A day or so back, in respect of claims that smoking causes lung cancer, MikeF commented:
The battle against Tobacco Control is a two front war. Fighting ONLY about secondhand smoke concedes the LARGER battle – and that, I submit, can only lead to the loss of the war.
I entirely agree.
Here are a couple of good examples of how to lose the war. In the first one the author, who teaches philosophy, sets out his stall thus:
The most widely cited reasons for regulating smoking are the obvious health concerns. We have heard the statistics about the dangers of smoking. No one can plausibly claim today that smoking is a harmless pastime…
He returns to the theme again shortly afterwards.
We must grant that smoking is bad. We must also acknowledge that passive smoke is bad. It is not, however, the proper function of law to root out things because they are bad. Law is best confined to keeping people from violating one another’s individual rights…
And, for good measure, once again:
This issue is not how bad smoking is. The badness is assumed. Just because you are doing something bad does not mean that people have a right to stop you, even if that conduct hurts them. Not all harms are rights violations.
It’s rights that matter most. People have got rights, and so he discusses rights briefly:
These things, “rights”: what are they? We might have a murky sense of what they are, but it is hard to pin down, because they are not physical things that you can measure or hold in your hand.
Yes, it is difficult, isn’t it, when you can’t hold things in your hand? I know the feeling.
Anyway, smoking is bad, bad, and bad, but people have got rights. Even if you can’t pin them down, or measure them, or hold them in your hand.
The second one is by a leftist antismoker.
Let me clarify my own status in this picture. I’m a former smoker, one who has been smoke-free for a dozen years and has no residual desire to take it up again. I don’t like to be in the presence of smoking and don’t allow it in my home. Nonetheless, I question the fervour against smokers and wondered at the truth behind the stories we’re told…
He thinks that secondhand (and thirdhand) smoke health risks are exaggerated. He complains that Big Pharma are preventing e-cigarettes from being used. Nevertheless he reiterates:
Smoking is bad for you. That’s well established. Whether it’s as bad as is claimed is open to question, but the basic fact that smoking tobacco is harmful is pretty much open and shut.
He even discovers several health benefits of smoking. But just in case you thought he might be a getting a tiny bit sympathetic to the filthy habit, he again reiterates:
Should a non-smoker start smoking? Of course not. However, since we’ve seen the dishonesty in studies funded directly or indirectly by Big Pharma, we should be questioning the validity of most of the anti-smoking pseudo-science that’s out there. Certainly we’re likely to find that smoking is harmful, but the question should be put in focus. If it’s bad, just how bad?
He ends by relating it back to socialism. Socialists, he tells us, have great respect for science. Even, unfortunately, if it’s bad science conducted by Pharma companies, which are driven by a capitalist lust for profit.
And we must never, ever, get self-righteous or allow the craven lust for profits to manipulate science, and thereby us, so that we vilify the victims and make the wrong choices in resolving problems—as seems clear is happening now to smokers.
If these guys were lawyers representing the accused in a murder trial, they would probably have stood before the jury, and declared:
“My client is a very, very bad man. There can be absolutely no doubt whatsoever about that. And I must say that I don’t personally like him one bit myself, even if he is my client. And he stinks to high heaven too. But you the jury must set aside his sheer, revolting, irremediable badness, and his awful smell, along with his untrustworthiness, and his dishonesty, and his many other character defects, and ask yourself, ‘Could someone that bad have possibly driven a stake through the heart of Chester Ames III on the night of 17 January last year?’ And if you do think so, then even though he’s a very bad man, he’s still got rights. We can’t hold these rights in our hands, or weigh them or measure them. We can’t pin them down with, erm, …stakes. But we’ve still got them, just like we’ve got minds and souls and dreams and bank accounts. It may have been a bad, bad, bad thing to do, but − even if he did do it, and I have no doubt he was fully capable of doing it − my client had a perfect right to drive a stake through the heart of Chester Ames III that night, because he did it − if he did it − in the privacy of his own home. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I rest my case.”
Somehow or other, I don’t think the jury would have been persuaded. I think that once the accused had been described by his own lawyer as a very bad man, some of them might have thought that was sufficient reason in itself to send him to death row, regardless of whether he killed Chester Ames or not. And they may well have also concluded that he had no rights either. Or didn’t deserve any.
I’m no trial lawyer, but I don’t think I would have gone about defending my client by immediately conceding that he was a very bad man, and fully capable of driving a stake through anybody’s heart at a moment’s notice. It doesn’t seem quite like the right way to kick off a defence, somehow.
But I guess that’s just me.