For some strange reason, my second hand smoke episode of bullshit has gotten an unusually high amount of traffic in the past few days, bringing with it a tirade of comments. Because of this I thought I’d write a post about my thoughts on the subject, since the comments section is getting quite heated.
First of all, it never ceases to amaze me how socially acceptable it is to vilify smokers in the US. I remember an excellent parody done by South Park to this effect as well, and it is an attitude that I found reflected in the comments section. The only bad thing about tobacco is that it doesn’t kill smokers fast enough! We should be allowed to publicly stone smokers in the streets! Etc. etc. I remember once when in the United States taking a walk with a girl I had only recently met, having a pleasant conversation when her attention was diverted to a man smoking a cigarette. She promptly snatched it from him, stomped the living daylights out of it, and went on to give him a lecture on how he was killing himself with his cancer sticks and my god there were children around!! I was flabbergasted to the point of being utterly speechless. The man was luckily at the end of his smoke, so e simply rolled his eyes, called her a lunatic and walked off. She then turned around to me, pleasant as ever, and explained that she hated smoking because her grandfather died of lung cancer, thereby resuming our conversation. When recounting this bizarre episode to my other American friends they informed me that, while her behaviour might be considered a little overzealous, it was certainly nothing to call the men in white coats over. I often wonder how they would have reacted if, instead, we had passed by a fast food restaurant whereby spotting an obese person eating a bacon cheeseburger I ran over, snatched it from his grasp, threw it in the garbage and yelled how could he be killing himself my god doesn’t he know how bad trans fats are and there are children around what if they see him and think being fat is OK??!! My guess is, not very well.
Anyway, bringing the topic back round to the smoking ban. The majority of the new commenters seem to be creating this false dichotomy, whereby the only two options are either A. have a smoking ban or B. have every single public venue clouded by smoke. While I remember well what it was like to grow up without the smoking ban and it was indeed very similar, closer to the time when the ban came into effect there were plenty of places that had banned smoking or at least created smoking and non-smoking sections. Thinking the smoking ban is silly is not about thinking that smokers should be allowed to smoke everywhere, its about thinking that private businesses should be allowed to decide for themselves what to allow.
When the smoking ban was coming into effect, I was still a smoker, but I still hated the smell of smoke in the air. I was all for having mandatory smoking and non-smoking sections, if you were going to allow smoking in your business at all. I remember being in the Gatwick airport and passing by the smoking area at least 12 times before finally spotting it, despite it being a little open-top cubicle in the middle of the grounds, and yet I couldn’t smell any smoke even when I was right in front of it. It had these powerful fans that just sucked the smoke right out of the air, and I remember thinking why can’t we have more of these around? Why, if we must have a law, have it say that smoking areas have to be adequately ventilated?
Instead, we had an outright ban, no exceptions. In Rome and in London there are hookah bars that are quite popular, where you go to smoke big hookahs filled with flavoured tobacco. However, since the ban, if you want to smoke a cigarette in one of these places you have to take it outside, because that is the law. Does that not sound absurd to anyone? Would any of you who hate smoke so much even go to one of those places?
I am not saying that I want to go back to a time where smoke was everywhere. I also am not saying that being against the smoking ban means being for being allowed to smoke in any indoor place there is. All I am saying is, why can’t I open a smoking bar where people hang out, drink and smoke exotic cigarettes and cigars if that is what I want? Why can’t I designate a very well ventilated back room to my pub so that my customers don’t have to go out and smoke in the cold or rain, encouraging them to stick around and consume more? Is it really that hard to reduce second hand smoke without hurting businesses?
Leaving your visceral smoke-hatred at home, what are your thoughts on the subject? Do you think there are better ways to get to what the smoking ban was trying to do, or are you really for the smoking ban because what you really want to do is ban cigarettes?