Let's talk about cigarettes. Suppose you smoke one pack per day. Is that irrational? I hope all will agree that no one who is concerned to be optimally healthy as long as possible should smoke 20 cigarettes a day, let alone 80 like Rod Serling who died at age 50 on the operating table. But long-term health is only one value among many. Would Serling have been as productive without the weed? Maybe not.
Suppose one genuinely enjoys smoking and is willing to run the risk of disease and perhaps shorten one's life by say five or ten years in order to secure certain benefits in the present. There is nothing irrational about such a course of action. One acts rationally -- in one sense of 'rational' -- if one chooses means conducive to the ends one has in view. If your end in view is to live as long as possible, then don't smoke. If that is not your end, if you are willing to trade some highly uncertain future years of life for some certain pleasures here and now, and if you enjoy smoking, then smoke.
The epithet 'irrational' is attached with more justice to the fascists of the Left, the loon-brained tobacco wackos, who, in the grip of their misplaced moral enthusiasm, demonize the acolytes of the noble weed. The church of liberalism must have its demon, and his name is tobacco. I should also point out that smoking, like keeping and bearing arms, is a liberty issue. Is liberty a value? I'd say it is. Yet another reason to oppose the liberty-bashing loons of the Left and the abomination of Obamacare with its individual mandate.
Smoking and drinking can bring you to death's door betimes. Ask Humphrey Bogart who died at 56 of the synergistic effects of weed and hooch. Life's a gamble. A crap shoot no matter how you slice it. Hear the Hitch:
Writing is what's important to me, and anything that helps me do that -- or enhances and prolongs and deepens and sometimes intensifies argument and conversation -- is worth it to me. So I was knowingly taking a risk. I wouldn't recommend it to others.
And like Bogie before him, Hitch paid the price for his boozing and smoking in the coin of an early death at 62. Had he taken care of himself he might have kept up his high-toned ranting and raving for another ten years at least.
So why don't I smoke and drink? The main reason is that smoking and drinking are inconsistent with the sorts of activities that provide satisfactions of a much higher grade than smoking and drinking. I mean: running, hiking, backpacking and the like. When you wake up with a hangover, are you proud of the way you spent the night before? Are you a better man in any sense? Do you really feel better after a night of physical and spiritual dissipation? Would you feel a higher degree of satisfaction if the day before you had completed a 26.2 mile foot race?
Health and fitness in the moment is a short-term reason. A long-term reason is that I want to live as long as possible so as to finish the projects I have in mind. It is hard to write philosophy when you are sick or dead. And here below is where the philosophy has to be written. Where I hope to go there will be no need for philosophy.