoking elsewhere, no matter how strict the legal provisions against it. So, even though such clubs do not directly harm the rights of non-smokers, their existence may result in an increased incidence of such harm overall. For that reason, I would prefer a complete smoking ban to these clubs, but would be willing to support them as a compromise.