If you read much of this site you may pick up on the fact that I am not pro-smoking (he understated). I was born in 1961, and in 1964 my mother quit smoking because I would not sit with her or let her hold me if she had a cigarette going. My father smoked for many more years, and finally quit by going through a program that consisted of making the rounds of a lung cancer hospice with the attending physicians, and attending the autopsies of the folks who died while you were there. He told me about a particular emaciated living skeleton of a man who sucked smoke through his tracheotomy tube. My dad attended his autopsy and said the man’s lungs looked like a couple of deflated black balloons stuffed with marbles. Too late though, as my dad died young from cancer anyway.
All my life, through my late teens, I was surrounded by people who smoked. My entire extended family had about 70% smokers, and family gatherings were a fog-shrouded stank-fest. Slowly but surely my relatives either quit or died, until now there are no smokers left. Also, starting in my teens I started refusing to socialize with people who smoked, due to the combination of the noxious fumes and the gut-wrenching pity I felt when I realized they were powerlessly trapped by their addiction and wished to quit, but could not. When I was a child, television commercials told me to smoke, and touted the various positive benefits of the different brands. Doctors and stars (like John Wayne) shilled for the tobacco companies.
Everything I Needed To Know About Smoking I Learned BEFORE Kindergarten
But even as a three year old I knew that tobacco was a disgusting and unhealthy habit, and must admit that to this day I think that *anybody* who tried to rationalize their smoking by saying they “didn’t know how bad it was” is full of baloney, as the human body tells you everything you need to know from puff one. But through a combination of mercenary marketing and peer pressure, successive generations each had a non-trivial percentage of its members enticed into the darkness of smoking. And, in the interest of full disclosure, if I am brutally honest with myself (and you), I find smoking to be a character flaw, not only then but particularly now.
Fortunately, I think we can all look around and see that it’s all over for smoking in America, except for the shouting. The places where it is acceptable to smoke in public are quickly shrinking, and we are now down to the last stand. Smokers have been forced into a strategic retreat until now the only places they can smoke are outdoors, in bars and clubs, and in the few remaining restaurant smoking sections. But that is not enough. Smoking is a scourge, a plague, and 50 years from now our descendents will scarcely believe our stupidity.
Even the tobacco companies know that it’s over, at least in the US, and are following strategies of attempting to increase consumption in third-world nations and/or to diversify their interests. A prime example is Phillip Morris, who bought Kraft Foods (yes, the cheese people) and then tried to change their name to “Altria” to hide the fact that they are death mongers who are trying to look legit. I actually cannot believe that anyone continues to work at tobacco companies, given what we know in this day and age. I sincerely hope that the tobacco companies are crushed out of existence before they can diversify enough to survive without tobacco, and if there is any justice in the world the executives who continue to promote cigarettes today will be subject to their own version of Nuremberg.
Stop the Insanity
I also think it is time for the US government to do the right thing and begin to legislate tobacco out of existence. Right now, the government seems content to simply try to tax it out of existence, but I find that strategy to be hypocritical and somewhat diabolical. The government needs to draw a firm line in the sand that says tobacco is evil and unecessary, harmful and exploitative, and set a timeline to completely eliminate smoking in America.
And I think that the first step along that path should be the outlawing of all public smoking. Indoors, outdoors, anywhere accessible by the general public or anywhere that is a workplace…no smoking. Adults should also be prohibited from smoking in enclosed spaces where children are present, including in their own homes and cars, and should be charged with child abuse if they do so. Many, many municipalities in the US have already banned public smoking, and even some countries have done so (Scotland, Bhutan, Cuba…CUBA!!!).
The reasons for an all-out ban are plentiful. First and foremost, tobacco smoke is disgusting and unhealthy and should not be inflicted on innocent non-smokers who are simply trying to live. Also, smoking tobacco introduces no benefit to society that could counterbalance its downsides. For example, many industrial plants emit noxious and unhealthy fumes, as do automobiles. But factories and cars introduce tremendous benefits to society. Could we as a society do a better job of cleaning them up? Sure we could. But it would be calamitous to shut them down until they could be made cleaner. Elimating public tobacco smoking (and dipping, which has to be the most disgusting habit allowed in public), however, causes no detriment to society whatsoever.
Also, allowing public smoking implies tacit approval of the behavior. Every pathetic huddled mass of smokers that an adolescent has to stumble through reinforces to their impressionable minds that adults smoke everywhere all the time, from their perspective. Outside the mall, outside the school, outside their parent’s workplace, restaurant smoking sections (which, you may have noticed, are almost always where the restrooms are located…that’s because the owners hope the stench of human excrement will cover the stench of smoking, or vice versa…in any case it lets them use the same air cleaners to remove the sh*tty smell from the area), bowling alleys, golf courses, the beach, the park, the softball field, the local pool, etc, etc, etc. Everywhere. All the time. That sends an indelible message to kids, who, like everyone else, are much more likely to follow the examples they see than to heed any warnings they hear.
Kill the Weed by Pulling Up the Roots
Also important is the need to put the tobacco companies on notice that it’s all over for them. Currently big tobacco is beating a strategic retreat, paying for placements of images of casual smoking in public media (movies, magazines, etc), while at the same time paying lip service to trying to stop kids from smoking. Talk about getting smoke blown up one’s skirt. They know that cigarettes will never be as ubiquitous in the US as they once were, but I’m sure they hold out hope of maintaining a core market. It is time for them to be disabused of that notion. And a ban on all public smoking will certainly send that unequivocal message.
Another reason to ban all public smoking is to give restaurant and bar owners the clout they need to enforce no-smoking policies without the need to enforce martial law over their patrons. Today, if one wishes to have a completely non-smoking restaurant or bar, one has several problems. First and foremost is that people who are addicted to nicotine are much more likely to also be compulsive drinkers, so if one attempted to enforce a no-smoking ban in an area where one’s competitors did not, ones best customers (addictive compulsives) would just head down the road where they could smoke AND drink.
Also, if a bar attempted to enforce a no-smoking policy, or even just a no-smoking night, this introduces severe logistical issues. The first is that no matter how much you promote it, the majority of your patrons are not going to know about the smoking ban. This means they will come to your establishment expecting to be able to smoke, if they are so inclined. Many may choose not to patronize your establishment, but others will be with groups or have other reasons to stay. Many, many of these will then attempt to sneak cigarettes, either by cupping it or smoking in the restroom. This means that you will have to have your staff enforce the no-smoking policy. Having been in the restaurant business myself, I can tell you that there are few people less reasonable than a drunken nicotine addict who is being denied his or her fix. These events often quickly escalate into shouting, pushing, and shoving matches, with bouncers needing to be involved resulting in disturbance for most of the patrons as well as bruised egos for the pathetic, drunken nicotine addicts.
However, if there is an all-out ban on smoking, the bar can simply call the cops and/or throw you out as if you were an underage drinker or if you were trying to snort lines of coke off the back of the toilet. There would be absolutely no way for you to claim ignorance, and the club can rightfully protest that their hands are tied. Also, they can do this freely and easily while knowing that you won’t simply take your business down the road, because the place down the road has to follow the same laws that they do.
The Greater Good
And now we come to the reason that causes the most debate. Public smoking should be outlawed for the good of the individual smokers. I can hear the howls now, about how it’s none of the government’s business what you do..blah..blah..blah. However, it is the business of government to do exactly that. It is the business of government to serve the greater good. The government tells us what to do and what not to do every day. I’ll give you a hypothetical situation. Picture the outdoor patio of an upscale restaurant. Now picture a man climbing up on his table, squatting down, releasing a trap-door in the back of his pants, and taking a dump in the middle of his table. The trap-door is engineered so that he is not exposing himself during this act. Once finished he cleans up, closes the trap-door, then sits back down the enjoy the rest of his meal. Meanwhile the stench of his excrement is wafting across the patio, turning the stomachs of those around him, and disgusting most people in the general area.
Smokers, you are no better than Mr. Trap Door. In fact, in my opinion, you are worse, because at least excrement is something natural and normal. Now, it’s ingrained in our race memory that we don’t sh*t where we eat, and for good reason, because it’s not healthy. Well, neither is your incinerated weed that you so callously blow my way on that same patio. Or movie line. Or park. Or parking lot. Or covered mall entryway. Or beach. Or golf course. Or jogging trail (yes, there’s a regular CIGAR SMOKER that infests our local running trail). Or skyscraper entrance. Or airport sidewalk.
The list goes on and on, even in this current age where I hear you smokers constantly whining about how you can’t smoke anywhere any more. From my perspective, you smoke EVERYWHERE. That’s right…EVERYWHERE I go I have to brace myself to wade through the stench of your foul, pathetic habit. As does my wife. As does my daughter. It is not right.
And it’s beyond the point of compromise or manners, as the smoking community has proven that they refuse to admit that their habit is disgusting and so have refused to voluntarily curtail it in public. So the time has come for governments and municipalities to step in and do the right thing.