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Edward Flattau Headshot

Viva the Nanny State

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Some conservatives angrily accuse government of acting as a Nanny State by excessively narrowing the freedom of cigarette users to smoke.

An editorial writer in the right wing-oriented Washington Times complains that "if the Nannies are allowed to take away cigars and cigarettes to protect public health, they have a license to take away anything they can paint as harmful--candy, soft drinks, a steak, a doughnut, just about everything. Life itself is known to be fatal."

These analogies are nonsensical. All the items mentioned in the editorial if consumed in moderation are at worst benign, and in some instances beneficial. Not so with tobacco use, which is associated with virtually every major disease on the books. And smoking in moderation offers no respite. Scientific studies have established that even smoking a single cigarette a day slashes days off one's life. The American Cancer Society warns that the supposedly trifling indulgence of a single daily smoke increases the risk of dying from heart disease or cancer. CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta cautions that even a few cigarettes a week can increase blood pressure and slightly raise the chances of a heart attack or stroke.

Even if indulging in a daily cigarette lowers the health risk compared to a pack a day, the highly addictive nature of nicotine makes limiting one's consumption to a single smoke a highly unrealistic proposition for most people.

Although tobacco smoking is legal, most conservatives acknowledge its lethal toxicity and the wisdom of disincentives. They are thus okay with the private sector restricting usage on its own premises. Like the rest of us, the Washington Times editorial writer was supportive of the CVS drugstore chain's decision to stop selling cigarettes. Yet conservatives don't like the idea of government restricting individuals' freedom to smoke in private.

Sorry, but if the individual's habit in any way exposes non-smokers to tobacco's deadly pollutants, bring on the Nanny State. That is why officials are increasingly banning smoking in public areas or even in the confines of one's own quarters if in a multi-family dwelling where fumes can filter through walls, ceilings, and floorboards.

Some health experts are predicting the end of smoking, but whatever the fate for cigarette consumption in this country, smokers are gradually being forced by official edict to exhale solely in the great outdoors.

For that reason alone, hail to the Nanny State from all the non-smokers who don't want to be innocent victims of someone else's poor judgment and destructive addiction.