Vice Squad
Saturday, August 18, 2007

Slate's William Saletan argues that in some dimensions the war against smoking and tobacco has gotten out of hand. (OK, maybe that isn't quite strong enough. The article is entitled "Kicking Butt: The International Jihad Against Tobacco.") One of Saletan's leading examples is Vice Squad obsession snus:
The latest target is snus, a tobacco product that delivers nicotine without smoke. Despite studies showing it's far safer than cigarettes, most European countries allow smoking but prohibit snus. In the U.S., sponsors of legislation to regulate tobacco under the FDA are resisting amendments that would let companies tell consumers how much safer snus is. The president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids complains that snus will "increase the number of people who use tobacco," letting "the big companies win no matter what tobacco products people use." But the goal shouldn't be to stamp out tobacco or make companies lose. The goal should be to save lives.
Though Saletan and Vice Squad feel similarly about snus, I am not sure that adopting as a general goal that of saving lives is necessarily a good idea (though to argue against it, admittedly, makes one sound uncharitable or worse). There are lots of things that people enjoy that are a bit risky, and perhaps more lives could be saved (or prolonged, rather) by using coercion to curtail these activities. But the decision to pursue these risky activities might be perfectly reasonable; maybe some sort of compromise might be appropriate?

If you click over to the Slate article, check out the links on the left side to some previous Saletan articles that deal with non-tobacco vices, including coffee, sex, and fatty foods.

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