Web Only: Point/Counterpoint pt 1

Greg M. Schwartz

Smoke in YOUR house, but don’t make me inhale too

Most smokers seem to think that smoking cigarettes is their God-given right. And hey, if you wanna give “the man” your hard-earned dollars to sell you an addictive product that will slowly kill you with lung cancer, be my guest. But when you smoke those cancer sticks in bars and restaurants, you are forcing your toxic poison on everyone else there, and that is just plain rude.

There’s a general ethic in America that says do whatever you want, as long as your actions don’t harm anyone else. It’s a good rule. Most people get this, but cigarette smokers seem to have missed the ethical boat here.

The National Cancer Institute’s latest stats say that 434,000 people die every year of illnesses related to their smoking. But what really sucks is that second-hand smoke causes 3,000 lung cancer deaths every year in people who don’t smoke! God damn — you smokers are killing 3,000 people a year with your selfishness. That’s some serious bad karma…

Ohio should follow California’s lead on this one. California banned cigarette smoking from all indoor public establishments, and it’s worked out well. Okay, it’s not so cold in the winter there, but freezing temps are still no excuse for forcing second-hand smoke on a bar’s clientele. It gets rather absurd.

Compare seeing a concert at the progressive Fillmore auditorium in San Francisco with the bassackwards Odeon in Cleveland. At the Fillmore, they insist that cigarettes be extinguished, but will only hassle pot smokers if someone else complains about it (very rare in San Francisco). But at the schwaghole that is The Odeon, the Nazi security guards eject pot smokers from the premises while cigarette smokers are allowed to blaze all night, creating a toxic atmosphere. Any rock and roller knows that just ain’t right.

The Zephyr here in Kent is prone to similar problems. The upstairs got so smoky one recent Saturday night that my eyes started to burn. I’d been there for a couple hours, and the quantity of smokers had gotten out of control. I had to leave. Maybe I have sensitive eyes, and I certainly seemed to be in the minority, but I just don’t think that’s right.

But hey, I’m willing to compromise. My girlfriend, whom I live with, is a smoker. When we moved in together last August, we agreed that she would only smoke outside. But once winter came around, she wasn’t so keen on it. I agreed to let her smoke inside if she opens the screen door, sits next to it, lights a smoke-eater candle and at least attempts to blow the smoke outside.

If bars made a reasonable attempt to create some kind of smoking section, it would help. But that scene on the aforementioned Saturday night at The Zephyr was not cool.

There is no evidence to back the suggestion that bars will lose business if smoking is banned. My observations of the human species tell me that people may like smoking, but they like drinking even more. Most smokers will simply smoke less when they’re at a bar, because people are generally lazy. If they’re really jonesing, they will step outside for a smoke regardless of sub-freezing temperatures.

All of you smokers should go rent The Insider, a true story starring Al Pacino as a “60 Minutes” producer who helps Russell Crowe’s tobacco company scientist spill the beans on how Big Tobacco has fought for decades to cover up the harmful effects of smoking. It might make you think twice about your addiction. But hey, go ahead and smoke all you want in YOUR house, car or outside. Just don’t force me to have to breathe it too.

Greg M. Schwartz is a graduate student in journalism and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].