September 19, 2000
There is no such thing as Society. There are individual men and women, and there are families.
….. MARGARET THATCHER 1987
A man, Jim Skoog, wrote the following on a public bulletin board and I felt compelled to respond:
Most public hospitals in America have a policy whereby treatment is not based on a patient’s ability to pay.
Given the millions of uninsured smokers who burden the system, smokers definitely do impact nonsmokers.
We citizens are not islands unto ourselves — many of the so-called personal freedoms we defend as affecting no one but ourselves actually have very real public consequences.
Denial is a handy scapegoat. By thinking of bad choices as purely private matters, we need not consider our responsibilities to society.
I responded as follows:
Jim, you’ve pointed out the dynamics of the system and those who burden it.
It’s true that some people still smoke. Far fewer people than before but still around a quarter of us.
Not long ago two thirds of this country’s people smoked and worked and paid their taxes.
If it weren’t for them we wouldn’t have a system.
I have yet to hear anyone declare himself an island or apologize for smoking.
If you smoke and have paid your dues, the audacity of someone who says you burden the very system you created and funded seems striking indeed.
A choice of any kind is a purely private matter. To think otherwise is to abdicate citizenship in the United States of America.
Our responsibility to our society is to protect our sovereign individuality and the right we own to make bad choices.
I then posted a short response to a well written diatribe against those who attack the generic smoker, substantially as follows:
“With little or nothing remaining unsaid about the dangers of smoking – there isn’t one child or adult in America who doesn’t know that cigarette smoking can lead to cancer.”
So does breathing most of the air available to most of us nowadays. L.A. finally got their supply under control and it’s no longer a death sentence to live there. On the other hand, they are somewhat advanced.
Sure, they still smoke, but they no longer have to breath poison. The trick is to control emissions.
In Atlanta, where I live, emissions are now the major problem. Smoke from cigarettes or cigars is an afterthought, or should be.