Just Ban Them

With all the various smoking bans going around I think it is high time that smoking be banned completely. No more smoking, anywhere, anytime. And while we are at it, alcohol too. After all, the American Lung Association says that between 38,000 to 65,000 people die every year due to ETS (environmental tobacco smoke, or second hand smoke). Lets just call it 50,000 per year. And since excess alcohol related diseases cause around 100,000 deaths per year it is high time to just ban that too. By banning these substances we could save about 150,000 lives every single year.

Sure, sure some people will sputter and stutter about prohibition being tried before and crime and other idiotic nonsense, but what do they know? History schmistory, who needs that crap when we have tens of thousand of lives on the line. After all, it seems clear that with 150,000 people dead every year who shouldn’t be, people are too stupid to know what is good for them. So I say, lets get the State to exercise its powers of coercion and stop this insanity. And consider this, in 1993 there were 3,805 deaths attributed to heroin, and that is banned and part of the massive war on drugs. We are talking, in terms of deaths, two subtances that cause almost 40 times as many deaths!

It is high time the government acted to stop people from harming themselves.

FILED UNDER: Health, Humor, US Politics, ,
Steve Verdon
About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research. He joined the staff at OTB in November 2004.


  1. jwb says:

    You just conflated two different problems: 2nd-hand tobacco smoke, which is inflicted by smokers upon other people, and alcohol, which generally doesn’t harm anyone else other than the drinker, ignoring traffic deaths.

  2. I believe, but cannot prove, that secondhand smoke is trivial in comparison to the emissions of motor vehicles.

    I also believe, but cannot prove, that the single largest contributor to global warming is not air pollution and cow farts but the ever-increasing population of warm-blooded mammals.

    And I believe, but cannot prove, that to completely discount these glaringly obvious factors is simply willful ignorance.

    But what do I know?

  3. Ugh says:

    You like to smoke, smoking is your pleasure. Smoke is the residue of your pleasure.

    I like to drink, drinking is my pleasure. Do you mind if I stand up on that chair and urinate all over your hair and clothes?

  4. McGehee says:

    I like to drink, drinking is my pleasure. Do you mind if I stand up on that chair and urinate all over your hair and clothes?

    By golly, you’re right! We need to ban everything that may potentially lead to urination. Ban dihydrogen monoxide!!!

    And people claim there’s no such thing as a slippery slope.

  5. John Burgess says:

    Well that slope will be considerably less slippery once we ban that dihydrogen monoxide!

  6. Mark says:

    Don’t forget cars. Death machines those things are!

  7. Lindy R. Dole says:

    Guess we’ll need to take away sharp objects like scissors as well.

  8. Michael says:

    I would have to agree with jwb, the issue regarding smoking are different from the issues regarding drinking.

    I’m sure you would be outraged if, for example, somebody who consumed alcohol in a restaurant forcibly gave small portions of that alcohol to everybody else in the restaurant. That is, essential, what happens when tobacco smoke is confined in a restaurant. I don’t want to make it illegal for people to smoke tobacco, I just want it to be illegal for other people to make ME smoke tobacco.

    Now, I’m sure somebody (though maybe not somebody here) will start talking about nobody forcing me to go to a restaurant, and market forces compelling restaurants to find an equitable solution, and on paper that may sound all fine and good. However, I’m sure the restaurant owners don’t want to have to decide which half of the population to alienate.

    Now again, somebody (still, maybe not somebody here) would counter that smoking bans are just the Government making that same decision for the restaurant owners, but again there is a caveat. Consider this, if Applebees bans smoking, and Friday’s does not, the Applebees will lose most or all of their smoking customers to Fridays. However, since a government ban effects them both, they are both equal in the eyes of the smoking customers, and so it is not a competitive issue to the restaurants.

    In the end, the only losers are the smokers. And I, for one, find it hard to feel too bad for making them postpone their carcinogenic fix.

  9. JACK ARMY says:

    You commentors are missing the point. It’s not whether the activity (smoking or drinking) harms others or only the doer, rather the fact that people do in fact die from the results of both of those activities. Since many believe that it is the government’s job to protect us, whether we want it or not, then these two things should be banned. THAT is the point. Once we have them banned and have successfully saved even just one life, then it will be time to ban other things that kill us, you know, for our own good. Right?

  10. Ben There says:

    I never knew a smoker who got into his car and subsequently ran into another car killing all occupants. But drinking and driving is a different story. Ban cars, smoking and drinking. Also ban sex. Sex causes teenage
    pregnancies, marriages, broken marriages, remarriages and STD’s. Not necessarily in that order. But on the other hand if we ban marriages
    we can eliminate half of the problems associated with sex.

  11. John Burgess says:

    Michael: The problem is that restaurant owners aren’t even given the opportunity to make those hard choices. They are coerced by government into one line of action.

    I have no doubt that there are restaurants and bars that would do quite well if they were permitted to allow smoking on their premises. And yes, non-smokers could avoid them.

    I’d love to see “smoking only” restaurants, bar, even airlines. They would capture a unique market and profit by it, whether or not I chose to be a customer.

    So the non-smoking regulators have restricted the choice of both smokers and business-owners in order to enforce a moral stance with debatable scientific support. That is not the proper role of government, in my book.

  12. db says:

    Dead on, John. The government’s role shouldn’t be to protect people from themselves. Rather, it should be restricted to non-consensual harm to others.

    Punch myself? – legal
    Punch another in a boxing ring? – legal
    Punch a stranger walking down the street? – illegal

  13. Getting secondhand smoke out of the workplace (read: office space) of the good folks who work in the hospitality industry is good enough for us. I lived just outside the beltway some 25 years ago (Army Engineer HQ, Ft. Belvoir) I was suprised to see how many people were still smoking when I came back for a visit last year. Don’t confuse a common sense workplace ordinance with the Volstad Act — we are talking apples and oranges, here, folks.

    We in Minneapolis/St. Paul went smokefree about a year ago. Our hospitality industry business is up, our civil liberties are intact and our indoor air is clearer. Come and see us sometime!

  14. JKB says:

    Why are you just going after things with moral judgments?

    We should ban campfires. Do you have any idea how many kids will sit around an open fire this summer, smoke burning their eyes, following them as they move. Tobacco is relatively controlled as to content but what is is that wood collected from the ground? Has it been assessed for noxious substances?

    Think of the delicate pink lungs being assaulted as the innocent children blissfully toast marshmallows in the flames, make S’mores, and stir the embers. What are a few happy memories of Camp against the damage done by being exposed to such a horrific environment. Better to show them a video of a fire while eating a Hershey’s S’mores candy bar in the safety of a hypo-allergenic home.

  15. Steve Verdon says:


    Well that is all well and good, but then how do you explain the ban on heroin, cocaine, and other drugs? Seems to me they fit more with alcohol and cause far, far fewer deaths. At least my (sarcastic) position is consistent. Yours isn’t unless you favor decriminalizing drugs.

  16. floyd says:

    steve; maybe a drug test for welfare [denied for 12 months if positive] should be a precursor to legalization. they do it for jobs.

  17. Brian J. says:

    You’re all sissies. Embrace the nihilism and just ban life as that’s the only way the government can surely eliminate all death.

  18. Perhaps the heroin deaths are so much lower than smoking or alcohol deaths because heroin is banned.

    The bottom line is your view of the function of the state. One view is that the power of the state should be used to stop people from doing what others don’t like for them to do. This can be applied to smoking, alcohol, drugs, pollution, gay marriages, homosexuality, non-marital sex, driving large vehicles, prostitution, living without health insurance, burning the flag, speaking politically incorrectly, guns, certain kinds of speech, terrorism, etc. While generally the issues don’t fall on both sides of the left/right divide, the behavior certainly does. And both sides can point out why what they don’t like really is bad and should be banned.

    Personally, I am not so much of a libertarian that I never want to see the government be used to ban anything. On the other hand, my tendency is to believe that informing people honestly about the benefits/harm of things and then letting them suffer the consequences is a reasonable way to handle most things that ‘should be banned’. When the consequences tend to fall on those other than the one doing the act (e.g. drunk driving), I have a lot more sympathy with the idea of banning it or increasing the penalty to deter it if you do it (banning alcohol in theory removes the right/ability to get falling down drunk and to drive while drunk, the death penalty for being caught driving while drunk doesn’t stop your right/ability to get falling down drunk, but would probably severely reduce drunk driving recidivism).

    In the end, I support the idea of the voters (not necessarily just the voter’s representatives) to make the decisions. I would love to see the situation where the authority to ban things can only be granted based on referendum and have a built in sunset provision requiring that after 5 or 10 years another vote be held to continue the ban. Early repeal would also be possible. Thus, we allow for rational debate on what should and shouldn’t be allowed, we don’t get the non-direct voting issue where you have to choose to accept the 20% you disagree with on the representatives voting record to get the 80% you agree with.