Smoker Persecution Plumbs Depths of Absurdity

Let me preface this post by saying that I’m a non-smoker.  Smoking is a foul habit that will probably kill you.  Nicotine is a peculiar and pointless drug in that it’s powerfully addictive even though it doesn’t provide much of a buzz.  As far as I’m concerned, if you’re going to inhale burning flora, you might as well smoke cannabis and get hiiiiiigh.

That said, the persecution of smokers that has been taking place of late is absurd.  In many states (NY and CA, for example), you can’t even smoke in a bar.  What the fuck?  Bars are not health clubs; they’re for drinking and picking up sex partners who almost certainly have VD.  Requiring bar owners who want to permit smoking to pay for a license would be reasonable, but an outright ban?  People who support this paternalism always talk about the dangers of secondhand smoke, one of the great myths of our time.  Secondhand smoke may be a nuisance, but it’s not lethal; in fact, it even has a certain benefit.  The only person ever to get lung cancer from secondhand smoke was a guy who spent the first 40 years of his life living in a walk-in closet with Humphrey Bogart.  Look it up.

And then there are tobacco taxes, which politicians regularly jack up with the purported intention of reducing smoking.  Never mind that smokers tend to be poor, or that raising the price of a pack of cigarettes by $.50 won’t make smokers quit because they’re addicted.  Just keep on treating people who choose to consume a legal product as limitless resources.

My school, Carnegie Mellon, has taken this absurdity even further: beginning in 2009, smoking on campus will only be permitted in designated areas.  That’s right, you can’t even smoke OUTSIDE.  And it’s not as though CMU has a big smoking problem; in fact, based on my observations, the smoking rate here is significantly lower than that of the general population.  But hey, don’t let the fact that it’s a complete non-issue stand in the way of your bullshit “Healthy Campus” initiative. Below is a letter I sent to the school newspaper:

To the Editor:

I’d like to applaud the Student Senate, Faculty Senate, Staff Council, Graduate Student Assembly and President’s Council for addressing the urgent problem of smoking on campus.  As it is, one cannot walk across campus without being bombarded with billowing clouds of noisome tobacco smoke.  This year, I scheduled all my classes in one building so as to spend as little time outside as possible; nonetheless, I still come home every day with a hacking cough, reeking of cigarettes.  The new smoking policy should help to clean up the campus’ polluted air while isolating and stigmatizing those responsible for the current environmental catastrophe.

I understand that this desperately needed and well thought out policy is part of the “Healthy Campus 2010” initiative. By the time this noble initiative is through, I assume that all snack and soda machines will have been removed from campus and Sequoia Grill, Si Senor, and other purveyors of unhealthful food will have been forced to change their menus or move out.  May I also suggest a fine for students who do not meet an appropriate weekly exercise quota?

It is clear that CMU students, though adults, cannot be trusted to make their own choices. They should consider themselves lucky that the university is looking out for their best interests.

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8 Responses to Smoker Persecution Plumbs Depths of Absurdity

  1. Mike says:

    Always classy ya fuckin’ donk

  2. Kelly says:

    “It understand that this… ” For a grammar Nazi you sure do make a fair amount of mistakes yourself.

  3. Dan says:

    That was a typo, not a grammatical mistake, but good catch, “Kelly.” I like your website, BTW.

  4. Ed says:

    I understand and appreciate your civil libertarian bent here, but I can’t dismiss the ill effects of second hand smoke as easily as you. While death by second hand smoke is certainly a hard thing to prove, it has been clearly linked to asthma and other respiratory illnesses like the common cold and bronchitis. OSHA regulations generally protect white collar and blue collar workers from smoking in the workplace, but you seem to advocate the continued exemption of the waiters and bartenders who often are paid below minimum wage because of the tip structure. In many cases, waiting tables is a job of last resort, so the argument “if they don’t like it, they should get another job” is unfair and a bit unreasonable. We have plenty of laws that subjugate individual rights in favor of the collective good. I think bar bans on smoking in enclosed workplaces fall into this category.

  5. Dan says:

    Ed, I agree that our current system gives waiters the shaft; expect a post on this soon. Still, there are jobs far more dangerous than working in a smoky bar, but somebody has to do them. Are we going to ban working in coal mines?

    In the post I suggest that bar owners who want to permit smoking should have to pay for a license. Perhaps a fair alternative would be to require them to pay their employees more. What’s not fair is to force them out of business by banning smoking outright.

  6. Larry says:

    The People’s Republic of Oregon is banning all smoking in bars as of January 1st 2009. You had better bet your ass that I’ll be lighting up at 12:01.

    The best part. WE NEVER GOT TO DIRECTLY VOTE ON THIS!!! It was determined to be in our “best interests” by the overlords in charge.

    Thanks so much for ruining my favorite bars…jack-asses.

  7. Patricia says:

    I used to live in NY, and their smoking laws are massive failures.
    As far as the waitresses and bartenders that such laws are intended to protect, I have worked with many waitresses and bartenders, as well as cooks, and nearly all of them smoked themselves. Due to these laws, they merely had to sneak outside to smoke, taking time away from working and collecting tips. The few who didn’t smoke themselves continued to willfully subject themselves to second-hand smoke by sneaking outside anyhow to socialize with their co-workers. I can’t think of a single person who felt protected by the law. Within my sample of people, if there was any effect it was to increase stress and make waitresses especially very very cold in the winter when they were outside in the snow in skirts and without coats (because of course they weren’t allowed to keep their coats near the door with the customers’ coats.
    NY’s smoking ban in bars probably hurt the bars that complied, because at least in the winter, people intentionally seek out the hole-in-the-wall bars that allow smoking so that they can relax without freezing their asses off. These bars managed to maintain an attractive environment, whereas the law-abiding bars where people can’t smoke and can’t order drinks after 3 a.m. (and usually charge way too much for drinks anyhow) became unappealing on yet another level.
    Another massive NY failure: They raised taxes on cigarettes yet again this past summer, so a pack is now around $8. While this drains the funds of people who could really use that money, it also (at least where I lived) encouraged people to buy cigarettes (a) in bulk, because it’s cheaper and (b) from Native Americans, who don’t charge tax, and so can still sell a pack for around $3. So the tax increase increased the profits of the Indian Reservations, decreased profits at the corner stores that people avoided buying from, infuriated everyone, and took away from the paychecks of the small number of people who had no choice but to buy their cigarettes at the corner store. The tax increase over the summer was essentially a crisis situation that had people incredibly upset and bitching about their hatred for NY state for at least a month. It certainly didn’t encourage anyone to quit, but it certainly made a lot of people very miserable.
    Lesson learned: Don’t try to protect people from themselves. Nobody is going to change their lifestyle because the state government tells them to; it only increases resent for the government.

  8. Clownshoes says:

    I’ve always felt that loudmouths should be forced to walk around in personal cones of silence, and that smokers should be forced to walk around in cones of their own filth. I, personally, should be forced to walk around in a cone of Bar Refaeli.

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