Friday, February 23, 2007

Should Smokers be Allowed to Smoke in Public Places?

A smoker recently complained "I also find the argument that illnesses caused by smoking cost the government enormous sums of the tax payers (sic) money, faintly absurd. Just as many people, if not more, cost the tax payer through drunken driving and, just as likely, through the increasing problem of obesity!" She added "Has the Goverment (sic) considered banning drinking in a public place because of the cost to the tax payer?"

Finally, she stated triumphantly "Be honest, who would you rather sit next to on (sic) an aeroplane - a person who was smoking before they got on the plane or someone who had (sic) had several too many drinks?!"

Er, I'll take the alcoholic, please. I'm deathly allergic to cigarette smoke, even if it's only clinging to the smoker's clothes and hair. And, truthfully, vomit smells better.

This type of argument is a very poor one indeed, because smoking is in a league of its own. If I am sitting in a restaurant, and an alcoholic in the next booth is slamming her 6th vodka and tonic, I am not going to become drunk or even tipsy as a result of HER choices. Now, I'll grant you that she shouldn't be driving, but even then she can make the correct choice to call a cab without impacting any one of us.

However, if the woman in the next booth is smoking, I am smoking with her. If you want to kill yourself, that's fine with me. Just don't take me with you.

According to the American Lung Association, "Secondhand smoke is a mixture of the smoke given off by the burning end of a cigarette, pipe or cigar and the smoke exhaled from the lungs of smokers. Secondhand smoke contains more than 250 chemicals known to be toxic or cancer causing, including formaldehyde, benzene, vinyl chloride, arsenic, ammonia, and hydrogen cyanide."

The dangers of secondhand smoke abound. Again, according to the American Lung Association:

"Secondhand smoke causes about 3,000 deaths each year from lung cancer in non-smokers.

Secondhand smoke causes irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat.

Secondhand smoke can also irritate the lungs, leading to coughing, excessive phlegm and chest discomfort.

Secondhand smoke has been estimated to cause 22,700-69,600 deaths per year from heart disease in adult nonsmokers.

Secondhand Smoke Especially Hurts Children!

Children who breathe secondhand smoke are more likely to suffer from pneumonia, bronchitis, and other lung diseases.

Children who breathe secondhand smoke have more ear infections.

Children who breathe secondhand smoke are more likely to develop asthma.

Children who have asthma and who breathe secondhand smoke have more asthma attacks.

There are an estimated 150,000 to 300,000 cases every year of infections, such as bronchitis and pneumonia in infants and children under 18 months of age who breathe secondhand smoke. These result in between 7,500 and 15,000 hospitalizations!"

My mother and her two brothers have never smoked a day in their life, because their parents DID. My uncle once told me of a particularly horrible memory that he had when they were small children, driving in the car with my grandparents, as my grandparents smoked. The windows were open but it didn't help much. In fact, it may have increased the smoke that was flowing in the back seat, and the children felt smothered. It was a terrible, suffocating feeling that made an indelible impression on my uncle, who swore he would never touch a cigarette.

Of course, American politicians are cozy with the tobacco industry, which contributes greatly to their war chests. This means that any affront to smokers is met with a vast arsenal of weapons. But Americans are still fighting back.

In California they recently passed a law that makes it child abuse if an adult is smoking in a car with a child present. I applaud the Californians for recognizing this, and I hope that the rest of America follows suit.

The Californians are speaking for the children, who cannot.

The truth is, that even though they're stinky, smelly, nasty, and expensive, cigarettes live on in the youth of America. You can't walk down a popular sidewalk without holding your breath as you go by some teen who's blowing smoke in your direction. It's so natural to me that I almost forget I'm doing it. And these kids get their habits from watching their parents and their peers. If children are increasingly shielded from their parents' poor judgement in this matter, maybe they'll have a better chance at good health and good choices.

Society needs to protect those of us that are allergic and asthmatic. We are the ones that can be hospitalized due to someone else's fault, even if we practice a healthy lifestyle. And society needs to protect the children if their parents don't care enough to do it.


The Lazy Iguana said...

I am a little bet skeptical on the "second hand smoke" claims. How do they measure the amount of smoke one is exposed to? How often do you need to be exposed? And so on. How do we know the cancer was not going to happen anyway? How much lung disease is really caused by things like rubber particles from auto tires or other assorted air pollution?

However there are those with breathing issues, and for them cigarette smoke can have an immediate negative effect - cancer aside.

However there are other things to consider here. Lets say I open a bar. It is my place of business. I can decide that I will only accept cash. I can decide I will only play bagpipe music. I can decide that I will not allow crap beer in my place. And so on. Why can't I say that I do not give a crap if paying customers want to light up? It is my place - I set the rules. So can I allow or ban smoking based on my wishes, or should the State help out by making that decision for me.

Of course the flip side is that you the customer can decide to not go to my place based on the rules I set. Do not like my smoking policy? I will loose out on your money.

On airplanes I can understand the smoking ban. For one, TSA has made it nearly impossible to get past security with anything that can start a fire. And a plane is an enclosed small place. One smoker can stink up the entire plane quickly.

Your friend who brought up the "would you rather sit next to a drunk or a smoker" situation should be informed that flight crews WILL NOT ALLOW someone who is super drunk on an airplane. So if you have "several" too many drinks chances are you will miss the flight.

In FL smoking in public places is banned. And it should be. But does a public place include a private business?

In the end I can stay out of this. I have no horses in the race. I do not smoke so I do not care if smoking is banned - but unless it is thick as hell (think of a fogged room in a Cheech and Chone movie) smoke does not really bother me.

Given the choice however, I will go for the non smoking establishment.

Hans said...

The right to extent your arms stops at the nose of the person next to you.

I believe the laws for not allowing smoking in private businesses is for the protection of the employees. But I'm not a lawyer nor do I play one on TV.

Anonymous said...

The thing I think is funny is when people complain about smoker's rights. I don't give two hoots about smoker's rights, their smoke bothers me, so whether it is fair or not I am all for smoking bans, especially in restaurants. I hate being near smoke when I am eating. I am originally from VT and I think they are one of the first states that banned smoking in all public places which includes bars. The original law was that any business that made a certain percentage of their money from alcohol sales could still allow smoking. They changed that to ban it everywhere about two years ago. I now live in the South, where it is a struggle but they are making progress here. I also think it is horrendous for parents to smoke around their children, it goes back to the white trash parents, and people that are stupid enough to smoke around their children shouldn't have any!


Senor Caiman said...


What about the poor American farmer who use to make a living growing tobacco? They have been replaced with Mexican farmers. It just makes me sic.

Glad you're feeling better. The dark circles under your eyes will go away in a couple days.

Matt said...

In the 80s, my dad would smoke in the car and house and wonder why my sisters and mother had asthma.

He eventually quit after 50 years.

Matt said...

I was once drop-kicked by a four year-old girl for smoking on the street corner.

Ted said...

In Oklahoma restauraunts they have "smoking areas" that work about as well as a "peeing area" in a swimming pool.