So a Maori Affairs Sub-Committee has recommended NZ become smoke-free by 2025. Ash (Action of Smoking and Health) agrees of course with this. Key says it is a big ask, it is!
This has got me thinking.
In the first place, I hate smoking. I grew up in a smokers' house. My mum and dad smoked up to 4 packets a day for over 20 years. I remember vividly when we left one home to move, we took the pictures off the once cream walls, and the wall behind the pictures and mirrors remained cream, but the exposed areas yellowish and grimey! It was disgusting. My mum gave smoking away one day out of the blue. A few years later my dad spent two weeks in hospital with an unstoppable nose bleed and was told, stop or die. He stopped, shocked finally into not smoking. My oldest sister has been a chain smoker since her teens. She gave up recently which made me truly proud.
I tried my first and only ciggie at 13 and hated it. I remember equally vividly the day when a nurse came to school and showed us the difference between a smokers lung and a non-smokers lung. She told us that if we smoked it would mess up our sports careers because we wouldn't be able to breath properly. Wanting sporting glory, for me that was it. I would never smoke. So I have smoked two cigarettes (and more than a few joints later on, not something I am proud of!).
When I see a smoker now I always struggle, thinking, 'why are you doing this to yourself?' So, I really dislike it and find it a disgusting habit.
Yet at the same time, I find myself for some reason feeling for smokers and finding this talk of a smoke free NZ annoying. I am trying to get to the bottom of my feeling. It doesn't make sense. Smoking is dangerous, it is addictive, it kills, it is disgusting, it wrecks health, it costs the nation millions. What is going on?
I think it is to do with the so-called 'nanny-state' and the feeling that while smoking is appalling, smokers are now the new lepers who are being marginalised. I feel sorry for them I suppose. The other group in this category of modern lepers are the obese. Still, this blog is not about them.
I think we should make a choice as a nation and either make smoking illegal or stop being so prescriptive and talking such rot as making NZ smoke free while leaving smoking legal. If it is legal, and people are to be respected as adults, they need to have the choice. It is the question of freedom, adulthood and responsibility which is at stake. A government has to make good laws and one of the functions is to protect people. I think we should legislate to make smoking expensive and giving up cheaper. We should limit advertising etc. But this feels too much. A young man can go to war at 16, yet not have a smoke, and yet it is legal. I agree with limiting smoking in places where passive smoking can affect others, this is good. But if a person wants a smoke, even though it disgusts me and I don't get it, and they are an adult, and smoking is legal, and they know the risks (we all know them now!), why not?
So then should smoking be illegal? I would love to say yes. I hate smoking and it kills. But there are at least two major problems with this idea. First, if we make smoking illegal, we should be consistent and make alcohol illegal. We need to be consistent about drugs like this that have such social cost. Second, western countries have tried in the past to make these sort of things illegal and it kind of backfired. When something like this is banned, it goes underground and it becomes a revenue spinner for the gangs. In the USA during the days of prohibition, this got to the point of almost full scale war between gangs and the government. I suspect there is a shady underground of our country waiting for ciggies to be illegal. I am told they are already active now that ciggies are so expensive.
If smoking was not established in our culture or already illegal, I would believe it should not be decriminalised (as marijuana should not be). But, it is well established and if we move against it, it will create an underground. I also struggle with the way in which western democratic socialist governments are seeking to rob all the fun out of life. The thing is, that one or two smokes a day is not going to kill an otherwise healthy and active person.
So, while I hate smoking, I think this is one-step too far. I say make smoking expensive, limit its advertising, make smoking companies pay for treatment, help smokers give up. But, otherwise, keep it real and allow people to live freely and responsibly.
Can I find Scripture to support all this. Not really actually. So this might all be rubbish, but that's how it feels.