State risks overstepping boundaries

Cigarette butts. Picture: Pixabay

Cigarette butts. Picture: Pixabay

Published Feb 17, 2024


Durban — Smoking is bad for you – nobody should argue with that. Whether it’s tobacco in cigarettes, pipes or cigars, or the various iterations of hookahs and electronic cigarettes.

Some might argue that the latter are safer and less lethal than the former, but all come with some degree of harm to the lungs specifically and body generally.

And since the dawn of democracy, health ministers and departments have been hell-bent on regulating the habit.

On top of annual hikes in tobacco taxes, various curbs have been placed on smokers and retailers, including where they can smoke and restrictions on advertising.

Still in the pipeline are regulations which will ensure that all cigarette boxes will have plain packaging, except for graphic health warnings which will include pictures, and that all tobacco products will be hidden from view.

While the efficacy of the new rules in decreasing smoking rates is still being debated, the question is how much more control is to be given to the State over our lives.

While underage smoking – of any sort – is certainly to be discouraged and legislated, adults should be free to make choices for themselves, however bad those might be.

Alcohol, sugar, red meat and salt are all bad for you.

It could be argued that aside from the harm done to the body, alcohol is far more damaging to the social fabric via the often violent actions taken by the inebriated, the effects of alcohol addiction, and the costs of both to the State, yet there are no plans to regulate consumption or sales nearly to the same extent as tobacco.

In the same vein, might we look forward to a time when a bag of sugar, the negative effects of which are well-known, is adorned with pictures of diseased hearts and livers? Or a beer bottle with pictures showing cirrhosis? Hardly likely, so why the difference?

Where it concerns personal health, the State’s role should be limited to educating people and empowering them to make decisions for themselves.

Adults should then be left to exercise their rights to human dignity and freedom of choice.

Independent on Saturday