BAN ME NOT, OH LITIGIOUS ONE!
Ok I’ll set ya straight I'm not big on smoking, I don't like to be around the stuff. In the massive recurring train wreck that is my life, smoking is the one single vice that I've managed to avoid. Therefore, I just love to get all self righteous about it. Smoking sucks! But, please don’t misinterpret me, my nicotine tainted reader, I am not saying that smokers suck. I know lots of smokers, they are fine people and they don’t, other then a little smoke... suck!
With that said, I don’t believe it is proper for government to force smoking bans on private institutions. I think it's the pinnacle of tyranny and arrogance to require tavern/restaurant owners to ban smoking. I cannot understand how some one would think they have the right to force someone to disallow a LEGAL activity at their private establishment. That should remain to be a matter of choice by the individual business owner. I agree, there are many valid arguments against smoking, and it would be great if we could make it go away. But NOT via such a foreboding assault on personal freedom. Remember, these are private establishments, no one is forced to go there and no one is forced to work there. Yes smoking sucks, but I'll side with choice and freedom, are they not the very foundation that makes America, well you know, ...AMERICA? A foundation that is being eroded by an overbearing and self righteous governing body. Freedom and choice. Look, we already have the choice to get fired rather then take a urine test, and the way things are heading, soon a woman will have the freedom not to have an abortion. If smoking bugs you... Boycott the place, open up a smoke free bar/restaurant of your own, or wear a gas mask even. But please, not another regulation that chips away at our ever-shrinking personal freedom.
Ok, that's my take on a public smoking ban; I'm stepping off my soapbox... Wow, that was a big step!
An alternate look at the act of lighting up.
It would be interesting, I think, to look at smoking from a different perspective. What if "smoking" never happened? What if we occupied a parallel universe where every thing is exactly the same except for just one thing*: It has never occurred to anyone to purposely inhale concentrated amounts of smoke into his or her lungs. It’s a telling sign of the self-destructive nature of man that this tiny stipulation, is in fact, highly improbable. The history of mankind abundantly illustrates that if it's a bad idea, we will, without a doubt, gleefully embrace it! Normal animal instinct tells us to move away from smoke. ...No, not Homo Sapiens, we are smarter! Let's stick that burning object into our mouths and inhale it! Yep, we smarter then the animals! On a tangent that couldn’t possibly be more off the subject, but once again, shamefully exposes this upturned man/animal intelligence comparison, I'll ask you this: who possess the greater brain? The lowly gerbil, or the guy who thought it would be really neat idea to… You've heard the stories haven’t you? YIKES!!! Let's get back on topic.
Like I said, for the following example, let's understand that no one has ever smoked a cigarette. Till now… Just picture the debate about smoking if it was a brand new thing. Can you imagine the snowflakes chance in hellfire the tobacco industry would have getting its product rolled out under today's conditions? If I were a betting man who had to pick one, I'd take the snowflake. And I'd bet the mortgage.
Now, an attempt to illustrate my point...
Consider the following exchange between a stranger and a bartender. It happens in a Tavern near by. Perhaps in this alternate world, your mirrored counterpart would be one of the participants in our little drama…
Stranger: Hey barkeep, give me a bottle of Pabst.
Bartender: (Setting down his beer) here ya go sir.
S: Hey do you mind do you mind if I light up?
B: What do you mean... light up?
S: (Showing him) This, it’s the newest thing; it’s called a cigarette. It's a paper tube filled with dried leaves.
B: …I see that, and you want to do what?
S: I would like to light it, you know ...with this match.
B: Ok, I’ll play along, may I ask why you want to start a fire inside my bar?
S: See, I plan on inhaling the smoke into my lungs. Burning these tobacco leaves produces substance called nicotine. I’m addicted to it.
B: Holy crap, that sounds like a bad idea! My brother in law died from inhaling smoke when his house burnt down. Smoke is basically a poison, won't it kill you?
S: Maybe, they say burning tobacco will produce over 200 toxic compounds. So I guess eventually it could kill me. But ya gotta die from something. Besides it’s the nicotine that I'm after, it’s a powerful drug, and like I said I’m addicted.
B: Let me see that… (Looking it over, thoughtfully)
S: Plus, it all looks so cool. See it's even on the package, ...Kool.
B: Yeah, I’ll give you that! It does look pretty cool. ...A long slender white tube. It must be really neat when it's lit up. A fire hanging from your lip! And being able to blow smoke around at will, like a powerful wizard, or a fire breathing dragon...
S: Well, I don’t know about that exactly…
B: You mentioned addiction, how long did it take to get hooked on these? Must have taken awhile.
S: I started about 7 weeks ago.
B: That quick, and you can't stop?
S: Sure, I suppose I could stop, if I wanted to… But I figure, hey, it's my right to smoke these. Smokers have rights too!
B: This nicotine drug must really give you a great feeling. What does it do?
S: Well, it's a slight buzz when you first start smoking, but that goes away once your body adapts. You kind of lose your appetite, food don’t taste as good… not much else.
B: Well, it doesn't sound that great...
S: No, I guess it's not. To be honest, I'd say it's more about the discomfort of going without a smoke, rather then the great pleasure you get from smoking it.
B: Like going without water?
S: Yeah, that about sums it up. It's no big deal to have a drink of water, but try skipping it for a day.
B: So you smoke one of these every day?
S: I wish. They come in a pack of twenty; I'm at a pack and a half a day. Here, care to try one?
S: Ah, no thanks, I think I wait for more information on the health risk involved. Perhaps the government will publish something, you know, from the US Surgeon General or someone like that. …
S: Yeah, I guess that's possible. So, back to my question… Can I light this up?
B: Why sure, I guess you could light it up. But NOT in my bar, are you crazy or what? That smoke is toxic; I don’t want to breath it. Besides, it'll stink up the whole joint, and stain my new ceiling tiles.
S: Ok, I see your point. I guess it was dumb of me to ask. You sure you don’t want to step outside with me and try one…
B: Ah… Let me think… NO!
In summation, we have an interesting paradox. In our alternate world, it has been demonstrated that it would be absurd to for one to insist he /she has the “right” to light up in public. But equally so, in today's real world, forcing bar owners to disallow smoking in their establishments is equally absurd. - Not to mention, it has an ominous Big Brother feel to it. It all demonstrates the power of momentum. The status quo lives on.
*It is interesting to note that SNL's Father Guido Sarducci once visited a parallel universe that also only had one difference. In his universe, when they ate corn on the cob, they would hold the cob vertically and eat it up and down the cob, rather then across. That's gotta be one crazy planet, eh?
S. Lyle OConnor is not in the building. He is out at the bars trying to pick up smokin’ women - who don’t smoke. Look for him at an establishment near you. Or drop him a line if you dare. firstname.lastname@example.org