the expanded Clean Indoor Air Act went into effect. This
act purports to protect employees and the public from second hand
First of all let me state that I don’t smoke cigarettes. I
don’t like people smoking cigarettes near me when I am eating,
didn’t when I was a smoker and don’t particularly enjoy
being around cigarette smoke. When I patronized a place that allowed
smoking, I lived with it because it was my choice to breathe smoke
or not. Now that choice has been made for me, and that is very dangerous.
A few years ago, before it was the thing to do, I followed the high
protein, low carbohydrate Atkins Diet. Every morning I went out
for eggs and bacon, no toast or potatoes and every morning I was
“Oooh, how can you eat that?” Both friends and strangers
alike mumbled as they passed my table, oat bran muffin clutched
I found it curious; the control and judgment people crave to have
over others, approaching near addiction in itself. Now, the high
protein diet is “hip,” many of those same people aggressively
follow it. Hip-ness is a paradox. People prefer to be part of the
winning team and unfortunately will follow any agenda to be there.
Now that we have entered this new era I hasten to ask what will
happen to the old “smoke filled rooms?” What will politicians
do without them? Will politics suddenly be rendered clean and pure
as wind driven snow? Will “smoke-filled” backroom deals
vanish as so much smoke? Hardly.
James Madison said, “Crisis is the rallying cry of the tyrant.”
One tobacco-free coalition web site claims, “If you don’t
think tobacco is an epidemic…get the facts!” The site
even offers handy double-speak phrases suggested for dealing with
customers. The controlling condescension of this “Act”
is aimed at the manufactured outcast society. You’ve seen
them, those huddled souls gathered on the sidewalk outside office
buildings, smoking. These are the new “bad guys.” They
are the ones we must indoctrinate, for the good of all mankind we
must get their minds right! Right? “Two and two are five,
Winston,” echoes in my head.
Here’s a thought, brand them, with real branding irons! Yeah,
that’s it, a big “S” branded onto their forehead
so we’ll know just whom these criminals are; recognizable
even without a cancer stick jammed between their fingers! After
all the point is to protect everyone, it makes us feel better, feel
we’ve done our part to change the world.
Smoking is controversial; there’s reality in the health dangers.
My father started smoking at 11, quit cold turkey at 81. He died
at 96, cancer free. My mother started at 14, died of cancer at 44.
She smoked until the end against doctor’s wishes, “I’m
going to die, I like to smoke. It’s my choice.” Choice
is at the heart of the matter here.
This new “Act” comes to us under the guise of protecting
employees from second hand smoke, an admirable albeit specious purpose.
I was once hired at the New York Times to sell subscriptions by
phone. I showed up and found the workplace a dingy smoke-filled
room with tiny cubicles. I immediately left. I was a smoker at the
time, but I chose not to work in that environment. I needed the
job, but I found another one. That was my choice.
The danger of the Clean Indoor Air Act is the denial of
choice. The list of forbidden zones is lengthy, including bingo
facilities and the canopy covered County Courthouse steps. The question
is, why the need for a law? A business needs only put up a sign
stating that smoking is not permitted, which, under the law now,
all locations must still post. Why a need for the signs now, after
all it's the law? Or perhaps what we need are more signs. How about
signs reading, No Killing! No Stealing! Think that will
work? How about signs in court rooms and board rooms, city halls
and council chambers and legislative assemblies that say, No
Lying? Think that'll do the trick? At least sign manufacturers
will be happy.
As far as restaurants and bars are concerned, in our free enterprise
system it makes perfect sense to offer customers a choice. Smoke-free
or smoking-allowed establishments, the choice to work there or patronize
the establishment should be yours, not the government’s. Pretty
simple, huh? Apparently not, because the true objective here is
not health, but control.
What’s next? “Up against the wall, Mr. Smith,”
the Department of Control officer growls.
“Your ‘Fat Gram Intake’ for the month has exceeded
permissible levels, 30 days or $500.” I hear science fiction
writers scrambling for their word processors. Fines for violations
of the Clean Indoor Air Act can be up to $2000, more than
most street corner crack dealers get, and tobacco is legal.
It is fascinating that the Clean Indoor Air Act took effect
just 20 days after the 227th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration
of Independence. The Declaration states: “We hold these
truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that
they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,
that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
So much for Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. Individual
choice is our most precious freedom and it must not be infringed.
We’ll talk next time From The Road.