Did you know that the cost of a pack of cigarettes averages $4.49, probably more now with the increase in taxes? A pack-a-day smoker, which is what I was for nearly 30 years, coughs up nearly $1,700 per year. But, as the rights people like to say, "Hey, it's their choice."
Did you know that smoking continues to be the leading cause of preventable death in the United States? An estimated 440,000 people were hacked off prematurely from 1995 through 1999.
Did you know that on average adult men and women smokers lose 13.2 and 14.5 years of life, respectively, because they smoke? My grandfather smoked and died of emphysema. It's a painful way to die, gasping for breath. Dobly painful for grandpa. He was unable to play with his grandchildren because the effort was too great for his burned out lungs.
I've got news for the rights people, it's painful to watch, too.
Did you know that the economic costs during the same period were $81.9 billion in productivity losses from deaths (average for 1995 to 1999) and $75.5 billion in excess medical expenditures in 1998? Productivity lost that affected those other than smokers. Excess medical expenditures that resulted in excess time being spent with smokers who had the choice, taking away time and money from those who chose more wisely.
Did you know that smoking during pregnancy results in more than 1,000 infant deaths annually? Some choice. Where are the anti-abortion forces?
Did you know that because of smokers, we all pay in higher taxes to fund government health care programs, like Medicare, and in higher health insurance premiums?
Did you know that secondhand smoke imposes significant costs on nonsmokers and society? The annual cost of excess medical care, mortality and morbidity from secondhand smoke exposure in the U.S. is approximately $10 billion. This includes approximately $5 billion in direct medical costs and approximately $5 billion in indirect costs, such as lost wages, reduced services and costs associated with disabilities per year.
Oh, did you know this stat includes those workers who are non-smokers but must endure the fumes offered up by the rights people?
I have a couple of additional rights that have been conveniently forgotten in the zeal to make a political point:
What about my right to breath clean, smoke-free air, or am I required to change my plans because of the poor choices of smokers.
What about my right to reasonably priced health insurance, which is adversely affected by the poor choices that smokers make?
What about the rights of my children not to be tempted into an unhealthy life style, and to not have to watch family members die a slow, painful death because of the poor choices smokers make.
There is no constitutionally-protected right to smoke. There is agreement, however, that government, which is selected by the people, can pass laws for the betterment of society, according to the standards the community agrees upon.
For example, pornography is legal, too, more legal in many ways than smoking ... the courts having determined that pornography is protected speech. But the courts have also determined that communities may make choices regarding the sale and distribution of pornography.
I have yet to find any free speech connection with inhaling noxious fumes. But I do know that communities have the right to decide how to handle poor choices.
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