Sunday, December 3, 2006

A Smoking Hot Debate

For the ones and ones of you who read this blog, I'm sure there's a question that you've been wanting me to address.

"Thomas, what's your opinion on smoking?"

First, a bit of personal history. I had a grandfather who smoked and drank quite a bit when I was growing up. Later in his life, he had trouble breathing due in large part to smoking. One could reasonably assume that I would be anti-smoking because of it.

And they would be wrong.

Would I have loved to have had my grandfather see me graduate high school or college? Absolutely. Would I have been proud to see my grandfather see me win awards through Toastmasters? Without a doubt. But my desires do not give me the moral authority to dictate how others live their lives.

Therein lies the heart of the smoking controversy today. Both sides use a variation of the same argument: what I want should be law. Smokers claim they have a right to smoke, which they really don't. People who support anti-smoking laws claim they have a right to avoid possible health issues, which they really don't. So, why do they both claim they do?

It's to win your heart. We have strong emotional ties to rights because we want to champion freedom. That opens us up to a lot of opportunistic people who want to push through an agenda to further limit our freedoms. And oddly enough, because these opportunists wrap themselves in freedom.

What's missing from the controversy is the self. Are smokers truly incapable of not smoking when it would hurt or offend someone? Absolutely not. Are anti-smoking advocates incapable of not going where there are smokers or not acting up when people smoke? Absolutely not. There will be jerks in every crowd, but most people on both sides of this issue aren't that way. They're just caught up in the passion of the moment. How much of this situation would go away if we started showing a little consideration for the other side?

A lot, from where I sit.

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