Monday, November 26, 2007
Pursuant to a recent thread in the comments, I was drawn to this article ("What's Smokin': Water Pipes") on the emerging trend of hookah smoking -- and then stunned by how much of it was devoted to making the activity seem as forboding as possible.
As if nobody knows by now that regular smoking is an unhealthy activity, much ink is devoted to parroting stern government warnings about the ill effects of smoking. And then, because some results of the studies on cigarette smoking may not necessarily apply to hookah smoking, the article drones on and on about the scientific evidence on the subject and what aspects of it are under dispute. The reporter goes out of her way to consider both sides of the emerging controversy.
Interestingly enough, as with other health-related issues that our mixed economy transmogrifies into public policy controversies and as with the global warming debate, this article perseverates on a scientific question (the consequences of whose answer need concern only those individuals who choose to smoke hookahs) at the cost of completely ignoring another question: Should the state be telling people whether (or how) they should smoke at all?
Interestingly enough, the question which is being ignored has ramifications for all of us, smoker or not, and reader or not. The media get away with this partly because so many people no longer understand the actual purpose of the government (protection of individual rights) or regard it with the proper degree of suspicion when some propose its new or continued misuse for other purposes.
In fact, so many regard the role of the government as "protecting the little guy", including from himself, that I am sure that Janet Cromley will score brownie points for being so thorough about presenting the dangers of smoking yet again to hookah smoker and meddlesome activist alike. She will be regarded as thorough and good, even as through neglect or malevolence she sells them and the rest of us down the river of an ever-expanding nanny state.