Unsmoke

Science, technology, and life.
Dec. 8 2008 7:57 AM

Unsmoke

Be careful how you justify a war on drugs. Drugs can be modified so that your arguments no longer apply.

That's what the anti-tobacco movement is now learning. In state after state and country after country, smoking has been banned in public places: bars, restaurants, even apartment buildings. Everywhere, the rallying cry for these measures is that other people have a right not to breathe your smoke. Smoking is harmful to them, so you have to stop.

William Saletan William Saletan

Will Saletan writes about politics, science, technology, and other stuff for Slate. He’s the author of Bearing Right.

Advertisement

Except now you don't have to . You can keep using tobacco, but in a way that doesn't get into other people's eyes, throats, and lungs. The Associated Press reports :

[T]he folks who created Joe Camel are hoping Camel Snus will become a hit with tobacco lovers tired of being forced outside for a smoke. ... Snus—Swedish for tobacco, rhymes with "noose—is a tiny, tea bag-like pouch of steam-pasteurized, smokeless tobacco to tuck between the cheek and gum. Aromatic to the user and undetectable to anyone else, it promises a hit of nicotine without the messy spitting associated with chewing tobacco. ... With more public bans on puffing, [tobacco companies] say smokers need socially acceptable alternatives. ... "There's no secondhand smoke. There's no spitting. We see it as a win-win," says [an R.J.] Reynolds spokesman.

Undetectable to anyone else . No secondhand smoke . There goes your rationale for ordering people to stop using tobacco. "At least two tobacco companies besides Reynolds are also test-marketing snus," says the AP. What are you going to about it? What can you say?

In the AP article, public health advocates try to make a case against snus. It's "a second addiction," they argue. It can cause cancers of the mouth and pancreas. It's just an industry scheme to find "replacement smokers" for the millions of customers its death sticks have killed.

Well, good luck with those arguments. Of course snus is addictive, but that alone isn't sufficient grounds for banning things. As for its health effects , even the top scientist at the American Cancer Society tells AP, "If all smokers switched to snus tomorrow, in a few years we'd certainly see less heart disease, less lung disease and fewer cancers." And why exactly should we be upset if the tobacco industry has figured out a way to keep itself alive by keeping its customers alive?

I'm not endorsing snus. It's carcinogenic, addictive, and gross. I'm just not sure those are good reasons for restricting it the way we've restricted cigarettes. And I say this as a lockstep fascist for laws against smoking in public. If you aren't smoking—if you're just sucking , or whatever it is—I don't really see what basis I have for making you take your bad habit elsewhere.

If, on the other hand, you're a nonsmoker who's aggressive enough to wage a cigarette-like war on snus, where will you stop? Do you imagine that tobacco and its core product, nicotine, won't be engineered into new forms? Already, AP reports that Reynolds is "developing dissolvable tobacco strips, orbs and sticks that it will start test-marketing early next year in Portland, Indianapolis and Columbus, Ohio." Are you going to ban strips and orbs?

Look, I'm no fan of drugs. I don't even drink coffee. My advice is to stay away from all tobacco products. But if you choose a tobacco product that basically leaves me alone, I'll show you the same courtesy.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

It Is Very, Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

The U.S. Is So, So Far Behind Europe on Clean Energy

Even if You Don’t Like Batman, You Might Like Gotham

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Politics

Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

So, Apple Is Not Shuttering Beats, but the Streaming Service Will Probably Be Folded Into iTunes

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 22 2014 6:30 PM What Does It Mean to Be an American? Ted Cruz and Scott Brown think it’s about ideology. It’s really about culture.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 22 2014 5:38 PM Apple Won't Shut Down Beats Music After All (But Will Probably Rename It)
  Life
Outward
Sept. 22 2014 4:45 PM Why Can’t the Census Count Gay Couples Accurately?
  Double X
Doublex
Sept. 22 2014 4:06 PM No, Women’s Soccer Does Not Have a Domestic Violence Problem Or, why it is very, very stupid to compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice.
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 22 2014 5:45 PM The University of California Corrects “Injustice” by Making Its Rich Chancellors Even Richer
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 6:27 PM Should We All Be Learning How to Type in Virtual Reality?
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 22 2014 4:34 PM Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.