Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Demonize smokers...use FEAR & PANIC...

[Then drinkers, then the obese, then...]

From San Diego Union-Tribune:

County's anti-smoking zealotry is a real drag
September 25, 2006

I can't stand bullies, even if their cause is as pure as Sir Galahad's.

Just because you're a chivalric champion of clear air and pink lungs, that doesn't give you the divine right to crush your humbled opponent like a vile infectious bug.

Overzealous moral guardians are like football coaches who run up the score. Instead of running out the clock to spare the opposing team needless humiliation, they score and score and score.
That's how I see the crusaders who are racking up victory after victory against loathsome tobacco smokers. By now, the war is all but over, but the Cromwells won't be satisfied until every heathen smoker is extinguished.

In the past decade or two, smokers have been pushed to the far margins of social life. As a class, they are pariahs, untouchables, lepers. (That's why rebellious kids still love to smoke.)

I grant you, smokers are not angels. They damage themselves and can damage those with whom they come in contact. Their discarded butts are despicable litter, degrading the environment. In addition, they and their clothes often stink.

Anyone who defends smoking as a lifestyle choice is a sure-fire loser.

But that's the point.

Smoking is indefensible; therefore, it is all the more necessary to defend smokers from irrational harassment.

Just because you can ban smoking – in barrooms and on beaches – doesn't mean that you should press your advantage to the point where you're running up the score, demonstrating over and over that smokers are lesser life forms who shouldn't be allowed to pursue happiness.

In a 4-1 vote last week, the county Board of Supervisors paved the way for an ordinance prohibiting smoking in all county parks, campgrounds and open-space preserves.

The only supervisor to perceive the perversity of this prickly broad brush was Bill Horn, a conservative contrarian who isn't afraid to go against the slippery grain.

Consider this scene, featuring a colleague of mine:

A solitary fellow settles around a campsite at the William Heise County Park in Julian. Not quite the spitting (and coughing and retching) image of the Marlboro Man, but close enough for purposes of demonstration.

It's been a tough week. He made his deadlines. This is his precious time to chill out and flat-line.
It's chilly so he starts a fire in the ring. The smoke billows into the night air. He pops a beer and pulls out a smoke.

He has tried to quit dozens of times, but it just hasn't worked out. Someday.

Suddenly, a shaft of light comes boring through the forest. A ranger steps into the camp.
“Put out that cigarette!” the ranger orders.

The man complies with the order and puts up his hands.

As the fire continues to spew smoke, the ranger issues a citation for smoking.

Later, the sweating camper twists and turns in his tent, enduring the initial stages of withdrawal.

About 2 a.m., he packs up his gear and drives home, resolving never to return to a county park. Next time he has a need to commune with nature, he'll go to a state or federal park.
That is, until those natural sanctuaries are closed to him and his reviled kind.

Please, don't jump to a conclusion.

This isn't personal. There's no conflict of interest.

I'm not a smoker, haven't been for years. But I have a nose for hypocrisy, and this sun-burned schnoz is twitching over the budding county ban.

It's about fire safety, the supervisors were told. It's about littering, others said.
Well, there's a pretty strong law on the books against starting fires, intentionally or otherwise.

Look under “A” for “arson.”

There's a law against flipping butts. Look under “L” for “littering.”

Enforce those laws like rabid lions. I'll cheer like crazy.

But if there's one thing one can usually expect at a campground, it's plumes of smoke.

To ban smoking at a campsite, one's rented open-air home away from home, is sort of like outlawing humming at a rock concert.

If the supervisors wanted to show intelligence tempered by compassion, they would fashion an ordinance that strengthened penalties for littering (any kind of littering, including butts) while prohibiting smoking at well-traveled parks.

But in those areas where the whole idea is to get out and take a deep (or as deep as smoker's lungs will allow) breath, treat smokers like the fallible – or arguably disabled – human beings they are.

C'mon. It won't hurt to show a little mercy to these poor, handicapped folks. Give them a tiny break from the jihad against them.

You never know. They might be so grateful, they'll be more careful about holding onto their butts.

Logan Jenkins can be reached at (760) 737-7555 or by e-mail at



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