Here’s an interesting poll result:
Would you support a federal law making cigarettes illegal in the next five to ten years?I’m actually kind of surprised the number is so high. It’s also kind of scary. While it’s no secret I hate being around cigarette smoke, I definitely DO NOT favor a total prohibition on cigarettes. Ethan Nadelmann gets it exactly right here.
According to a recent nationwide survey of registered voters by Zogby International, 45% of Americans said yes. Among 18-29 year olds, 57% were in favor.
As the number of smokers drops, the dangerous logic of prohibition becomes ever more tempting. Forty years ago, when half of all men and a third of all women smoked, most non-smokers barely noticed cigarette smoke unless it was particularly thick or right in their face. Now, with barely one in five Americans still smoking, we non-smokers are increasingly intolerant. We think smoking cigarettes is filthy, deadly and offensive. We've become accustomed to bans on smoking - by minors, and in more and more workplaces and public spaces - and on advertising cigarettes. And we hate the corporations that profit off this deadly product.Read the whole post for the reasons why cigarette prohibition is such a bad idea.
But it's important not to get carried away with our rhetoric and our bans. Stigmatizing smokers and smoking persuades some to stop and deters others from starting, but demonizing and dehumanizing those who persist is both morally wrong and dangerous. The ever higher taxes and broader bans on cigarettes have played an important role in reducing both the number of smokers and the amount they smoke. Persisting with these policies will no doubt lead to further reductions. But there is a point of declining returns at which the costs of such policies begin to outweigh the benefits.
I’m still in awe of how far we have come in curbing smoking and its secondary effects on non-smokers. But any movement can be taken to a dangerous extreme. In time, smoking will be a very isolated problem and reaching that point will have very few unintended consequences unless we act rashly.