Tobacco, Alcohol, Gambling and Me
The Boss magazine , 15 Dec, 15th March - 14th April 2004
I smoke. I drink. I gamble. And there are plenty of people out there like me. In fact any person who has never smoked, drank or gambled would be rare to find and probably be disappointingly boring too.
What chance do government efforts have of stopping activities which, inspite of their purported harmful effects, are engaged in by an overwhelming majority at same point in their lives? None whatsoever.
I, for one, resent government intrusion into what essentially is my personal matter. Government and society has no role to play in deciding whether I light up a Marlboro, have my daily scotch, or I bet on cricket.
What is the effect of legislation which makes it mandatory for cigarette companies to place statutory health warning on all their packs and advertisements. I, like all other smokers I know, could not care less. The warnings elicit barely a thought.
And it has to be so. Anything which is as ubiquitous as warnings about tobacco gets a big yawn. It is part of the background which you see but hardly notice or pay attention to.
My doctor tells me to quit smoking, and so do my parents, wife and friends as well. I don't need the government to do the same. This nagging, whether by friends and family or by the government, has no effect on me. At best I ignore the nags, at worst I find it so irritating that, in presence of those who object, I light up even more.
I will give up smoking whenever I'm ready to do so and not a day before. If I get cancer in the meantime so be it, I have the right to live my life as I wish and take as much risk as I desire. Perhaps my family, friends and well-wishers too will be affected by my decisions besides me, but, no one else will be. Therefore government and society doesn't even come into the picture.
Leave my smoking, drinking and gambling habits for me to sort out with those who are near and dear to me. I value my freedom to be left alone far more then my health. I will therefore ask the do-gooders to desist from using the power of government to control my life, even if they think it will do me good. I am not a child and do not like my actions to be monitored or controlled by a nanny state, when I harm no one except myself.
And even if you wish me well, and are bent upon using government to do me good, good which I do not desire, you will never succeed. If you make alcohol and tobacco too expensive, you will, in fact do me more harm. I will not stop drinking or smoking, I will just move on to cheaper brands. I will smoke beedis if I have to but smoke I will. I will drink even illicit hooch if you make scotch too expensive, but drink I will.
What if you, acting in my interest, but against my wishes, forbid production, distribution and sale of cigarettes and whisky, and, make gambling illegal. You will be making a big mistake for you will achieve nothing. Don't worry about me, whatever you do, I will get my smoke and my drink from illegal, underground sources if you make it impossible for legitimate businessmen to supply what I need. I will also find someone to accept my bets whatever you do.
Economics and history would both be on my side. Mahatma Gandhi tried to enforce prohibition in India. He failed. India's efforts to ban gambling have resulted in every street in India having gamblers who will either be placing or accepting bets on cricket matches. Americans experimented with prohibition in the 30's, the experiment was a miserable failure leading to the rise of gangsters like Al Capone who kept the Americans well supply with their daily drinks. America's current efforts to control drugs have also failed and have in fact exacerbated the drug problem. The underworld keeps drugs within easy reach of all students in every campus in every US state.
My advice to government, society and do gooders, 'Leave me alone, for it ain't anybody's business if I smoke, drink, or gamble.'