Should you be allowed to smoke in your own apartment?
The immediate response is yes, of course. My God, your own home? What freedoms will these Nanny-Staters not take away? But upon further thought, it’s not quite that simple.
To the relief of some and the chagrin of others, New York City has been a leader in banning smoking in public places. A few years ago, the city decided to ban smoking in restaurants and bars, and this year added city beaches and parks.
Now the battle has come home. A judge recently ruled that co-op shareholders have the right to live in environments devoid of second-hand smoke. Which essentially put the ball in the hands of co-op and condo boards.
The thought of not being allowed to smoke in their own living spaces enrages smokers.
“I think it’s absolutely absurd,” says a resident at a downtown building managed by the Related Companies, in the process of banning smoking at a number of its buildings because of health concerns. “Smokers have becoming the city’s whipping boys. How about a little tolerance?”
Well, how about it? Can’t we all just get along?
Actually, no. Smoking has replaced religion and is running neck and neck with politics as the subject most likely to provoke a heated argument or worse. Smokers cite persecution from what they see as smug health fascists who treat them like they are serial killers.
Which is in essence what anti-smoking activists do claim. They cite research revealing that the overwhelming majority of children living in apartment buildings with smokers showed levels of the tobacco by-product cotinine in their blood, and that exposure to secondhand smoke is a contributing factor to the early onset of hypertension.
Meanwhile, a growing number of non-activist but angry New Yorkers are starting to complain about fumes from their chain-smoking neighbors seeping through the vents and smelling up their own apartments. I’ve been there myself, and it’s not fun.
But what about smokers’ rights? I know a number of smokers who are decent, upstanding citizens. Addicts? You bet. But not devils.
And so I struggled with my own thoughts on the matter. In the end, it seems to come down to Oliver Wendell Holmes classic definition of freedom: “The right to swing my fist ends where the other’s nose begins.” By that definition, does one really have the right to smoke if it ends up in another person’s nostrils and causes illness? Your freedoms can’t impinge on mine.
Of course it’s your life, and I believe you should have the freedom to do whatever you want with it–including end it.
You just can’t take me with you.