Devil Weed: Pondering the Whole Antismoking Crusade

Written by Alan Cabal on . Posted in Miscellaneous, Posts.



I’m of
two minds on the whole antismoking crusade. On the one hand, I’ve been
enjoying sense-deranging substances of every shape, size and description since
1968 regardless of legal status, with no ill effects whatsoever except a really
interesting bout with amphetamine psychosis back in the early 70s. So it kind
of amuses me to see otherwise law-abiding citizens being treated like common
criminals because of a perfectly legal drug they happen to enjoy. The forces
of tobacco prohibition have managed to persuade quite a few tobacco enthusiasts
to begin thinking about the absurdity of marijuana prohibition in particular,
which is a good thing.


On the other
hand, I smoke like a train, and I am disinclined to patronize business establishments
where it is prohibited. The prissy, self-righteous attitude of the antismoking
contingent is sufficient to make me want to blow smoke in their faces. They
are the very embodiment off the Nanny State, worse even than the gun control
jerks.


I used to go
to the movies a lot, back when they had smoking sections. The movies were great
fun in the 70s, when people were lighting up joints everywhere. Then came the
80s, and Reagan, and the New Puritanism. It’s pretty funny how a guy who
blew so much hot air complaining about "big government" and promising
to get the government off our backs throttled up the Orwellian "War on
Drugs" and promoted so much government interference in people’s private
lives that it became damn near impossible for anyone to mind his or her own
business.


I’ve always
suspected that the attack on cigarette smoking in public places had more to
do with suppressing the laissez-faire attitude toward pot smoking that surfaced
in the 70s than any kind of real effort to eradicate tobacco. It’s much
more difficult to fire up a doob in a theater or a stadium if it’s illegal
to fire up anything at all. Be that as it may, I pretty much stopped going to
the movies owing to the smoking ban. I used to go two or three times a month.
Now I go maybe two or three times a year.


There was no
such thing as "air rage" until the airlines banned smoking. I love
the way the airlines first banned smoking on the precept that airplanes are
not ventilated well enough to allow it, and then completely reversed their position
on the ventilation issue when the flight attendants sued claiming they were
suffering an abnormal rate of respiratory infections. It couldn’t possibly
have anything to do with jet fuel, the stench of which on most flights at takeoff
is sufficient to offer a brief respite against the flatulence, body odor and
cheap colognes of the teeming masses on board.


I don’t
linger in restaurants anymore. Not ordering dessert has done wonders for my
waistline, and I wonder what it’s done to the bottom lines of many of the
eating establishments around town. Every smoker I know needs one right after
a good meal. I’m not going to stand outside like some pariah. If I have
to leave to smoke, I just pay the bill and leave: I get my after dinner drinks
in a bar somewhere, where I can smoke. I’m sure this is having an economic
impact.


I was living
in San Francisco when the Body Nazis initiated this latest wave of antismoking
hysteria. That was in 1985. I’ve been trying to find the statistics on
noncontagious respiratory illnesses in the San Francisco Bay Area, to no avail.
Since they’ve had these stupid antismoking regulations in place for 16
years now, I thought there might be some evidence one way or the other as to
just how effective the ban has been, but these stats are eluding me for some
reason. You’d think the antismoking forces would be plastering them on
billboards from sea to shining sea, to show America how effective these regulations
are in protecting public health, but it just isn’t happening.


Peter Vallone
and Stanley Michels are currently pushing the City Council to widen the smoking
ban to include some bars, and all city-owned vehicles; they want to further
tighten the restrictions on private offices, as well. They banned smoking in
the bars in California a few years ago, and guess what? Nobody cares. They all
cheat on it. It’s just one more in a long and seemingly ever-growing list
of idiotic and unenforceable laws that the public simply ignores. All it served
to do was to further erode respect for the law in general. That’s what
stupid laws do.


Assemblyman
Alexander Grannis wants to prohibit smoking on beaches and in parks. Grannis’
proposal is so ludicrous, I had to look around and see if there was any open
resistance to it.


That’s
how I met Audrey Silk. Audrey Silk is a cop, 17 years on the force, a veteran
of Crown Heights and the Crack Wars. Petite but muscular, she sort of resembles
Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2. She’s a real American, complete
with the Heinz 57 ethnic background and the classic "live and let live"
attitude. She started CLASH, Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment, as
a response to the various bullshit busybodies trying to get tobacco listed as
a Schedule 1 illegal substance.


We got together
in Brooklyn Heights for a few drinks and some food at a little bar that still
allows smoking. The Irish bartender overheard us talking about the tobacco issue
and commented that the antismoking campaign has all the earmarks of a classic
American cult. "It’s a crock of shit," he opined.


"It’s
bad science," she says. "In July of ’98, the World Health Organization
officially accepted a report they’d commissioned by the International Agency
for Research of Cancer, the IARC. The IARC conducted a study involving 12 medical
research centers in seven European countries. They compared 650 lung cancer
patients with 1542 healthy people. They examined people who worked with smokers,
lived with smokers, lived and worked with smokers, grew up with smokers,
and the study found no health risk from secondhand smoke.


"Grannis
says the issue with the beaches and the parks is the butts. I worked the beaches
when I was a kid, the beach gets raked clean every day in the summer. He’s
talking about a litter issue. We already have litter laws."


I mentioned
that I’ve started ordering my cigarettes from an Indian reservation. I’m
getting my American Spirits for $2.90 per pack. Cigarette smuggling is rapidly
becoming a worthwhile endeavor for certain organized crime elements. This has
happened before, in exactly the same pattern, with opium, cocaine and marijuana.
I asked Audrey if she knew of any funding connections between the big pharmaceutical
firms peddling smoking cessation aids and these prohibitionist groups lobbying
for more and more laws.


"No,"
she replied. "But I haven’t really looked. We’re just getting
started. People are fed up. Most people are content with limiting smoking in
restaurants and in the workplace. Ninety-five percent of the eating establishments
in the city offer completely smoke-free dining. Now the fanatics are going for
that last 5 percent, and the beaches and the parks, too. The backlash is starting.
Most people, including nonsmokers, think that this has gone far enough."


The CLASH website
(at www.nycclash.com) has a lot of interesting information regarding the various
studies regarding secondhand smoke, and Audrey is contemplating organizing a
few "smoke-ins" in the near future. This has the makings of an interesting
brawl.


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