OF the line between individual freedom and social responsibility, it's been said that your freedom stops at the end of my nose. Adapting the adage, more and more people in the United States are telling smokers that their right of indulgence stops at other people's noses - and lungs. The surging movement against smoking in public places achieved another milestone last week when the Senate voted to prohibit smoking on all domestic airline flights. The measure, if it ultimately becomes law, extends and expands the current two-year ban on flights of two hours or less.
Although the measure itself passed on an unrecorded voice vote, it followed two procedural tallies on which the tobacco industry lost overwhelmingly. Let's hope that this bodes well for the measure's fate in the House of Representatives.
Proponents of the wider ban - led by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D) of New Jersey, formerly a heavy smoker himself - pointed to the growing evidence of tobacco smoke's harmful effects on nonsmokers. Flight attendants, in particular, lobbied strenuously for the ban, citing the ``passivesmoking'' health risks they run on long flights in a confined space.
Smokers, who say they're being discriminated against in the drive to widen the smoke-free environment, try to couch the issue in terms of choice. We urge all smokers to end their self-destructive habit; happily, many people are giving up tobacco or avoiding it in the first place. But if others choose to smoke, they don't have the right to foul the air all of us breathe.