Thursday, June 29, 2006

Smoking ban – a smoke screen

July 1st Denver joins cities that ban smoking in bars and restaurants. You know the reasons for and against the practice, and likely you think this is something positive. Before you celebrate too fiercely, get too drunk, and wind up wrapped around a highway pylon, let me put it in perspective for you.

For all you ex-hippie tree-huggers out there, don't think the Denver ban has anything to do with environmentalism, like Earth Day.

According to John McConnell (self-proclaimed founder of Earth Day), he conceived it as "a global holiday to celebrate the wonder of life on our planet." Internationally, UN Secretary General U Thant signed a proclamation establishing March 21st as an annual event "to deepen reverence and care for life on our planet."

Neither McConnell or Thant envisioned bars with non-smoking drinkers loading themselves up on alcohol, then climbing in their SUVs to somehow make it home, while their auto exhaust filled the air with pollutants, as somehow part of the environmental movement.

For all you health nuts, realize that smoking bans have little to do with caring for the health of Americans. Face it, you're still going to put alcoholic poison into your body (smoking or not), get as high as you think you can manage, climb in that SUV and risk both yourself and anyone who crosses your path as you drive-stagger your way home. As one Denver bar owner who's against the ban put it, "We don't serve anything good for you in here."

If American politicians cared about our health, we'd all have decent, affordable health insurance, affordable drugs and medical treatment, nationally funded family planning, etc. Politicians care about cheap laws, like banning smoking, that make us think they're taking care of our health.

For all you outdoorsy types, smoking bans have nothing to do with "clean air." Remember that after you leave your smoke-free restaurant, you're breathing the same filthy air that's responsible for most of the pollution contributing to global warming.

George Dubbya kept us out of the Kyoto Accords signed by 140 other nations. Consider yourself in an exclusive club the next time you inhale that air in your favorite bar: every other country in the world is doing something about the entire planet's atmosphere, not just worrying about 100,000 sq. feet or air in a restaurant.

You might also notice on your way home that the smoking ban doesn't apply to the power plant to your right and the packing plant to your left that still spume away effluents, right into your nostrils. Plus, there's radioactive hope on the horizon: George Dubbya's bringing back nuclear power plants, in case you forgot what those can do to your lungs.

Lastly, for those of you who don't fit the prior political labels and who just take things as they come, your take on smoking bans might simply be, "At least it's an improvement."

There's nothing really wrong with admitting you care more about the air in your bar than worry about that of your planet. There's nothing wrong with admitting you never marched in an Earth Day protest, but will immediately report all cigarette-smoking violators. And there's nothing anti-American about considering your own interests first.

Just don't fool yourself into thinking it relates to anything more than that and admit that while you hate smoke, you can accept a smoke screen.

Rudy Ch. Garcia


anne said...

There is only one legitimate reason to ban smoking in bars and restaurants - to protect the staff who work there. I read somewhere that being a barman/waiter is the third most hazardous job in the US afte being a policeman or fireman, purely because of the risk of lung cancer. You would probably argue that people have a choice where they work but sadly most people can't afford to be choosy and have to take any job they can.

Anonymous said...

I agree that is a legitimate reason, and that it's true people can't be choosy about the jobs they get.

The question I'd have then is, why hasn't the same rationale been used to pass laws to protect farmworkers' health from the pesticides used on our grapes and vegetables? That's something that's been known about for decades.

Maybe only if pesticides smelled bad on grocery shelves, something might happen.