Secondhand support: quit persecuting smokers

Let me be perhaps the first person to say: quit persecuting smokers… Let the poor oppressed smoking class puff away in peace.smokers outside

I don’t smoke. I’ve never smoked. (The occasional four drags on a wedding reception cigar before I turn green and puke doesn’t count as smoking.) But I’ll stand by other people’s right to light up.

Pack warnings or not, we all know smoking is bad for us, right? Sucking fumes from burning leaves into your body, holding it there for a couple of seconds and blowing it out again is NOT a natural thing to do. Most people I know don’t want to get cancer. Over 480,000 smokers die from it every year. It’s fun for them, I guess, the whole flirting with death thing. Not to me, but to them.

I don’t jump out of airplanes or listen to opera either but I wouldn’t push for laws against them. But cities and states across America have been successfully implementing smoking bans since the mid 90s. Bars, restaurants, sports stadiums, and pretty much every indoor, public place ---indoor, public smoking is now prohibited to some degree in 80% of the country.

Okay, I can understand banning cigarettes in places that serve food. But bars? If you can’t damage your lungs while wrecking your liver, ruining your hearing, and searching for unprotected sex, why even leave the house?

puck_bowling_gameI’ve spent a lot of time in bars. First, as a kid, nine or ten years old, hanging out in taverns with my dad. I’d play sliding puck bowling or pinball while he shot the breeze with his drinking buddies. The smell of stale cigar smoke and beer always made me oddly nostalgic. He’d drive home with me on his lap sometimes, so I could steer or “work the pedals.”

Later, in college, when I’d hit the bars and dance clubs, the smell of smoke was part of a night out. During my improv days, smoke smell in my clothes reminded me of the laughs we got on the comedy club stage.

Anti-smoking zealots obviously don’t share my unique relationship with smoke. To them, banishing smokers to huddle in bunches 15 feet from doorways, winter or summer isn’t enough. They moved the fight outside. “Outdoor smoking bans have nearly doubled in the last five years with nearly 2,600 in place and more in the works,” according to a recent Chicago Sun-Times article. “…playgrounds, zoos, beaches and ball fields, as well as outdoor dining patios, bus stops, and building doorways.”

Secondhand smoke is deadly, they’re quick to tell you, no matter where it is. But a recent study shows that’s simply not true. “The evidence of harm to non-smokers on the beach or in a park from someone smoking is virtually non-existent,” explains Ronald Bayer, a professor at Columbia University’s School of Public Health and lead author of the study.

Bayer believes this effort to “de-normalize” smoking is a backhanded way of protecting smokers from themselves. I have a different theory: anti-smokers think smoking is icky. Secondhand smoke in the park is like dog poop, they say. They don’t like smoke wafting through the open air. They don’t even want their kids exposed to the sight of anyone puffing on a cig.

These people aren’t satisfied with staying in their own little world, minding their own business, live and let live. Yucky, stinky cigarette smoke isn’t part of that perfect, special bubble where they live, filled only with things that have their stamp of approval.

They want to ban soft drinks over 16 ounces and same-sex couples from getting married. They’re not big fans of “do onto others as you would have them do to you.”

So smoke, smoke, smoke that cigarette. I’m behind you all the way… Just watch where you flick that butt!

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