Why do smokers profess that they have a "right to smoke?" By what law of the land is such a right conferred? Why do we, as a society, tolerate and even reinforce the mistaken belief that smokers are exercising a lawful individual right?
In our society, behaviors that negatively impact others are restricted or prohibited in the interest of a better, safer, more pleasant environment for all. For example, in most places, it is unlawful for a dog owner to leave the animal's waste behind in public to be cleaned up by others. Why is it not equally unlawful for a smoker to leave cigarette butts (non-biodegradable, omnipresent, and laden with toxic compounds, they are far worse than dog waste) behind in public to be cleaned up by others?
In our society, harmful air emissions are regulated or prohibited. Why is it not unlawful for a smoker to pollute the airspace in public places such as beaches, parks, and city streets?
In our society, we do not tolerate public displays of lewdness, profanity, intoxication, or violence. We purport to control access of children to harmful images and behaviors. Why is it not unlawful for a smoker to model the behavior of smoking to children and youth in public places? When will we tell the film industry to stop promoting smoking among children and youth by exhibiting that behavior in child-rated movies?
I contend that smokers do not have a "right to smoke," at least not in public. The lack of a prohibition against the action of smoking is not the same as a "right" to perform that action. On the other hand, non-smokers have a right to enjoy public places that are not contaminated with tobacco packaging litter and discarded cigarette butts. Non-smokers have a right to breath air that is unpolluted by cigarette smoke. Non-smokers have a right to take our children to public places without exposing them to individuals who model anti-social and destructive behaviors.
It's time to wake up and get straight the rights and the responsibilities of being a member of our society.