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Letters: A smoker's right to harm others?

April 28, 2013
  • Officials in New York City are considering raising the legal smoking age from 18 to 21.
Officials in New York City are considering raising the legal smoking age… (Timothy A. Clary / AFP/Getty…)

Re "The right to dumb choices," Editorial, April 24

In opposing a proposal in New York City to raise the legal smoking age from 18 to 21, The Times claims that "a decision to smoke harms only the smoker." That's questionable.

Decisions by motorists not to wear seat belts and motorcycle riders not to wear helmets do not directly harm anyone else. So why have seat belt and helmet laws?

Simple: Safety devices dramatically reduce the incidences and severity of injuries suffered in accident — which, in turn, reduce the public funds spent on medical costs and emergency services.

Similarly, a smoker is far more likely to suffer health problems that are expensive to treat. And that hurts us nonsmoking taxpayers too.

Joyce Howerton


The Times is correct that people have the right to make dumb choices, and editors of newspapers apparently have the right to make dumb comments. But I have never dropped a newspaper so fast as I did Wednesday morning after reading a breathtakingly wrong statement: "A decision to smoke harms only the smoker."

Really? Then why is there a law in California prohibiting smoking in cars with children? Why is smoking banned in offices, restaurants and bars? Why must I hold my breath every time I pass a building where smokers are huddled outside over their cigarettes? Why do the children and spouses of smokers have higher rates of cancer?

The Times can exercise its right to make dumb statements, but it should not insult readers' intelligence.

Emily Yukich

Cheviot Hills

The Times writes that "adults should retain the right to make most decisions that affect only themselves, even very bad decisions." As far as smoking is concerned, I disagree.

My brother-in-law recently died "before his time" of lung cancer, the direct result of his many years of smoking. We all pay in some way for his cancer treatments and hospice care. Our premiums rise and our tax dollars pay for the added medical costs.

Who else suffered? How about his wife and children? How about my wife and her sisters, who lost a sibling?

Take it from this ex-smoker: As difficult as it is to quit, it is so worth it. Not only did the wheezing stop, but with the money I saved, I bought my wife many nice presents. Just ask her.

Gale Poppen

Ridgecrest, Calif.


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