I am a non-smoker. Wait, let me rephrase that: I am currently a non-smoker, but in my early twenties, for a couple years, I indulged in Camel Lights, sometimes burning through upwards of a pack a day. That was a brief phase, and I no longer care at all for cigarettes. They’re expensive, stinky, stain the teeth, and mar one’s breath. I detest the diseases caused by tobacco and am horrified that thousands die every day from lung cancer. With that said, these “No Smoking” bans in the United States have gotten ridiculously out of hand.
More and more parks, beaches, and other outdoor venues are banning people from lighting up. The number of smoking bans has nearly doubled in the last 5 years. There are currently 2,600 bans, with more in the pipeline. In Atlanta, there is a $1,000 fine if violators are caught puffing in the park.
“Second hand smoke is harmful,” Mary Cheh, Councilwoman of the District of Columbia said. “It’s particularly harmful to children.”
But where is the evidence that outdoor second hand smoke is dangerous?
“The evidence of a risk to people in open-air settings is flimsy,” Ronald Bayer, a Columbia University professor said.
Indeed, less than a dozen studies have been performed on the effects–if any–of outdoor second hand smoke. When there is such a lack of research, why are we so quick to legally condemn someone’s right to smoke? America is supposed to be a democratic society, and yet I see this cracking-of-the-whip decidedly dictatorial. Subjecting others to indoor second hand smoke is one thing; restricting the public at large from enjoying a cigarette is another.
If we are intent on limiting “the bad stuff” to the public, how about we go one step further: we ban fast food. The obesity epidemic is far more alarming than cigarettes. Greasy, artery-clogging cheeseburgers are harmful to one’s health. Hundreds of studies have proven this. America is packing on the pounds at an alarming rate. The amount of saturated fat and calories in meals dished out at any drive-thru is enough to make you run to the nearest elliptical. And yet, we do not ban junk food. We can enjoy a Coke or Big Mac at virtually any public place of our choosing. Many venues sell them, even. I highly doubt the man toking on a cigarette several yards away will cause me to develop diabetes and high cholesterol. But a steady diet of fried food certainly will.
Alcohol is listed as the top drug in the United States. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that 1 in 4 children grow up in a home where someone drinks too much. Consumption of alcohol can cause cancer of the esophagus, throat, mouth, liver, and breast. But it is easier to order a third or fourth cocktail at the bar–and drive home–than to light up. Alcohol has destroyed more marriages and families than a Marlboro ever has.
Nowadays, casting shame on smokers is more common than ever. Lawmakers are intent on making it as difficult as possible to smoke outdoors, and the right to smoke is being further stripped away. Smoking is a vice, to be sure, but when are we going to wake up and realize that it is also a choice? Rather, it should be allowed to be a choice. Just as ordering a 900 calorie, triple chocolate shake is an option to someone obese. Tobacco is not as tasty as a milkshake and is a whole lot smellier, but if we lose the right to choose what floats our individual boats, we abandon the essence of what it means to be an American.
Written By: Shamron Moore