Public Health and Individual Freedoms

In today’s America there seems to be an endless amount of rules and regulations that are for public health. Many make perfect sense and are a huge benefit for the public’s overall health. A great example of a rule that ensures a safer environment for the public are speed limits. With the amount of cars on the road and the already high casualty rates involved with cars, speed limits keep the roads much safer. While many people may agree and accept the rules of speed limits, there are many public health regulations that are controversial due to the infringement of some individual freedoms. One of these regulations that many people feel inhibit some of there individual freedoms are smoking regulations in public areas. I have a friend that regularly smokes cigarettes and often times when I go out with him he complains about the regulations on smoking in certain areas, especially when in bars. He thinks that these regulations are inhibiting his freedom to smoke cigarettes when and where he wants to. While this may be true, many studies show that second hand smoke can contribute to unwanted health issues. So in the case of smoking, if someone smokes next to you and you inhale that smoke your health can be affected. Which brings up a great argument of who’s freedom is actually being infringed on? Is it the smokers who cant smoke wherever they feel or is it the people who, if next to these smokers, have to breathe in now polluted air. Its a fine line and one that many people have researched and weighed there opinion on. Although smoking may infringe on other peoples freedoms within a certain proximity, recently there has been a new campaign on banning a certain product from people that only affects the user. In 2014, Bloomberg tried to ban certain foods that were linked to obesity and large cups of soda in New York. Bloomberg’s intent for this ban was to combat obesity in New York and create an overall healthier environment for the public. But this ban would have also taken away many individual freedoms in the process. Instead of making the decision not to drink large volumes of soda, the decision would now not even be there. Even if you lived a healthy life style and were not obese and you wanted to occasionally enjoy a large refreshing coke, you couldn’t. This ban was ultimately shot down in court but it brought up countless questions of when is public health taken to far and when are we not willing to give up individual freedoms for the overall public?

-Tony Doll

Sources: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/27/nyregion/city-loses-final-appeal-on-limiting-sales-of-large-sodas.html?_r=0

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5 thoughts on “Public Health and Individual Freedoms

  1. Your friends thoughts on smoking in public are really interesting to me. I have asthma, and secondhand smoke in public really sets it off. Nothing is worse than having to dig for my rescue inhaler while I’m trying to eat with my family in public (of course, this doesn’t happen much anymore with the new laws). I never did think about it in the way that it inhibit’s the smoker’s freedoms, and you bring up a great point about there being a fine line. Like, I should be able to breathe too, but I understand smoker’s needs to smoke.

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  2. This is nice perspective to have but for me I believe if something is detrimental to our health or even the individual then they should work to not do such action. For example it would be ignorant for us to not have a smoking law its ignorant for us to keep cigarettes legal to be honest. It does nothing but harm the body and harm others its ridiculously- the only reason your friend believes its a freedom is because he’s addicted to them, he doesn’t have a choice whether he wants to smoke them or not he has to, or else he’ll experience withdraw symptoms. What should be going on is putting in place something to help him quit. For the coke example it’s the same thing it does nothing but dehydrate and harm the body, its a ridiculous action to take part in, but millions do it daily because of the gratification from the man made chemicals- its something you have to take a step back and really question if thats taking away a freedom.

    Jaiden Deal

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    • Well lets be real hear sugar isn’t a man made chemical but people love it because it taste good. That’s the reason many people drink soda products because it just simply taste good because of sugar. But lets take a step back here. People smoke or drink soda for many different reasons but one key component is they enjoy the product. It maybe helps them escape from certain stresses or it is something to look forward to as a treat because it taste good. Why do we have the right to take that away from them? Sure we should definitely educate people on the dangers of the products but to take it away from them, that is just wrong. Think of something that you may enjoy. I am sure there has to be something that you enjoy that may cause you harm but for an example we will use going to the beach. When going to the beach you are exposed to the sun and lots of it. As we know the sun in excess can cause skin cancer. So why not ban going to the beach or sun tanning while on the beach? Because it is just simply wrong to do so and it impedes on people individual freedoms.

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  3. I am a smoker and I agree that it is the smoker’s responsibility to make sure they are not subjecting anyone else to their “smoke.” Though, I sometimes feel that people tend to pull that “second-hand smoke” card when the chances of them actually getting second-hand smoke is basically zero. Fair question to ask and I would be interested to hear other opinions from that debate.

    Gerald Brenner

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  4. The line I draw between personal liberty and public health is how much harm the risk-taker undergoes themselves, versus the harm they impose on others. I chose not to smoke, but do not disparage someone their right to smoking. However, the are risks involved with second-hand smoking which passes on the risks involved with smoking to others who may have chosen to abstain from smoking. It’s the same with speeding: if you speed and crash your car that’s a choice you made, but if you speed and crash into someone else travelling at the speed-limit then you imposed your risk on someone innocent. I disagree with the ban on large drinks in New York because we know copious amounts of soda is bad for us, but the consuming of a beverage does not pass on the risk of the soda to someone else.

    – Jennifer Brees

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