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Venezuela: Arguments For and Against the Smoking Ban

It is no secret that smokers and non-smokers argue over issues regarding health, air and the freedom of choice. However, many people have used different modes of citizen media to comment, protest and debate the reasons behind the Venezuelan government's recent introduction of a new anti-tobacco law, which had been repealed in February.

The law is viewed as a necessary step by those who recognize the risks of passive smoking. Others consider it to be a new form of repression and claim that other priorities and urgent matters are being neglected.

Image by Huseyin Emre Tazegul, copyright Demotix (15/07/09).

Image by Huseyin Emre Tazegul, copyright Demotix (15/07/09).

In his blog Sin Gasolina [es], Horacio says there are valid reasons for making environments 100% smoke free. They:

* Disminuyen el riesgo de infarto del miocardio, cáncer del pulmón y asma

* Reducen 30% el consumo de cigarrillos y son un estímulo para dejar de fumar

* Garantizan el derecho de la población trabajadora a un ambiente laboral saludable

* Son fáciles de implementar y cuestan muy poco

* Reduce the risk of heart attacks, cardiovascular diseases, lung cancer and asthma.

* Reduce the sale of cigarettes by 30% and encourage people to give up smoking.

* Guarantee the working population's right to a healthy working environment.

* Are easy and cheap to implement.

In contrast, Naky [es] strongly opposes the law, describing it as a way of restricting and influencing an individual's free will:

¿Cómo interpretar favorables, leyes que “piensan por mí”? Antes fue la ley contra videojuegos y juegos violentos, que se suponen más nocivos que la formación deniños en “guerrillas comunicacionales” o la de jóvenes como miliacianos. Le siguió otra que prohíbe la transmisión de narco-novelas. Hoy es una ley anti-tabaco, aprobada antes que una anti-desarme a pesar que las armas representaron 19.000 muertes violentas en 2009

How can you be in favour of laws which think for you? Before, it was the law banning violent games and videogames, which were supposedly more harmful than children being trained in “guerilla communications” or young people being trained to be militia. Then there was another law which prohibited the broadcast of narco-novelas [Note: Latin American soap operas in which the action takes place around drug wars]. Now it is the smoking ban, which has been passed before a disarmament law, despite arms causing 19,000 violent deaths in 2009.

Jesús, on the other hand, has a different opinion [es]:

Estoy plenamente consciente de que todos tenemos derecho a elegir algo (y a sufrir las consecuencias de nuestra decisión), al igual que podemos elegir nuestro bien, no debemos limitar a la gente que elija su mal. Tratar a la gente como limitados mentales que necesitan de la eterna ayuda del Estado o de un ente externo que les diga que hacer y que no (sin dejar derecho a réplica o de participar en la legislación de dichas normas) es harto insultante para alguien que se asuma como libre. Lo lamento, pero una sociedad libre no se construye con cultos a la mendicidad ni con tratamientos infantiles ni con disposiciones arbitrarias. Los vicios no son crímenes.

I am fully aware of the fact we all have the right to make our own decisions (and to suffer the consequences of these decisions). In the same way we are able choose what is good for us, we should not restrict people who make bad decisions. Treating people as though they had limited mental capacity and needed eternal help from the State or an external entity which tells them what and what not to do (without preserving their right to either denounce or agree with the legislation of the so-called rules) is extremely insulting for somebody who considers themselves to be free. I am sorry to say this, but a free society is not built with groups of beggars, nor by treating people like children and passing arbitrary laws. A vice is not a crime.

Blogger «lenguaeniple» uses the collective blog Panfleto Negro [es] to reflect upon the State's right to dictate the behaviour of its citizens:

El Estado tiene la atribución, potestad y facultad de prohibir fumar en Registros, Notarías, Alcaldías, Ministerios y/o cualquier otra dependencia de su propiedad, lo que definitivamente es una aberración es que ese mismo Estado sea quien decida que a usted, dentro de su negocio, le está prohibido fumar.

The State has the power and legal authority to prohibit smoking in registry offices, notary offices, town halls, ministries and/or any other dependent of its property. What is a true aberration is the fact that this same State can decide that you are not allowed to smoke in your own business.

The comments on Twitter also showed differing points of view. Fewer words expressed more complaints, and they all expressed disbelief regarding the respect (or lack thereof) many people have for the Law. Robert M (@robert7772), Adrian (@AdriianRz) and Sabrina Baroni (@Sabrina_Baroni) said:

Esperemos que la Ley Antitabaco si es que llega a ser ley se cumpla, porque aquí en Venezuela rara vez se cumplen las leyes.

Let us hope that the smoking ban is actually upheld because here in Venezuela laws are rarely upheld.

En este país (Venezuela) ninguna ley se cumple, que te hace pensar que la “Ley Antitabaco” sera la excepción?

In this country (Venezuela) no other law is upheld, what makes you think the smoking ban will be an exception?

Mientras [Chávez] candanga hace campaña, todos enloquecen por la LeyAntitabaco. A veces pienso que Venezuela tiene el presidente que se merece…

[Chavez] is fighting his campaign, and yet everybody is indignant at the smoking ban. Sometimes I think that Venezuela deserves the president it has…

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