Smoking Has Benefits

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I don’t like being told what to do.

Maybe it’s because I’m smarter than most of the people who tell me what to do. Making the situation even more obnoxious is the fact that there are few real constraints on government these days, so these relative idiots vote for the police to tell me what to do as well. I’m ticketed if I don’t wear a seat-belt even if I’m going 20 mph to the grocery a half-mile away, despite the scientific fact that putting on a seat belt is extra work. I’m ticketed if I wear my ear buds while driving in my state of Illinois, even though it’s perfectly legal for deaf people to drive. What’s better – to hear a siren beneath the right-wing nutjob I happen to be listening to OR to be stone deaf?

But few habits embolden lefties like someone smoking cigarettes. It’s so bad that I even once had the cashier at a gas station criticize me for buying some Camels – a practice no doubt designed to achieve what’s probably known in business circles as “intentional bankruptcy.” Just a few weeks ago, I was at a party in Chicago and wouldn’t you know it, I spoke with some anti-Trump left wingers there. At one point, I announced I had summoned the courage to have a cigarette with my beer on the balcony. Not one but two of the partygoers voiced disapproval at this, heedless of my total lack of asking what they made of my choice.

Knowing more than everyone who tells me what to do, I retorted that alcohol also causes cancer and yet everyone at the party was drinking it without denunciation. These days, which cancer you’re willing to get is usually a cultural choice: Some like getting their cancer on their skin from laying out or tanning. Others choose the lungs from smoking or the mouth from chewing. Still others are happy to chance liver or esophageal cancer from drinking. Mennonites aside, it seems everybody has risk tolerance for some cancers but not others.
And of course, other things kill you besides cancer. For example, the BBC reported that bicyclists are 15 times more likely to die than a driver going the same distance because bicycles are slow and very many even lack the airbags and crumple zones we all take for granted in our cars. Yet if I told my fellow partygoers than I bicycled everywhere I suspect they’d have been more inclined to invite me to the next brunch, not less.

For we (few but proud) rational folks, our approach to risk cannot be summed up in the two-word admonition “Safety First.” It’s a fine line if you’re an HR director at a factory, but in the real world we all take risks every day. It’s rather a question of costs and, yes, benefits. If I have a cigarette, there’s a tiny chance it will cause me cancer later in life. However, there is an excellent chance it will give me pleasure and make me feel cool now. And nobody knows how weighty the benefit column is for me but me, so they should leave me alone.

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