Monday, February 25, 2008

Smoking ban unjust, unfair to younger people

This is a great opinion piece by Michael Cannon published in the Middle Tennessee State Univ. paper, Sidelines:

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Governor Bredesen slighted working Tennesseans by restricting our right to light up in public

On Oct. 1, 2007, a dark cloud descended upon the homely town of Murfreesboro, replacing the gray cloud of cigarette smoke that was there before.

We all knew that this day was coming. Although we tried to relegate its existence to some far off future, on that somber fall day we all reckoned with fate as an old man reluctantly resigns himself to the inevitability of death.

This infamous day marked the end of an era: citizens were now prohibited from smoking in all enclosed public places within the State of Tennessee with a few exceptions including private homes, private residences and private motor vehicles unless used for child care or day care, and non-enclosed areas of public places.

With this stunning jargon blitz, the Tennessee state government dragged us one step closer to totalitarianism. We all awoke that day to find that our glorious homeland had undergone a frightful social transformation. The blood-curdling screams emanating from dorm rooms and surrounding restaurants were seared upon our collective memory forever.

The sole vanguard of Southern hospitality and the embodiment of man's aspirations for freedom, Tennessee, had fallen to the dark armies of extremely bored, fundamentalist legislators. These villainous mercenaries have exacted much sadistic pleasure from depriving the Tennessee masses of their inalienable right to self-inflicted health problems.

This act of legislative terrorism was the culmination of a concerted campaign against civil rights and poor people. We were first alerted to the threat during the late '90s and early 2000s, when a wave of smoking bans swept the globe.

However, just as Americans felt safe from the Nazi war machine that enveloped Europe 70 years ago, we too thought we were safe in the South, where we possess a proud tradition of vice, from moonshine to fried foods. This false sense of security gradually withered away however, and was decisively shattered in May of last year with the advent of a 62-cent cigarette tax increase.

This event awoke us to the imminent threat to our civil rights, just as the attacks on Pearl Harbor opened our ancestors' eyes to the menace of fascism. When drafting this Draconian decree, lawmakers were certainly aware that poorer people have much higher rates of smoking than those well above the poverty line. As such, this bill should be viewed as a brazen assault on our state's poor and destitute.

This tax essentially forces many poor folks to choose between satisfying a nicotine addiction or eating lunch that day. Smoking is not like biting your nails. Addiction is a disease and you cannot just instantaneously end the habit. These foul villains are aware of this fact and use it to their advantage.

The revenue from these taxes is being used to fuel Lord Bredesen's nefarious plot to make a more hilarious joke out of our state's public school system. Rather than taxing people who work for living and suffer from a disease, perhaps we should look into levying fees on such oceans of untapped tax revenue such as Brentwood and Belle Meade.

This is unlikely, however, as the aforementioned lawmen tend to cohabitate in these dark lands to the west. Therefore, it is quite logical to conclude that the government's anti-smoking campaign is merely a microcosm of a larger war against working, freedom-loving southern folk carried out by a state government dominated by wealthy white men who have no real sense of what an average person's life is like. This enables them to extort us without conscience.

Despite the glaring injustice of this action, we grudgingly accepted it. We thought the worst was over, but we could not have been more wrong. Only five months later, the blanket ban on smoking would strike fear into the hearts of millions of peaceful Tennesseans.

As citizens are now aware, we can no longer smoke in most public places, including restaurants. These past months, we have all had to deal with the severe psychological stress and separation anxiety that has resulted from losing the right to smoke in Waffle House. Sunday morning hangovers will never again be the same.

This law outlines some truly oppressive restrictions. However, one of the few exceptions to smoking in public buildings is bars and venues. There is a catch though. The bar must become 21 and up only. This aspect of the bill is particularly unsettling for me, as teenagers such as myself now find it much harder to enjoy Murfreesboro's thriving music scene.

Furthermore, once you think about this section of the law for two seconds, the complete stupidity of our "representatives" becomes hilariously clear. Okay, so I am 19 and can legally go buy cigarettes and chain smoke in an enclosed space all day if I so desire. However, I am not allowed to go to a venue where people are smoking in a large room. Through some goofy reasoning, exposure to second smoke from 21-plus people in a bar endangers my health so much more that it necessitates a law. To put it plainly, this makes no sense whatsoever.

Then again, I am kind of a small guy and if some older bar-goer smokes more tobacco than he can handle, he might attack me in a fit of nicotine-induced rage.

This ban on public smoking is also a blatant falsification of historical facts. There is a universal consensus amongst scholars that 20th century French philosophy would have never developed without smoke-filled Paris cafes serving as the breeding ground for movements such as existentialism. So next time you pick up your favorite Albert Camus novel, remember that it would not exist without smoking.

These lines are essentially a call to action for all freedom-loving southerners to band together and defeat the great menace that is corrupting our progressive and advanced society. Phil Bredesen, together with his cohorts, should be removed from office and tried for their crimes against the people.

The only punishment appropriate for this treacherous act is to tar and feather them with nicotine patches on the steps of the capitol building. Only then will justice, democracy and freedom be reborn in our state. The struggle of the smoker is the struggle of humankind and we must preserve to the bitter, cancerous end.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Lawmakers douse all bills that ban smoking in public

RICHMOND, The Virginian-Pilot -- The proposed statewide ban on smoking in many public places, including restaurants, all but died Thursday night when a House subcommittee quickly spiked several smoking bills after an hour of emotional testimony from people on both sides of the issue.

The vote means it's unlikely the Republican-controlled House will entertain the Senate's smoking ban bill, which passed Wednesday. Democrats control the Senate. A statewide smoking ban in restaurants is also a top priority of Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, a Democrat.

The subcommittee of the General Laws Committee also squashed bills to give localities the right to impose their own smoking bans, a blow to cities including Virginia Beach and Norfolk that pushed for the power.

The unanimous action disappointed advocates who said secondhand smoke is dangerous and pleased those who saw the proposed ban as government intrusion into private affairs.

"This gives you some idea how much control lobbyists have," said Del. Algie Howell Jr., D-Norfolk, who sponsored one of the ban bills. "It's unbelievable that a handful of people will decide what's in the best interest of the people of Virginia."

Randy Estenson, owner of Poppa's Pub in Virginia Beach, who said 80 percent of his customers smoke, praised the ruling.

"I'm very happy," he said. "I honestly believe businesses are doing what they need to do on their own."

Delegates who voted against the measure took a similar position.

"It's not up to the government to tell people what to do," said Del. Thomas Gear, R-Hampton, chairman of the General Laws ABC/Gaming subcommittee.

Gear said many of his favorite restaurants in Hampton have decided to ban smoking on their own.

Del. John Cosgrove, R-Chesapeake, who is the only South Hampton Roads lawmaker on the subcommittee, also voted against the bills. Del. Terrie Suit, R-Virginia Beach, who leads the full General Laws Committee, spoke against them.

"The issue has been elevated to the level that so many restaurants have gone smoke free, so it's not longer necessary for the government to do it," Suit said.