March 6, 2011

Good Intentions?

Filed under: Uncategorized — publicandprivatespace @ 3:33 pm

By Andrew Hare

When I started my research assignment on public and private space I tried to think of something that redefined what public and private space is. After toying with the idea of researching twitter or airport security I decided on smoking bans. What I found was that smoking bans have redefined public and private space through government regulation.

I found the obvious examples of smoking bans placed on private businesses such as airlines, bars, restaurants, clubs, and workplaces and the public bans in parks and sidewalks. The reasoning for government intervention was clear, public health. The surgeon general reports have been warning of health risks associated with smoking since 1964.

With public health a priority groups are now looking to ban smoking by parents in the presence of children in their homes and automobiles. Some states are considering automobile smoking bans with any passengers, even if they too are smoking. Keeping in mind the health risk of smoking, some health conscience employers are turning away smokers.

As I dug deeper into the implications of all these smoking bans I started to see trends of similar bans. Proposed bans on high calorie meals and junk food, the monitoring of the food parents feed to children, constrictions on advertisements of non-healthy food items to kids, and other creative solutions to tackling another health epidemic, obesity.

I wasn’t sure if I should be proud of the government for trying to create a healthier America, or upset with the government intervention into private life. Then I wondered to myself why does the government care so much? Why are the bans so stringent that a bar who wants to allow smokers be fined incessantly? Then, in a proverbial light bulb over the head moment, I came to the sad realization of why private space was being compromised. Money.

All my research into smoking bans, and the foundation they created for further legislation was based on health risks. Take one look at America’s fiscal disaster and what are two things government agrees cannot be cut out of the budget: Medicare and Medicaid. In excess of 500 billion dollars is spent each year on Medicare and Medicaid. Keep in mind this is only includes government insurance, add in the private sector and there’s over two trillion dollars of money in health care insurance. Then it becomes much clearer why the government has such a vested interest in keeping the American people healthy.

As America attempts to tighten the belt on the swelling budget, trimming healthcare costs is a point of interest. Once it had been determined that private businesses weren’t going to ban smoking despite the reported health risks, the government stepped in. With those bans came a loss of control over private space. The government would now decide what was healthy.

Now that I have the opportunity to look back on all of my research on smoking bans, I see how government cracked open the door into private space and is now prepared to open it all the way. At first I did not realize what the bans were for. I wanted to believe the government was just an overbearing big brother trying to keep America healthy. In the end I found a loss of private space driven by money, trimming down Medicare and Medicaid while driving up the private sector profits.

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