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The Morality of Smoking

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Yeah, but even addiction is overplayed.  As human beings, we have the power of free will, and it is in our power to not buy or indulge in anything.

I agree. My dad started smoking from when he entered the Air Force during Korea and continued on until I was born into 1970. When I was born, my dad was trying to install a fire alarm system and it kept going off. He put them down and never touched them again. He said he missed smoking and when he was stressed he really missed them but he never did pick them up.

I also have a very dear friend that used to mainline coke and gave it up when she realized she was going to kill herself one way or the other. Now she doesn't even drink but on occasion does still smoke pot. That still is evading reality but compared to what most people would count as an extremely strong addiction, it's like single A league baseball. She has told me the same thing about coke that my dad did about smoking. When she is extremely stressed she has dreams about doing drugs again. But during her conscious hours her reality overcomes her desire to evade reality to that extent. So in a very real sense once she became fully concious of the addiction she overcame it with will and stopped.

I know that is unusual, but it is still possible.

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If I owned a restaurant I would not permit people to smoke in it. The majority of modern day smokers seem to be lower class, week-willed, unkempt bludgers who would not be able to afford the high qual

I remember an an article here in the UK that described Ayn Rand as a (and I can't remember the words perfectly) "a dotty libertarian who thought smoking was symbolic as man's taming of fire".

That obviously comes from their miscarictarization of her politics and a quote from Atlas Shrugged. It would take a long time to find the page number, so I'll just put this out there so you can keep your eye open the next time you read it.

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(Moderator's note: Merged into previosu thread on related topic - softwareNerd)

In Atlas Shrugged, cigarettes and smoking are mentioned quite a few times. I don't understand how this is accepted as rational. Rand is trying to portray the "ideal man" in Galt, yet he smokes. This I cannot concieve as rational... because life is one's highest value, and smoking could take off years of life, and cause all sorts of medical problems - wouldn't smoking then be a contradiction to that value? There is some sort of an attempt at justification but it seems to just be some sort of excuse... trying to justify it without good reason:

I like to think of fire held in a man's hand. Fire, a dangerous force, tamed at his

fingertips. I often wonder about the hours when a man sits alone, watching the smoke

of a cigarette, thinking. I wonder what great things have come from such hours. When

a man thinks, there is a spot of fire alive in his mind-and it is proper that he should

have the burning point of a cigarette as his one expression.

-Atlas Shrugged (pg 64)

But a man can think without a cigarette. According to this, would it not then be "proper" to have explosions, or for a man to set fire to something so that it could be his "burning point of expression"? - that's about as rational as ingesting chemicals and smoke that is harmful to you. I just can't get over this, because it's mentioned so many times in this novel so Ayn Rand must have put some thought into including it and why. She must have rationalized it to herself somehow (the alternative being she didn't - and then that would mean she was contradicting her own philosphy)- but I don't see how. If anyone could shed some light on this I'd appreciate it. I'm rationalizing it like this:

- Man value's his life - it's his most important value.

- Smoking can kill you and cause medical problems that can hurt your quality of life (cancer, strain on your heart, heart attacks, stroke, emphysema, bronchitis, asthma... ect.)

- Therefore, it isn't rational to smoke.

I'd like to know if this is right: smoking is irrational and therefore immoral (and then shouldn't be regarded as "proper" for the ideal man). :worry: Well, theres my first post ever. (Also, hi everyone!)

Edited by softwareNerd
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Hey, welcome to the forum!

Well, firstly you have to remember that Atlas Shrugged was written in the 1950's, before there was clearcut evidence showing that smoking could cause long-term health problems. I remember reading an anecdote about how Ayn Rand quit smoking when her doctor suggested she should, but I dont know whether this is apocryphal.

Secondly, its not correct to say that because something can have bad effects, you shouldnt do it. The question is really whether the risks are significant enough to outweigh the benefit you gain from the action. For instance, eating a hamburger isnt very healthy, but as long as you dont do it every day, there arent really going to be any long term effects so there's nothing wrong it. And at the other end of the scale, injecting heroin might be extremely pleasurable, but doing so isnt likely to be in your rational long-term self interest and hence it would be pure hedonism (and immoral). Smoking lies somewhere between the 2 extremes - yes, there are possible long term hazards. But are these sufficient to outweigh the pleasure a person can derive from smoking? I'd say thats a decision each individual would have to make for themself, taking all the known evidence into consideration. Ayn Rand obviously felt that smoking was worth it, but again, we do know more about the effects than we did 50 years ago, and she may well have believed different if she were writing AS today.

Personally I think smoking is gross regardless of the health issues, but meh.

Edited by Hal
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Thankyou, Hal. :) I didn't consider their having a lack of knowledge about the effects of smoking back then. I forgot it was writen so long ago! If they didn't know it could be potentially dangerous to their health and their lives then they obviously couldn't conclude that they shouldn't smoke if they gain pleasure from it. I guess nothing else can be said on the subject then, you explained it very well. Now I'm off to read as many of the threads as I can until I fall asleep at the keyboard! :worry:

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For instance, eating a hamburger isnt very healthy, but as long as you dont do it every day, there arent really going to be any long term effects so there's nothing wrong it.

Aren't you contradicting yourself a little here? If there are no long-term effects, then why do you say it "isn[']t very healthy" ?

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In addition, I am alarmed by the amount of rash condemnation of smoking as immoral by members of this board. I can see someone mistakenly thinking that it was careless behavior. But immoral? For pete's sake.

The answer to Don's question, "What need does smoking fulfill?" is pleasure. Just that. Doesn't fill your stomach, doesn't help you get somewhere, doesn't help you make something--you're right. Just makes you feel good. Kind of like sex. Kind of like alcohol (although you could argue that this provides nutrition, you could easily get that from juice, instead. You cannot deny that there is a special aspect of alcohol that is all about pleasure, and that--not any possible health effects--is why most rational people drink it.) There is absolutely no reason for smoking except that you like to experience pure, physical, bodily pleasure. And this is exactly why the witch-hunters are after it. They are utterly anti-body and anti-pleasure.

Now, if a person smoked three packs a day or something ridiculous, it would almost certainly not make him feel good anymore. If I ran for thirty minutes three times every day, running wouldn't make me feel good anymore, either. If I drank a bottle of wine every night, I wouldn't feel good anymore, either. Perhaps this is why Don claims that there is no pleasure in smoking.

Smoking doesn't cause me any pleasure. I am highly allergic to it. It does cause some people pleasure, granted.

There is something else that causes some people pleasure, too. Self-mutilation. A little self-mutilation every day, with clean, disinfected blades, won't have any long term health effects, just like smoking.

As Ayn was a famous smoker, there are many famous 'cutters' to further add to the validity of this as a cultural practice, just like smoking. The aspiring Dagny Taggart herself, Angalina Joelie (spelling?) is a former cutter.

Do you know what else causes some people pleasure? Strip clubs and sex with prostitutes. It is the second oldest profession, after all.

Still another blossoming pleasure that has exploded with the use of the internet - pornography! It is the ultimate in pleasure - and it hasn't killed anyone ever.


Smoking can cause pleasure. A lot of things can. But there is a degrading kind of pleasure given the knowledge you must have of the health effects of smoking. Even one cigarrette causes damage to your lungs.

Objectivism recognizes a differnce between real enjoyment and banal, mindless headonism. Smoking is in the latter catagory and is immoral.

Oh - and running three times a day for 30 minutes - you can build up to that pretty quickly if you have good coaching and it is far more pleasurable - the good, productive kind that Objectivism supports and that improves your life - than using a low-grade chemical stimulant plus a whole lot of other stinking, cancer causing toxins.


For the record, I oppose all bans of smoking on private property.

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Heh, I didn't realize my topic was merged with this one. Took me until now to get to the 6th page with all the other threads out there to read. Well anyways, I've been thinking about this subject more and more lately. Now that I've finished reading this entire thread I've seen it mentioned that Ayn Rand possibly did know of the health risks, contrary to what several people told me. That'll teach me for not varifying this fact for myself. I do realize that it's also possible she managed to somehow miss all the new evidence of health risks, or that she did not take that "evidence" seriously. But nowadays no one can claim to be "unsure" that there are indeed health risks - the evidence is all there if you choose to look. My growing interest in this subject came with a presentation I had to do about the effects of smoking - up until then, despite all of the media attention, I didn't think smoking was that bad for you, and those around you. Then I researched about smoking while exposed to asbestos, because my dad works around it all the time as an insulator. I found out that it increases chances to get lung cancer 50 to 90 times more then a non-asbestos worker, non-smoker. As for someone who just works around asbestos and doesn't smoke - their increased chances of getting lung cancer is only 5 times greater then a non-asbestos worker, non-smoker. What does that tell you about the connection to smoking and the risks of getting seriously life-threatening or life-detrimental diseases? But by all means don't take my word for it, the facts are there.

Anyways, my increased awareness about the health risks due to smoking caused me to ask myself "Why would a person with full knowledge of the health risks continue smoking?". I got the answer, as did many others on this thread that the benefits can outweigh negative effects of smoking. I thought this was a valid argument - until I thought about it some more. I thought that if a person could value the pleasure they get from smoking more than the negative effects, then by all means that was moral. But then I thought about these so-called "good points" of smoking vs. the "bad points". I'm not saying you should never do anything bad for you or potentially risky - as long as the good points can outweigh the bad, with life as your standard, and logic as your means to come to your conclusion. For those on this thread who have come to the conclusion that the Pros can outweigh the Cons, I'd like to show you this Pro/Con list that so far I have come up with, so you can make no mistake about it.

Pros: 1.Could possibly enhance clarity of thinking. (I strongly doubt this, in fact I searched for any article related to this claim and could find none. I admit I didn't search that hard, but even if one did prove this point, there are other ways to enhance clarity of thinking: energy drinks, Ginkgo, eating healthy, ect.) 2. Calms nerves or relaxes. However, nerves and increased stress is added for a smoker (note this also as a Con point): the need to get that nicotine fix, and the effects a smoker endures from going without it. Also, there are other more effective, and non-harmful and non-life-threatening ways to achieve calming nerves and relaxing such as: yoga, meditation, exercise, reading, games, talking to someone, sleeping... ect. 3. The whole "thinking and having a cigarette as a burning point the only of expression" thing - or stated in different terms, that it's "proper" to hold it in one's hand while in deep thought because it's reflecting what's going on inside one's mind. Please, if THIS is considered a valid reason then I can't believe how you could fool yourself with this nonsense, or that anyone can believe it. 4. Pleasure. I've never tried smoking so I can't varify if it's true or not - that you get pleasure from it. Some smokers say yes, some say no. Regardless if it IS true - just like I pointed out in point 2 - there are other ways to get pleasure. One's that aren't harmful, with almost no risk, and a give you a more intense feeling of pleasure. Exercise, working on a job you love to do, spending time with a loved one, chocolate :D (in moderation), sex, reaching a goal, self-improvement, awards, solving a problem, and even life itself should give you pleasure. Repeat this thought in your mind: "I am alive, I have free will, I may choose how to live my life, I can think, I can experience intense forms of emotion, and I am a human being." If you don't recieve any pleasure from this then don't bother claiming to be an Objectivist or a tolerable human being. If you don't recieve enough pleasure from the list I just gave then don't bother claiming you do when smoking. The pleasure you may get from smoking does not outweigh the chances of a decreased length or enjoyment of life. 5. *Note: The following sentence, if read outloud, would contain extreme amounts of sarcasm.* It makes you look cool, all your friends are doing it, it could help with weight-loss (food cravings are replaced with nicotine cravings! Ingenious!), so many people do it so it can't be bad for you, there's a chance if you smoke your entire life that you will be unharmed and live just as long as if you didn't smoke, Ayn Rand smoked and she is smart, and there are worse things you could do. I say: ridiculous. Don't pretend you are rationally weighing cost vs. benefit for any of those reasons, which are as valid as points 1 through 4! If you would trade one second of your life or one health problem caused by this disgusting, needless, irrational habit, just so that you may smoke, then I do not and will never see how you hold life as your highest value.

Cons: 1. Health problems caused by smoking, or cause an increased chance of getting are: abdominal aortic aneurysm, acute myeloid leukemia, cataracts, pneumonia, asthma, atherosclerosis, acute bronchitis, allergies, hypertension, chronic bronchitis, rhinitis, heart disease, emphysema, sinusitis, coronary artery disease, peripheral vascular disease, mouth cancer, myocardial infarction, tongue cancer, peptic ulcers, stroke, laryngeal cancer, varicose veins, polycythemia, esophageal cancer, hiatal hernia, bladder cancer, osteoporosis, increased infant mortality, kidney cancer, periodontal disease, alzheimer’s disease, senility, impotence, heartburn, cold hands and feet, heart disease, stroke, aneurysms, high blood pressure, cardiovascular illnesses, adult acute leukemia, adult chronic leukemia, cervical cancer, esophagus cancer, laryngeal cancer, lung cancer, kidney cancer, oropharyngeal cancer, pancreas cancer, stomach cancer. And these are not all of the health problems by far, just a few so you

who say "I value smoking more then the chance of getting one of the diseases caused by smoking," can pick any one on this list such as "a stroke", "cancer", "heart disease", and then alter that statement you are making by including that. See your statement for what it really is: "I value smoking more then the chance of getting a stroke/cancer/heart disease." I'm sure that if you got one of those diseases you would gladly take back your smoking for your health. Unfortunately, by then, it's too late. You say that you cannot be certain you will get such diseases. If that is a valid point for you, then the following point is also valid: you cannot be certain you won't get such diseases. 2. Decreased amount of places you can go: you won't be able to go to those non-smoking restaurants (if you can't not smoke a whole hour and a half), and you'll have to leave your house if you don't want to smoke around others (unless you live alone). I'm sure those who smoke/have smoked can think of many other situations where smoking is not welcome or tolerated. 3. Second-hand smoke. Face the fact that your second-hand smoke could be killing other people. Then tell me how moral you are. Face the fact that your second-hand smoke could be the cause of serious health problems for those you supposedly love and care about, and those who chose not to smoke. Then tell me how moral you are. I'll also throw in the point that second-hand smoke is not good for the environment. You can say that we already have pollution, but that is not justification by any means to add to it. You do not say "I have already failed one test, I may aswell skip studying for the next one." (Atleast I hope you don't :lol: ). 4. "Part-time smokers", this point is for you. If you claim to smoke only rarely, or a "few" - don't think for a minute that because you smoke less than a "full-time smoker" that you can will get away without any negative effects for sure. You, who have tried smoking, have the potential to become addicted to it. Those who choose never to try it, are never going to become addicted to it. And don't forget how much easier it is for a part-time smoker to become a full-time smoker: you've already justified it to yourself. Do you think that by not "going to extremes" that you are still moral? There are two sides to this fence: smoking or non-smoking. You still can get health issues the same as any full-time smoker (although you have a smaller chance), and if you do, don't bother resenting that very very lucky full-time smoker who is better off health-wise, even though their "risk" was greater : you deserve exactly what you got by valuing your cigarettes more then your health and your quality/length of life. 5. The glaringly obvious effects of smoking: bad breath, stained teeth, wrinkled skin, yellowed fingernails, smoke smell. Two words (and rightfully so): disgusting habit. 6. Finding that "special someone" is going to be way more difficult. Who considers smoking a value? Anyone? I am positive that someone who dislikes smoking would rather be with a non-smoker. Why give a someone cause to add a negative point on your Pro/Con list? You could be giving up the chance to be with someone who you could love like no other, and them you, all because they could be with a non-smoker, which is more pleasant for them. 7. It is your right to live your life as you please (by all means, I agree). But don't start thinking that I put this point on the wrong side - I didn't. It is your right to subject yourself to slow suicide, aswell as others around you when they can't do anything about it (children, pets, family), but if you REALIZE this: that what you are doing IS slow suicide, and you say "it's my right" then you're admitting what you are doing to yourself. And anyone who holds life as their highest value would and SHOULD

consider smoking IMMORAL. I agree that you have the right to kill yourself: go ahead, if you so choose - I can't stop you - and I don't have the right to. But please note that you are, in fact, choosing *possible* death/*possible* harm to yourself. For no good reason. 8. Money... the root of all good. (If you get it by moral, rational means and by your own effort.) And this is what you spend it on? All that money that could have gone towards something that would make you happier. And don't forget insurance rates go higher if you're a smoker. *sigh* Also, don't forget the money you may have to spend on doctors and medication if you do get a health problem.

Okay, there you are. That's all the Pros and Cons I could think of, but there could be some more that I missed. I would just like to state for the record: that I am no doctor, I'm not a smoker, I'm not your mother :lol: , I'm not your mind, I'm not telling you what you should think (I'm telling you what I think), I'm not an extensively knowledgable Objectivist, and I can't even claim to have "life experience" - I'm seventeen years old. By all means discount my conclusions or viewpoints if you don't think them valid. And please feel free to agree with me: for the aim of my posting this very, very long post is in hopes that I may point out some new things or provide some deeper insight to an already mentioned point, so that I may convince an undecided person or a decidedly "for smoking" person that it is, in fact, immoral. It is conceivable that I have misunderstood some objectivist points, for I thought Objectivists could rarely (if ever) disagree on such issues as this. I admit I'm very concerned with this issue for the reasons I've already stated, and I honestly hope that a definitive side is chosen for the Right and the Moral. If someone could discredit all the points I've made and it could be decided that smoking is moral, then atleast it could be said that we're capable of making a decision. If those who supposedly hold the same values cannot agree on right and wrong, then how do you expect those with different values to agree? As my final statement I would just like to say: In regards to smoking, the "good points" can never outweigh the "bad points". :lol: Ending post now.

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