So, the Surgeon General has determined that any amount of second-hand smoke is harmful.
First of all, how do we define “harm”? Are we qualifying or quantifying? Surely if we’re using the criterion of “any damage at all”, then nearly everything we do is harmful in one way or another. Cell phones emit electromagnetic radiation. Typing can contribute to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Diet soda/pop can cause cancer. A day in the sun exposes us to more radiation than living near a nuclear power plant for a year. All these things are, technically, harmful. What kind of a scale are we talking about, here? Is this sun-radiation harmful or living-on-a-nuclear-waste-dump harmful?
And like cigarette smoke is the only pollutant floating around in the air. Ah, the delicious irony of a parent telling a person smoking outside a restaurant, “you’re killing my kids!” just before corralling the family into their SUV. In more urban areas, why even bother? The only reason to even want to outlaw public smoking in cities would be if you think it gets in the way of your smog-inhalation, or the smell of sun-baked bum excrement.
But the funniest thing about this whole “no smoking in public” movement is the following: “But public smoking bans don’t reach inside private homes, where just over one in five children breathes their parents’ smoke Ã¢â‚¬â€ and youngsters’ still developing bodies are especially vulnerable.”
Um, duh? If you ban smokers from being able to smoke anywhere but inside their own homes, where do you think they’re going to end up smoking? I’ll wait here for your answer while you run off to get that degree in rocket science requisite for solving this difficult logic puzzle.
“I don’t want to briefly inhale someone else’s cigarette smoke as I pass them in the park, so I’d rather they be forced to sit around in an enclosed environment with their children.” Oh, you hero… you champion for the cause of human health! I’ll get on the horn with the Franklin Mint – I’m sure we can work out some kind of mass-produced medal for all of you health-champions out there.
Now, I can understand not wanting it in restaurants and other enclosed public places, where there are ceilings and, y’know, no wind. Hell, go for it – ban it in all the indoor public places you can think of. I don’t want to be forced to breathe other people’s smoke, either, and I’m sure neither do many of the people who work in such places who have no choice but to sit there lounging in it all night. But outside? Come on! Ban the sun while you’re at it. Ban automobiles. Ban radio signals and cell phones. Otherwise it’s just an empty gesture, and one that actually has a detrimental effect on others – specifically, the children of the people you’re trying to keep from smoking where it has the least effect on others. “I’m sorry, sir, but I’m going to have to ask you to go inside and smoke with your children.”
I’m not a smoker myself, but I’m uncomfortable with the idea of soft bans, especially when they have a minimal benefit in exchange for an inflated level of harm. By ‘soft ban’, I mean that there’s very little difference between banning cigarettes and banning the act of smoking them. It’s just a roundabout, self-deluding way of doing it that helps people reconcile it with their increasingly inaccurate self-depictions as supposed champions of freedom in the supposedly freest country in the world. “If we don’t outright ban it, then we’re still Freedom-Lovers(TM), right? We still get our American flag bumper stickers?”
And part of me believes this is simply another roundabout way to fortify the ban on marijuana – guilt by association because you put both of them in your mouth and light them on fire. Despite the fact that studies have indicated no correlation between marijuana and cancer, banning cigarettes would add another few nails to the coffin of ever removing the ban on pot. You know, the ban on a drug that scientific study has been repeatedly exhonorating over the last decade from the radical and unfounded claims and accusations repeatedly made by the government of the freest country in the world. Yeah, that one.
More on all this later.