MY SAY: I'll defend smokers' rights to be idiots

IS IT just me or does everyone think it is their God-given right to get a bit tipsy and order a pizza?

I know it's not good for me but I don't really care.

This week Queensland Health Minister Cameron Dick said he is open to the idea of a ban on cigarettes for those born after 2001.

This would mean people turning 15 this year would never legally be allowed to smoke in this state. Never.

I hate smoking. My dad died of cancer and my mum is a chronic asthmatic. I think it stinks, it is expensive and people with lung cancer are a major burden on the health system. But if you're a smoker, I defend your right to be an idiot.

I guess that means I am a libertarian, which my kids would find hilarious because I have strong opinions on society's ills and am not afraid to air them. I just don't think we should legislate against free will.

I can see that banning cigarettes for young people would work, a lot of nanny-state laws do. But freedom is a basic human right and that includes the freedom to make your own mistakes.

Queenslanders responded quite warmly to the idea of a generational ban. After all, smoking is addictive, it causes disease and secondary harm. It should never have been legal in the first place.

But you know what? That sounds uncomfortably familiar to me.

I love red wine, melted cheese, rum and raisin chocolate, hot croissants and lying in bed all day reading. They are all addictive to me, they do me absolutely no good and one day I might even end up in hospital because of them.

When it comes to booze, the AMA says alcohol does more harm in Australia than every other drug combined.

But that doesn't mean it should be banned. No one drinks because it's healthy. We drink because it's fun, tasty and relaxing. Protein drinks, cashew cheese and early nights are much better choices but they don't make me happy.

If the government wants to tax my risk taking, I'm okay with it. A tax on excess sugar or booze, coupled with the sort of health warnings we see on tobacco packets could make a big difference and help fund some of the $40 billion obesity bill in Australia. I'm fine with that.

And I'm really happy with health promotion. The government should definitely keep reminding me to lay off the hot chips. It's a slower road but smoking in Queensland has gone from 30% of adults smoking daily in 2001 to 15% today, so we know it works.

Everything we do in life is risky and some of your favourite risk taking might seem completely stupid to other people. But so long as you only hurt yourself and clean up your own mess, I say go for it.



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