Vice Squad
Thursday, April 15, 2004
Smoking as a Human Right

Usually it is the opponents of smoking who invoke "rights talk" -- in this case, the right to a smoke-free environment. But rights are such a valuable trump card that all sides of a debate are tempted to invoke them.

The Norwegian town of Levanger banned smoking by municipal employees during working hours. The ban applied whether or not the employees were actually on city property. The county in which Levanger is located was asked to assess the legality of the municipal rule: "the county declared the ban invalid because it violates the European Human Rights Convention.

It said the city can ban smoking on its property, however not, for example, if a worker was driving his or her own automobile or was on private property."

One might ask whether smoking marijuana (or taking heroin) at home is similarly protected.

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