The eighth deadly sin

Here's an unpopular view: the fever-pitch opposition to smoking is more about moral hysteria than a genuine concern for public health. While it is perfectly rational to demand that public places like bars, restaurants and workplaces remain smoke-free, but something else is afoot when you start banning them from parks and, yes, even prison yards.

Item number one: California bans smoking in its prison system in order to "improve the work environment and potentially drop health care costs."

Here's what that bow-tied horror Tucker Carlson made of the smoking ban on MSNBC:

[P]eople who administer the prisons in California think of smoking not as a health risk but as a sin. They have a moral problem with smoking, and that‘s insane. ... But as a country, as the country becomes less religious, it replaces traditional religion with health. We worship physical health. And so in place of the traditional sins, we have sins against the body. And smoking is the key one.
I'm hard pressed to disagree with him. Let's put aside conservative hypocrisy in arguing against smoking when they're busy rolling back the rights of prisoners, period -- that's a way too easy and self-serving distraction from the issue at hand. Especially since here's item number two: A federal judge orders federal authorities to take control of California's prison health care system whose "barbaric medical conditions" have caused "64 preventable deaths of inmates a year and injury to countless others."

I doubt that any progressive -- with our awareness of the appalling conditions in U.S. prisons, which include rape, criminal neglect, and sanctioned violence -- would argue that smoking is the greatest health hazard facing inmates.

The real rationale for banning smoking: to deprive inmates the little pleasure they can enjoy within the grim confines of captivity. In other words, just more of the conservative punish-the-sinners bullshit. And how nice that they can do it while professing concern for their health, thanks to the current climate of tobacco-phobia.

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