In the movie ‘Thank You For Smoking’, the protagonist exposes the regulatory and social hypocrisy related to smoking and indeed regulatory policing quite brilliantly. He also indirectly raises another question: is individual freedom of action more important than moral or social guidelines? Regulators, be they in the government or in the church/temple/mosque, have their own ideas about morality, ethics, objectives, rights and duties. If one stands for a truly free society, it is imprudent for social norms to dictate free choice by dint of regulators and corporations. If the people have the democratic right to choose their own leader, they have the democratic right to choose their own lifestyle as long as this does not interfere with the freedom of others. Therefore a ban on smoking in public places is justified as a smoker impinges on the right of bystanders to clean tobacco-free air but a total ban of smoking impinges on private right and this is an instance of moral policing. The world around us abounds in the sinful. Cheddar is just one of those 21st Century temptations that are so dangerous in the long run but are still so deliciously irresistible in the short term. The consumption based free market economy will have to be traded for a Saudi Arabia type of setup to satisfy all moralists and regulators. No fast food, alcohol, cigarettes, loud music and bikinis.
Companies through intelligent product choices and effective but dubious marketing tools do manage to influence consumers for pecuniary benefit even when they know that their products are harmful. They sometimes even suppress information that could help consumers make informed choices for fear of falling profits thus laughing in the face of free choice. Therefore the government and the media have the right, even the responsibility of educating the masses and helping them take better life decisions. Nevertheless, let the customer have the last choice.
Disclaimer:I do not smoke and neither do I recommend it.