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December 8, 2016 / Congau

Bias of Smoke

Smoking is forbidden, prohibited, outlawed and banned from all public space in Europe and America. Maybe it is reasonable, but there is something strikingly odd about this particular piece of legislation compared to the rest of the legal system in the Western world.

True, there are also restrictions on other unhealthy activities. Drugs are illegal and you are not allowed to play with fire or parachute from tall buildings. But these are pursuits that are not accepted by the general society anyway. “Normal” activities, on the other hand, should not be banned, most people think. The common attitude is that you should be allowed to do it if you choose it freely and are aware of the risks. But no one is forced to enter a restaurant where there is smoking.

What is astonishing about the ban on smoking that started to take effect throughout Europe about ten years ago is how quickly it was accepted. The common cry whenever a restriction on an unhealthy activity is suggested is that “I am a grown-up person and no one is to tell me what to do.” But this was not heard. Imagine trying to ban alcohol, chocolate or certain kinds of trash entertainment.

The ban on smoking would have been equally unthinkable in an earlier period. At a time when movie heroes were smokers, a government that had tried to implement anti-smoking laws would have been universally condemned as totalitarian and fascist. But then a mighty trend swept through the West and the unacceptable became acceptable. It was not so much a change of conviction through arguments, but rather a matter of bowing to the inevitable.

Strange, isn’t it? There exists a social force that is stronger than the will of both governments and peoples. It is as if it moves through the currents of the air, it can’t be grasped and it’s hard to see through it. It’s like smoke.

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