Over at Hit and Run, Jacob Sullum skewers William F. Buckly for comparing people who refuse to support smoking bans to those who provide Zyklon-B to Nazi Death camps Sullum observes:
There’s no need to speculate about the reasons for Buckley’s newfound anti-tobacco faith. He himself ascribes it to his wife’s recent death (“technically from an infection, but manifestly, at least in part, from a body weakened by 60 years of nonstop smoking”) and his own emphysema, caused by “the idiocy of cigars inhaled.”
So, she died at the age of what, 80+, after receiving the benefits and pleasures of 60 freaking years of smoking? I am reminded of the quip made when Julia Child died at 91, “if she hadn’t eaten all that wonderful fat rich food, she might have made it to 92.”
Every action has tradeoffs. Things that bring enjoyment today have costs tomorrow. Stop to smell the roses and it takes you longer to reach your destination.
Somewhere along the line we made the cultural decision that a long life represented the ultimate good and that anything that we think we can measure that shortens life is automatically just not worth it. I suspect this comes from a scientific distortion sometimes caused “metric bias,” i.e., the tendency to attribute significance to phenomena based on how easily they can be accurately measured.
Its easy to measure life span but very difficult to measure quality of life. So, we take the easy way and decide that living a long life is better than living a high-quality life full of events that shorten life span.
Redd Fox once said that if you follow a rigorous health regime, you don’t live longer, it just feels that way. We should automatically question the assumption in most health-related debates that a maximum life span represents the ultimate good.