The Coastal Post - July, 1998

No Smoking In Public

By Frank Scott

After thirty four years of knowing the deadly hazards of smoking, politicians have finally decided that youth must be protected from tobacco addiction. How? By raising the price of cigarettes, to make them prohibitively expensive . This is a sad joke.

Smoking needs to be made socially unacceptable, not just financially expensive. The way to do that is by banning it in public. Smoking should not happen anywhere but in private, where the habit, the stench and the hazards can truly become a matter of personal choice. Well, at least once we stop advertising the stuff to make it seem sexy to suck fire and smell like an ashtray.

The tobacco dope dealers have spent millions to convince us that the American revolution was all about the right to smoke, wherever we choose, whenever we choose. The founding slave owners neglected to give Americans a constitutional right to a job or a house , but by George, they guaranteed our right to smoke in public. Consciousness control has convinced many of us that freedom means never having to make any sense at all.

Mind management tells us an evil, puritanical government keeps us from expressing our creative nature without restriction. We must fight this force, not for health care or housing, but for the right to kill ourselves, at taxpayer expense. That's where the burden ultimately lies when we reach the terminal ward, after exhaling profits for tobacco capital by inhaling its chemical poison into our lungs .

Since 1964, we have known that the tobacco habit is deadly and dangerous. Still, we glamorize actors, models and entertainers in major media, filmed and photographed with cancer in their mouths, allegedly looking sophisticated and hip. All this image making so that we might sell more of the stuff to addict the young, the gullible and the stressed.

The lowest economic groups suffer the worst ravages of this killer drug . As income and education levels rise, the incidence of smoking declines. But even the affluent succumb, when they are young and impressionable enough to think that flesh piercing and speech impediments are cool. The last two are phases that we can outgrow, but smoking is an addiction that starts early and stays through life. The dope dealers take advantage of youngsters who can be convinced that killing themselves, slowly, is a way to become a unique and cool individual, quickly. Corporate social policy cooperates, by allowing this killer drug to be used openly, despite its awesome social impact.

Political headline hounds who would save the children with price increases for cigarettes, live in another country, if not another world. Kids buy clothing, shoes and CDs that cost far more than cigarettes. Why should anyone think that a higher price per pack will get them to resist the social temptation to be cool or rebellious? And higher taxes on cigarettes will only increase an already lucrative criminal market, while burdening addicts who are least able to afford the price, but most compelled to pay it.

The freedom argument for public smoking is one of the dumber ideologies that prop up market structures. Necessary body functions are regulated and privatized for reasons of health and civility. No one claims that rights are suppressed for having such functions confined to toilets. No one argues for using the streets, parks, restaurants and sidewalks for these natural acts, necessary to maintain life. How can we accept the ridiculous notion that restricting the unnatural act of tobacco smoking to private places is somehow trampling on human rights?

And the most necessary and pleasurable body function of all , sexual intercourse, is not seen as suppressed for being confined to private places. Is smoking cigarettes more important than sexual intercourse, which is still - even with laboratory cloning - the only way to create life? Yet the tobacco lobby complains that our liberties are threatened by any restrictions on the right to corrode the lungs, foul the air and destroy the intelligence, to indulge in an addictive fetish originally created during the second world war.

Soldiers and sailors were given free cigarettes during that war, and the tension and anxiety they experienced helped develop tens of thousands of smokers. They came home, shared the nicotine habit with girl friends, wives and families, and the rest is history. A once upper class practice, stolen from native Americans and indulged in after meals, became a day and night long ritual for the masses once advertising took hold of consciousness.

After years of deceit and deception, we finally learned that tobacco smoking is the number one preventable cause of death. It costs us increasing billions of health care dollars, and still our politicians avoid the obvious solution to a problem which could be gone almost overnight. Once we end the social acceptability of this aberration, it will probably be over in little more than a generation.

The economic impact of a smoking ban will be great, but all the more reason to closely consider what our economy produces, and why. Should we avoid seeking a cure for cancer or AIDS because it would have an economic impact? Should we continue to spend trillions on weapons and war because peace would have an economic impact? Price increases and taxes on cigarettes are a political - chemical smoke screen. Ban smoking in public, confine it to private practice and stop advertising the deadly drug. That will create a cleaner, healthier , more democratic environment, and not just for our youth.

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