As a libertarian I think that people ought to have the right to do whatever they want with their own body so long as in doing so they aren’t interfering with the rights of others. That’s what most libertarians believe. Do what you will with your body and your life but don’t interfere with mine.
We all have a right to breathe the free air, for example, but no one should have the right to pollute the air with smoke thereby subjecting others to breathing the foul stench. That’s why as a libertarian I’m OK with laws prohibiting smoking in public places.
I think that smoking should be prohibited in public for the same good reasons why urinating, defecating or other activities which disturb the peace in public are prohibited. Such activities interfere adversely with the rights of others to enjoy public places. The laws are fair and just.
The town of Westminster Massachusetts is presently considering the prohibition of all tobacco sales within the community. Their reasoning is simple and logical. Tobacco products such as cigarettes when used as directed by the seller are dangerous. Tobacco smoking makes people sick and too often makes them sick to death. In short, tobacco smoking constitutes a public health hazard.
"If we can prevent children from having access and exposure to tobacco and nicotine products and reduce the chances of them smoking or using them, then we’ve essentially saved lives," said a spokesperson for the local board of health. If it is fair and just to prohibit the activity of smoking in a public place it stands to reason that prohibiting the sale of tobacco in a public place is equally fair and just.
Naturally, convenience store owners and other retailers in the town are up in arms about the idea of prohibiting the sale of dangerous products in their stores.
"Most people that buy tobacco will grab a cold drink for the road, maybe scratch tickets, a bag of chips. So it’s not just an $8 sale, it’s a $20 to $30 dollar sale," complains the owner of Vincent’s Country Store. "We're just going to be sending all these sales five minutes down the road to another town where these customers will spend money on gas out of town, food out of town and before you know it, the gas stations are going under in Westminster and other businesses.”
Another store owner warned that the prohibition would result in some his employees losing their jobs. "It becomes very personal--these people are important to me. Lisa has been with me for 18 years. Denise… for 12 to 13 years; For Lisa, I am her entire income. She in fact will lose her house if" this job doesn't exist,” said the owner of Depot General Store.
While I sympathize with these people, the fact remains that the smoking of tobacco products is a public health hazard; tobacco is a dangerous product when used as intended by the seller. Tobacco addicts have a right to smoke it if they can do so without subjecting others to the hazards, but no one should have the unrestricted right to smoke or sell dangerous products in a public convenience store.
Many smokers – who have the manners of pigs -- don’t care about interfering with the lives of others. It’s fine with them if their hazardous addiction results in the rights of others going up in smoke.