Nationwide, smoking bans are on the rise in workplaces, restaurants and bars. Research shows that bans decrease the overall number of cigarettes people smoke and in some cases, actually result in people quitting.What's interesting about this story is not what it says, but what it doesn't say. The implications seem patently obvious that if what NPR says is true, then wouldn't that follow with all banned substances such as, say, crack cocaine, powder cocaine, heroin, crystal meth and dozens of other addictive substances which are banned outright? I don't have any evidence that NPR are cheerleaders for and end to the war on drugs or have a particular editorial bias against it, but I do know that they have many stories which are critical of the war on drugs. One of my biggest complaints about smoking bans-- a complaint which seems to increasingly fall on deaf ears-- is that we are systematically rolling everyday substances into the drug war. Ultimately, what's the difference between banning cocaine and banning cigarettes? As of late, the only difference is that there is no nationwide federal ban on cigarettes... yet. Municipalities are continuously banning cigarettes in wider and wider venues, however.
One reason bans help people quit is simple biology. Inhaling tobacco actually increases the number of receptors in the brain that crave nicotine.
"If you had a smoker compared to a nonsmoker and were able to do imaging study of the brain, the smoker would have billions more of the receptors in areas of the brain that have to do with pleasure and reward," says Richard Hurt, an internist who heads the Mayo Clinic's Nicotine Dependence Center.
In my opinion, this is where drug wars start. We are seeing a new appendage to the drug war beginning to sprout, and in my estimation, many people who claim to be against the so-called "war on drugs" are supporting these same increasingly draconian municipal smoking bans with little or no sense of irony.
Aside: The NPR story made a segue into another smoking-related story about bans taking effect in mental institutions. The unintentionally funny quote of the year is in the audio of the story. At one point, there are worries expressed that mentally ill people who may be seeking treatment may not do so because if they find out they can't smoke in their favorite mental institution, they may avoid said treatment. The commentator in the story said, and I quote, "Mentally ill people may not have so much to fear".
Isn't it the very difinition of severe mental illness that you're completely loaded down with irrational fears that you can't be talked out of by logic and reason?
Phew, it appears that NPR has stumbled upon the best treatment for the mentally ill: Just tell them all their fears are unfounded. Who'da thunk?