Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Don't Smokers Have Rights Too?

After reading a recent New York Times article Smoking Ban Hits Home. Truly. I felt that the anti-smoking zealots had finally gone too far.

During her 50 years of smoking, Edith Frederickson says, she has lit up in restaurants and bars, airplanes and trains, and indoors and out, all as part of a two-pack-a-day habit that she regrets not a bit. But as of two weeks ago, Ms. Frederickson can no longer smoke in the one place she loves the most: her home.

Ms. Frederickson lives in an apartment in Belmont, Calif., a quiet Silicon Valley city that is now home to perhaps the nation’s strictest antismoking law, effectively outlawing lighting up in all apartment buildings.
For the record, I have never been a smoker. Although as a younger man, just about everybody around me was a smoker. So I saw how many of them wanted to quit in the worst way but couldn’t. I decided what was best for me is that I never start in the first place.

But just as important, I feel I am no better than others who have chosen to smoke. If this is what they enjoy, more power to them. All I ask is that they keep their enjoyment to themselves and not force non-smokers to breathe the smoke they produce. Isn’t that fair enough?

So in general, I approve the banning of smoking in public places where non-smokers would be exposed to second-hand smoke. In addition to customers in restaurants and bars not being exposed to second-hand smoke, employees who work in these places should not have to endure a steady diet of second-hand smoke to earn a living. I still remember as a bartender many years ago going to work with freshly laundered clothes and coming home with clothes that reeked of tobacco.

But while the rights of non-smokers are of course important, we should at least be accommodating to those who choose to smoke by allowing them to do so where it doesn’t harm the rest of us. Unfortunately, the anti-smoking zealots all too often have an agenda of ridding the world of all smokers. And if they have to punish the smokers that remain by making their lives difficult and heavily taxing their habit, so much the better. After all, anybody with such a filthy habit deserves it. Right?

Wrong! This is little more than intolerance; a belief by some non-smokers that they are somehow superior to those who smoke. As a non-smoker, I do not believe smoking is right for me. But I do not believe we should impose our choices on others. And many of these anti-smoking ordinances appear to be trying to do just that.

Public health advocates are closely watching to see what happens with Belmont, seeing it as a new front in their national battle against tobacco, one that seeks to place limits on smoking in buildings where tenants share walls, ceilings and — by their logic — air.
I have lived in different apartments for a period of time and don’t honestly recall ever smelling odors from other apartments whether it was tobacco smoke or even food cooking. But perhaps the buildings I lived in were constructed better that those where the people in California live. Even so, unless all of the apartments in a complex have a single air-handling system, couldn’t we just separate the smoking tenants' apartments from the others? It's easy to say that smokers should just buy their own houses but obviously many cannot afford to do that.

The other thing that bothers me is the total banning of smoking in outdoor sports stadiums such as
PNC Park in Pittsburgh.
"Even though the general seating area has been smoke-free since the ballpark opened, we always tried to responsibly accommodate those fans who choose to smoke with designated smoking areas," said Patty Paytas, Pirates VP of Communications. "However, like many other businesses in the county, we had to make the appropriate adjustments and PNC Park will now be a completely smoke-free facility."
So now that smokers are no longer able to congregate in out of the way corners of the ballpark that are exposed to the open air from outside the park, can't we at least let them leave the park to be able to smoke?
Fans will not be permitted to exit and then re-enter the ballpark as it is not allowed under Major League Baseball policy.
This is the final insult. No accommodation whatsoever! What makes it worse is that when looking at the list of
Smoking Policies at Major League Baseball Stadiums, you will see that most of the other stadiums do have some accommodation in the way of either designated smoking areas within the stadium or a way to leave and re-enter for a smoke.

You may notice that the list was compiled by a group called the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation. And indeed nonsmokers do have rights not to have to breathe harmful tobacco smoke. But what about smokers? Don’t they have rights too? As much as we may not approve of their choice, shouldn’t we accommodate them and not subject them to anti-smoking crusades as long as they are not bothering nonsmokers?

It’s all about learning tolerance for and accomodating those who are different from us. It’s something that we need to do better!

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