Power & Market

Fraudulent Logic Guides the UK Smoking Ban

No smoking.

It is the waning days of the Sunak premiership, and the Conservative party still has a stonking majority despite its cataclysmic capitulation in the polls. The government is effectively a lame duck; everyone knows it has no support, yet it will still be around for a few more months. One would think that since the Conservative party still has a large majority in the House of Commons that it would let loose with policy and attempt real reform so that the MPs have something to take to the people when election time begins.

The Conservative party could radically reform the housing sector so that young people do not turn their backs even more on the free market, they could be tackling NHS reform so our healthcare could match, or even surpass, international standards. Alas, it chose the path that states around the world naturally desire: more state intervention.

The prime minister has decided to go on a crusade against smoking! The government passed its legislation that effectively bans smoking for those born after 2009. The government says it is doing this to reduce the burden on the NHS, billions of pounds will be saved in the long run due to fewer people developing smoking related illnesses. The NHS needs saving so the conservatives are standing their defense of the legislation on the grounds they know are extremely popular amongst the electorate. Perhaps this is the perfect encapsulation of how MPs being guided by public opinion necessitates creation of bad policy.

Members of Parliament from all political parties voted for the legislation showing bipartisanship is alive and well. MPs scrambled to save the NHS and the government’s reasoning that this legislation saves the NHS billions is magnificent PR for all parties. There is a bigger matter at stake here, bodily autonomy. You own yourself, and this is undisputable. Thus, you can put whatever you like in your body as long as it does not harm anybody else. I will return later why this applies to smoking despite it seemingly violating the rule I have set out through the creation of second-hand smoke. If the sole reasoning behind running roughshod over one’s bodily autonomy is to save the NHS billions of pounds, then this logic raises absolutely zero issues with a rather uncomfortable number of crazy policies.

Obesity is becoming a major health issue in the UK, particularly in children, it will undoubtedly cost the NHS billions of pounds to treat these people once they get to an age where the massive medical issues become prevalent. To save the NHS, we should force feed these people a healthy diet so they lose the weight and do not develop costly obesity related diseases. In fact, we should force feed everyone a healthy and balanced diet so a myriad of other diet related health issues does not cost the NHS billions in treatment.

You see how this is nutty right? They would clearly object to these policies but there is nothing in their own logic telling them it is wrong. This means the matter of bodily autonomy to them is a completely arbitrary one, there is no limit except one they “feel” is just about right. Bodily autonomy is not an arbitrary matter; you either own yourself or you don’t. There can be no in-between unless you want to take the massive risk of going down a dystopian path where bodily autonomy is slowly chipped away until you have none left, since it is entirely arbitrary for our politicians to decide. State policy should never be decided based on a completely incoherent, inconsistent and arbitrary view on your right to self-ownership.

Reason Magazine does an amazing series titled “Great Moments in Unintended Consequences”. Readers should watch a few of their videos in that series because they illustrate how the law of unintended consequences can create some absolutely wild outcomes. It also relates to the smoking ban. The government has been slowly restricting smoking over the years until its now becoming a full-fledged ban where it is entirely realistic to say that in 30 years there may be very few people who can legally smoke. The UK had not even reached the stage of a complete ban before the vaping market exploded.

While this is anecdotal, I have witnessed how the development of the vaping market has meant that people who I thought would never touch that stuff have happily accepted vaping as part of their life. Vaping is becoming something of an epidemic amongst young people who would never have smoked normal cigarettes but the government has slowly restricted the market for normal cigarettes, creating the market for vapes. Obviously, the government did not intend to create the perfect storm for such an unintended consequence, yet it has done just that and we will not know for years if the storm will make landfall and destroy any of the savings accumulated from the smoking ban through health issues created by excessive vaping.

The law of unintended consequences is well-established, yet state actors will never connect the dots that lead to the problems. It is also quite amusing (but incredibly revealing about the level of thought our leaders do) to hear from contributors to the Politics Live daily show that they want to heavily restrict vaping too! They even acknowledge that mass vaping is an unintended consequence of the restrictions on smoking, but their solution is to further restrict vaping because, presumably, they will get it right this time with no further unintended consequences.

Returning to how we should deal with second hand smoke. This is a problem entirely perpetuated by the state. Any of the public areas that the state purports to own are havens for smokers who know there will be no private citizen who can legally tell them to stop. If public property did not exist, then private owners could either choose to accept or refuse smokers who will create second hand smoke on their property. That way, individuals would clearly know which route to take and what establishments allow smoking and refuse to allow smoking.

The conception of public property supported through our current system allows for actions that some people do not approve of with no restriction. If all property were private, then we could easily control the actions we wish to approve or disapprove. Smokers can frequent those dark and cloudy bars that are ever-present in some of our favorite classic films while those who do not wish to have any relation to such activity can completely avoid those establishments. Clear, coherent private property law shifts the choices about second hand smoke to individuals instead of taking it away from them.

The smoking ban is an entirely ludicrous policy. To add one last dash of inconsistency to the mix, the government also wants to reduce the burden on police for events they describe as “non-police demands.” The logic is the exact same for the smoking ban but the legislation will be incredibly costly to enforce so it is just going to lead to demands for more funding for the police as they need extra resources to deal with the extra workload now heaped on them by this legislation; the inconsistency is alarming.

Rishi Sunak could have gone to his government, acknowledged that he will most likely lose the next election and decide to fight for what really matters but alas, he chose to be a spineless individual and further drive us down the slippery slope towards zero bodily autonomy. Even his own reasoning for the ban perfectly captures the pitiful level of thought that goes into his (along with many other members of the government, including most other political parties) decisions. The smoking ban should clearly magnify to everyone the state of our supposed political leaders and how intellectually shallow they really are.

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