The great outdoors is the new frontier of the nanny state, as far as smoking is concerned. The habit is being banned nowadays in public parks, beaches, and university campuses. Supporters of these restrictions claim that they’re in the name of public health, but it is really about control, and maybe about money too, a possibility we’ll explore.
Ronald Bayer, professor at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, made some startling admissions on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) NewsHour last July 8th:
I noticed when my students of public health talked about illicit drugs like heroin or cocaine or marijuana, they adopted a libertarian point of view — emphasizing how the government has no business intruding on people’s choices and all those negative consequences. But when I raised the issue of tobacco, they all became in a way, authoritarian. ‘We have to limit smoking, we have to limit where people smoke, we have to protect people from themselves, we have to protect their children.’
In his NewsHour appearance, Professor Bayer then dropped this bombshell:
The evidence of harm to non-smokers on the beach or in a park from someone smoking is virtually non-existent. The evidence that fish and birds are dying because of cigarette butts is virtually non-existent. And even the evidence that seeing someone in a park or beach will encourage kids to smoke is extremely weak.
He went on to admit why smoking is being banned in the open air: “[Smoking bans] make it more difficult for smokers to smoke … and contribute in an important way to the ‘denormalization’ of smoking.” Professor Bayer admits outdoor bans are just a way to bully further smokers who choose to use a legal product:
It’s not that we’re trying to protect non-smokers from sidestream smoke in parks and beaches. We weren’t really concerned about birds and fish. There wasn’t really evidence that we were going to protect kids by disallowing smoking in parks and beaches. What ban proponents really want is to make it less and less easy for people to smoke, because it’s bad for them and we’re trying to protect smokers themselves from a behavior that’s going to increase the risk of disease and death.
The University of Kentucky (UK), a tobacco-producing state, has a campus that bans tobacco use and non-tobacco electronic cigarettes known as e-cigarettes. UK uses an informational video with irritatingly chipper background music to explain its no tobacco and e-cigarettes policy. The presenter, a guy in his 20s who says his name is Zach Norton, explains the university policy that forbids tobacco anywhere on campus including in the private vehicles of students or staff. He informs us that UK students and employees may receive free nicotine patches, gum, or lozenges for 12 weeks if they agree to take part in a “behavioral support programs.” Everyone else may purchase the nicotine patches, gum or lozenges “at a very low cost.” At the two-minute mark, Zach role-plays telling some dude with a cigarette to put it out. Zach has a smug look on his face after the smoking dude meekly walks away. Zach informs that smokers may smoke on the sidewalks along the city streets because they are not owned by UK.
The University of Kentucky has a website that students can use to rat on fellow students who violate the university’s no tobacco policy because, as the school says, “compliance is everyone’s business.” They can confidentially report the date and time of day a violation occurred and a description of the student. Moreover, the school has “ambassadors” who “inform” students, staff, and visitors of the school’s policy.
I wonder if the NSA visits UK for career day? I think they might find some good candidates there.