It’s a Privilege to Smoke?

A recent news article regarding a smoking ban on a college campus quoted a student saying that, as a smoker, he wasn’t upset that his “privilege may be taken away.”  Exactly what part of smoking makes it a “privilege?”

There are several definitions for the word privilege.  If the word is used as a noun, it is considered a right, immunity, benefit or exemption.  According to the Law of Privilege from Wikipedia, “a right is an inherent, irrevocable entitlement held by all citizens or all human beings from the moment of birth.”  If you are a citizen of the United States you have certain rights according to our Constitution.  Smoking isn’t listed as one of the rights.

The college student is allowed to smoke, but saying it is his privilege or right would be incorrect.  Buying a pack of cigarettes does not give him “a special entitlement to immunity… granted by an authority to a restricted group…on a conditional basis.”  The tobacco industry has acted as that authority in the past, using doctors and dentists in their advertisements to promote their cigarette products as an answer to good health, staying slim, and enjoying life.  But now that entitlement to immunity is on the line.

The student has the luxury of going to college.  He also appears to have the luxury at being able to afford the costly habit of cigarettes.  His privilege of smoking will not make him immune or exempt to the health hazards.  The price he pays for the cigarettes now will seem cheap in relationship to the price he pays in his later years for emphysema, heart disease, and possibly cancer for his privilege.


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