The cigarette carton dilemma

Recently, I gave a speech on drug legislation, pointing out that tobacco is a far more dangerous drug than ecstasy is. Which is true. To add a bit of colour to my speech, I included in it the use of a bottle of alcohol and a pack of cigarettes as props.

Obviously, being a non-smoker I didn’t have any cigarettes and Ryan having disappeared for the day, I had to resort to going out and buying some. This wasn’t a big deal, they were only £3.95, but it then put forward an interesting question – what to do with the pack of cigarettes after I had used them.

My first instinct would just be to give them to a friend who smoked, so they wouldn’t go to waste. But then, maybe they should go to waste. I had just given a talk on how dangerous cigarettes were after all, and so it seemed that the best thing to do would just be to throw the pack of cigarettes away so that nobody could smoke them.

This seems to undermine freedom of choice though. I don’t want to restrict what people can and cannot do. As both a libertarian and a rationalist, the ideal world for me is one where everything is allowed but people make sensible decisions – so doing heroin would be legal, but nobody would do it because everyone makes rational decisions.

But then, by throwing them away, I wouldn’t be preventing people from smoking. I just wouldn’t be supporting it, which is all I can really do.

In the end, though, I decided to give them to a friend. The decision came down to this – the cigarette company already has my £3.95 from the sale. Now if I throw them anyway, my friends are unlikely to smoke any less, so they’ll just go out and buy some as normal and the cigarette company has got £7.90 out of us. But by giving them away, it avoids the need for them to buy cigarettes and so effectively the tobacco industry hasn’t got any money out of me. This seemed the most satisfying solution.



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This entry was posted on Saturday, July 7th, 2012 at 12:52 pm and is filed under Thoughts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.