That’s understandable. CDC data is cold and uncompromising, if not infallible. And when it comes to smoking, CDC scientists are solidly on the mark.
Here’s a fact to consider, courtesy of the Atlanta-based CDC: For every person who dies from tobacco use in the United States, another 20 suffer from one or more serious smoke-related illnesses. That’s more than 8.6 million.
Smoking harms us and kills us — whether you smoke (first-hand) or breathe it in from someone else’s cigarette (second-hand). It’s that simple. We know it scientifically, we know it personally and we know it from what we see and hear. There is no doubt.
Do you have the right to smoke? Yes.
But that right, like many in America, has limitations.
Anniston has city ordinances on smoking, but they need stronger and sharper teeth. If the City Council is wise, which this version seems to be, its members will follow through with their plans to broaden smoking restrictions here.
It is good for our health. It is good for city business. It is the right approach.
In the purest sense, smokers who complain that their rights are being taken away are correct — their rights to smoke anywhere they please are being restricted. Smoking may be a right, but it’s also a public health hazard that must be controlled.
Complaining smokers should consider other rights that are strongly regulated.
People have the right to drink alcohol, but they usually don’t have the right to drink it in public in open containers where it is outlawed, and they don’t have the right to drink it while they drive.
People have the right to take prescription medicine, but they don’t have the right to sell theirs to others.
People have the right to free speech — the First Amendment — but they don’t have the right to yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater and cause a riot.
People have the right to carry a legally owned gun, but they don’t have the uncompromising right (in most states and municipalities, at least) to brandish it everywhere they go.
People have the right to worship as they please, if they please, but they don’t have the right to mandate that others, particularly children in public schools, worship in a particular manner.
In other words, most rights have restrictions.
Smoking, an unequivocal hazard to public health, is no different.
The City Council would be wise to make Anniston’s anti-smoking regulations as tough as possible. Smokers should have the right to smoke — but not in public spaces, and not around others who may suffer along with the consequences.