08 October 2011

Freedom of Smoking

Have you noticed that, for several years, the government has been trying to take away our freedom of smoking? Just because I elect not to exercise this, I'm going to call it a privilege, that does not mean that I am not still irked by the grotesque actions the government is taking with regard to smoking. Cigarette prices grow ever higher - twice, or more, the price of a gallon of gasoline, a far larger quantity of a far more useful commodity. Where before smoking was permitted everywhere, the non-smokers relegated to some paltry, isolated, ill-fashioned areas, now the roles have been reversed. That is not to say I am not happy with the new arrangements at resturants. Putting the non-smoking section in the back, accessible only through the smoking section, seemed to defeat the purpose of having separate sections at all. I'm glad, thrilled even, that I no longer come home having to shower and wash my clothes, but couldn't they just switch the locations and relegate the smokers to the oft forgotten back room, away from the entertainment and exits?

I'm glad for the waiters, already a thankless profession (ruined by Starbucks - whose coffee tastes foul, I might add, and is rather pricey - who ask for tips for their "baristas" when I could just as easily pour my own; now with everyone expecting a gratuity the gesture has forever lost its meaning, a gift for exceptional service, and has become just another bill), who no longer have to breathe the foul clouds of their patrons every day. Still, glad as I may be, this never was about me but about all of us. The problems I had were not with smoking but with courtesy and that is something that cannot be legislated.

You can't smoke in bars, you can't smoke in parks, you can't smoke in cars if children are present - a caveat some try to push on smoking in your own home! More and more there are fewer and fewer places to light up these ever more expensive things. Campaigns are being waged to replace the Surgeon General's warnings (the Surgeon General is technically an admiral) with pictures of dead people. Not just dead people, but putrid, puss oozing, zombie-like dead people, to scare consumers away from cigarettes. I'm pretty sure most smokers know the risks involved with their passtime; you don't have to rub it in.

Some people want to smoke. Some people never have any serious health effects from years of lighting up. Their habit hurts no one and benefits the government millions of dollars in taxes. Why work so hard to kill the golden goose? Why shift from one extreme of everywhere unlimited smoking to the other extreme of no smoking anywhere? Why not, as the Buddha would say, persue the middle way? A way of common sense, common courtesy, and maturity with regard to smoking? $8 per pack is bad enough. Can we at least stop pushing tax payers who already have nowhere to go by letting them enjoy their tax paying hobby without bankrupting them? Can't we have just a little more freedom of smoking?