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The case for a public smoking ban

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
January 19, 2007


Smoking is ugly, smoking is selfish, smoking is rude, wasteful, odious, unnatural, and anti-environment. Smoking is toxic. Smoking is slavish and senseless. Smoking is child abuse. Smoking is suicide.

It's time to ban public smoking in California. And I am not just talking about restaurants, bars, and beaches. If cigarette smoking is banned in some public places, it should be banned in all public places.

Now before anybody starts talking about their "right" to smoke cigarettes in public. Don't. Having read the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, let me assure you smoking is not a right. Freedom of speech is a right. So are freedom of the press, and the freedom to petition the government for redress of grievances. As is the ability to "keep and bear arms."

Smoking is not a right. Smoking is cancer on a stick.

Cigarettes have long been deemed a health hazard, so too has shooting yourself up with heroin. Why then are people allowed to smoke cigarettes on public sidewalks, parks, and parking lots, and are prohibited from shooting smack, or smoking an opium pipe. Driving under the influence is considered a health hazard. Driving under the influence is against the law. Public drunkenness is also a crime.

The American Heart Association estimates that over 38 thousand non-smokers die each year from inhaling secondhand smoke. The American Lung Association puts it closer to 70 thousand, and nearly 3 thousand from lung cancer deaths. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) has also been linked to secondhand smoke exposure, both in and out of the womb.

Stated clearly in the 2006 United States Surgeon General Report "secondhand smoke contains hundreds of chemicals known to be toxic or carcinogenic including formaldehyde, benzene, vinyl chloride, arsenic, ammonia, and hydrogen cyanide." And is designated a known human carcinogen.

A health hazard, known to cause cancer, why isn't smoking cigarettes in public a crime?

Attempted suicide is a crime, as is assisted suicide. Smoking is a slow form of suicide. One allowed by the federal government, state governments, and enabled by industry and retail establishments. If someone were to sit at a sidewalk café and slit their wrists, those who failed to call the authorities, or let the person "bleed out" would face charges.

The "if it feels good do it" defense fails on many levels. Public urination is illegal in California, because of the potential health effects. There are many things Californians have the right to do in the privacy of their own home, that they are not allowed to do in public. Masturbating in public is against the law. Ironically, masturbation has killed far less people than tobacco, but public masturbation makes you a registered. sex offender, and public smoking is allowed on the streets of almost all California cities.

The entire state of California is littered with discarded cigarette butts. Roadways, sidewalks, parks, beaches, coastal waters, you name it, serve as a ready ashtray for the chronically selfish. Made of cellulose acetate, Cigarette butts take decades to degrade, threatening wildlife long after humans have discarded them. Isn't littering a crime?

Make no mistake, the only people who benefit from smoking is the tobacco industry, and the politicians doing their bidding. Cigarettes, and the idea that smoking them is glamorous, smart, sexy, hip, or cool, is so twentieth century.

It's time to ban public smoking in California.

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