Sunday, April 25, 2004

Up in Smoke (HA! A pun.)

Any individual who purports to advocate for so-called "smokers' rights" could just as well fight any legislation that impinges upon "chronic public shitters' rights." Both smokers and public poopers greatly inconvenience bystanders with their smelly peccadillo, after all. The difference, of course, is that it doesn't cost taxpayers and health insurance subscribers $100 billion a year to treat diseases related to dropping trow and crapping in the middle of the sidewalk. Nor does someone publicly laying a misplaced bowlwinder in close proximity to children subject the kids to second-hand carcinogens and increased rates of asthma and bronchitis.

So why do smokers pull such rank with legislators?

I and most my readers are California residents, and thus for nigh on a decade haven't had to deal with smoking in restaurants. As we turn 21, we don't even have to deal with smoke in bars or clubs. Not everyone (including every person in the world outside of New York, our own Golden State, parts of Ireland, and Singapore) is so priveledged.

When I was in Munich, I couldn't go out for a bite without coming home smelling vaguely of a low-stakes black jack table in Reno. Though the natives with whom I ate had of course gotten used to the dense fog of smoke that fills every restaurant in Germany, they admitted that it was preferable to confine smoking to outdoors and private homes.

One international newspaper I read on the train reported on legislation in Ireland that outlawed smoking in bars and restaruants so long as there were employees in the building. One smoking interviewee claimed the law was "unfair to smokers" and "Orwellian" in its control. Not so fast, paddy. "Unfair" would be if all smokers were summarily kicked in the stomach by Borlaf, the Swedish underdog for the Stongest Man in the Wold competition. "Orwellian" would be if the Irish governement installed screens on your livingroom wall that monitered whether you smoked in your house. "Unfairly Orwellian" would be if the punishment for smoking in your home was Borlaf coming over and kicking you in the stomach, then crushing all your porcelain cats with his bare meat claws.

Now Santa Monica legislators are gonna outlaw smoking on the pier, and the "smokers' rights" constituency is brustling. Business owners are complaining that restricting smoking will drive customers to other restaurants and piers in LA. Perhaps it never occured to them that good number of people are MORE likely to patronage their businesses if there ISN'T the possibility of having smoke blown in their faces or having a wayward cigarette butt light the turn-of-the-century wooden pier ablaze.

Or maybe it never occured to people that making smoking as difficult as possible will keep people from smoking. Since all those nasty anti-smoking laws took effect in California, our smoking rates have been dropping consistently. The fewer people who smoke, the less we have to pay for treating hypertension and throat cancer. Everybody wins.

I have a good friend named Matt Loker, and he's an occasional smoker. He probably disagrees with me on this. He probably doesn't think the law should be used to regulate personal behavior. He also has long hippie hair. I say this to you, Hypothetical Matt Loker: Smoking ceases to be personal when it's public and/or incurs so much financial cost to society. Take THAT, HML!

In conclusion, don't smoke. Or shit in public.


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