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 If you watch …

March 25, 2012


If you watch TV you’ve probably seen a public service ad that shows a person smoking, and his smoke wafts through a vent or out a window and creeps into another apartment where a baby is sleeping.  Message: your secondhand smoke is going to harm this baby’s health. 

I suppose it could.  I’m no doctor, or cancer researcher.  And if the smoker, whom we shall hereafter designate Mr. Horrid, is smoking a couple of packs a day – all in his apartment, and the various drafts and winds consistently take his smoke to the baby’s room, perhaps that smoke will, indeed, harm the baby’s health.

However, I think it is more likely that the anti-smoking forces seek to demonize smoking and smokers.  I hold no brief for smoking.  I wish I had never lit up a cigarette, and perhaps my own health has been harmed by smoking, or by growing up in a house with a smoker (my Pop).

But it bothers me that a focus, one that I think is misleading, has been drawn on smoking, as though it is the ultimate evil.

In another such ad, Mr. Horrid is smoking at a bus stop, and oxygen masks, such as they have in commercial airplanes, drop down from the bus stop structure to save the other people, who are there waiting for a bus.  I think the oxygen masks are a good idea, but I think it’s much more likely that the people at the bus stop will have their health harmed by the fumes of the buses and other automotive vehicles passing by on the street than by this one guy’s cigarette.

In various municipalities across the country, smoking has been outlawed in bars and restaurants, and now they seem to be extending it to the outside seating.  Where I live, I see people sitting at tables outside restaurants, and they’re not allowed to smoke there, to keep others safe from secondhand smoke.  Meanwhile, they’re sitting within 25 feet of near constant automotive traffic: cars, buses, trucks, motorcycles.  Aside from the likelihood that they’re ordering food heavy in fat, cholesterol, salt and processed meats.  But god forbid they should inhale a stray waft of tobacco smoke.

As far as I’m concerned this all leads to another argument in favor of a single payer health insurance scheme for the entire nation.  Insure everyone.  Give everyone access to whatever health care they need, at costs amortized across the entire population.  So no one has to pay more because they smoke, because no one has to pay more because they ride a motorcycle, or go skiing, or eat greasy food, or are genetically predisposed to this, that, or the other horrid health nasty.  Because the way we’re going now, the black helicopter conspiracy nutters may have a bit of a point, and the government will go on from laws enforcing motorcycle helmets, and then laws making it illegal to smoke in public and outside of public buildings, and in parks and on beaches, to outlawing cheeseburgers and fries, violent movies and who knows what else.  And maybe go beyond that to enforcing attendance at morning exercise classes and making sure you’ve washed behind your ears.

You have washed behind your ears, haven’t you.  What’s that sound of jackboots in the hall?  Is it the Clean Ear Police?



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