Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Smoking Responsibly

Talifaitasi Satele


The Samoa News Editor notes that second-hand smoking is an invasion of our individual rights when permission is not asked or given, and I couldn't agree more. However, by coming onto private property where the owner allows smoking, you are implying permission. If you don’t agree with the owner’s decision, you can always go some place else.

The above shows how the free market regulates the risks of second-hand smoking. It puts individuals in charge and responsible of their own lives and property. But let’s take a look at the path the Fono wants to take us by banning smoking through the force of law.

We would have the Fono tell us how and where to establish designated smoking areas. If businesses and individuals violate the law, fellow citizens may report violations to the authorities. Alleged violators then would be imposed with a fine, or they may have to challenge such allegations with the Commerce Commission or the courts.

What we would have in the likely scenario above are situations that pit neighbor against neighbor, challenging one’s trust and faith in his fellow man. It would give rise to needless suspicion and animosity. It would also cost us money with the imposition of fines, and the expending of government resources such as the police, Commerce Commission and the courts in order to enforce this ban.

The real crime here is how this ban would divert our government's attention from protecting the public from real criminals to suppressing second-hand smoking on private property.

Ernest Alaimalo wrote in his Letter to the Editor, Tabacco Smoking, A Risk Worth Taking?, that he “can think of better ways of spending” his “healthcare dollars than helping someone whose cancer is due to his exercising his right to smoke”. I feel the same way with someone who eats too many McDonald’s quarter pounders or drinks way too many Vailimas. But what we have in American Samoa is Socialized Medicine where everyone pays for everyone else’s mistakes in life.

Whether it is smoking or eating a greasy, artery-plugging McDonald double cheeseburger, we should be forever mindful that with freedom comes great responsibility.

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