The usual argument for banning smoking but not banning meat-eating runs through externalities - harms that your smoking may impose on others, that your meat-eating doesn't. But is the distinction that sharp? The health harms of second-hand smoke seem rather overstated; the main external cost borne by someone sitting in a restaurant with a smoker is having to endure the smell of cigarettes. But vegans may feel the same way about the smell of grilled flesh.The World Health Organisation ranks bacon, ham and sausages alongside smoking as a cause of cancer, placing processed meats in the same carcinogenic category as asbestos, alcohol and arsenic. The World Cancer Research Fund advises eating cured meats as little as possible – ideally not at all. And there’s persuasive evidence that, compared to a solely plant-based diet, eating meat shortens life and makes people sicker and fatter.Against this background, the NHS allows fast food chains in its hospitals. Patient menus offer a wide selection of meats every day. And creamed potatoes, beef casserole and sweet chilli pork and rice are recommended “healthier choices”. Patients can tuck into disease-promoting animal flesh, but do not enjoy unrestricted hedonism. Meat eaters who enjoy a relaxing cigarette after dinner are prevented from doing so, apparently in their own and others’ best interests, thanks to a blanket ban on smoking.
It might sound like a crazy long-shot, but where NZ's public health people are already pushing for plain packaging on Coke, maybe it isn't a crazy long-shot. First it'll be mandatory vegan sections in restaurants, to mitigate the harms of smelling and seeing meat. Then stronger fans. Then when those are unable to overcome the smell of bacon, separate rooms for the meat-eaters, with the rest of the restaurant being vegan. And then the full ban.