If like-minded Little Napoleons are so concerned with the social cost of what others are doing in cars and bars, why not just ban alcohol? That’d eliminate alcohol-related fatalities (1,227 in Oregon between 2000 and 2006) a lot faster than a smoking ban would curtail deaths from secondhand smoke. While we’re at it, why not also ban cars?
The other Trojan horse is the laughable justification of “workers’ health.” As Dana Kaye of the American Lung Association of Oregon told the Associated Press last summer, “This policy change protects the health of people who right now have to work around cigarette smoke.”
Antismoking nags work the “employee health” mantra the way Bushies chant, “The surge is working!” and Beavers basketball fans keep telling themselves this is the year they’ll regain respectability. But here’s the thing about working in a bar—no one has to do it. I grew up in southeast Alaska and, like a lot of kids, ended up crewing on small fishing boats. I hauled nets, cleared longlines, gutted fish, and made a buttload of cash. Commercial fishing was the hardest and most dangerous work I’d ever done—a street in my hometown is named after a Little League teammate who fell off the back of a fishing boat in junior high and was never seen again—and after two seasons I decided I’d never go back. I began applying for vastly less hazardous (though less lucrative) work.
Ask around for the real reason so many Portlanders are looking forward to the smoking ban and you’ll get some iteration of the simpler truth. As Stanley says, “One hundred percent, this is because people don’t like smelling like an ashtray when they get home.”
I can relate. I don’t like it, either. The difference is that when I don’t want to reek up my church jeans, my solution isn’t to infringe upon someone else’s rights. I do what rational people used to do in this country: I avoid places where cigarettes are smoked. As Fran Lebowitz pointed out in her essay “When Smoke Gets in Your Eyes … Shut Them,” dealing with “the unpleasant personal habits of others … is what ‘public’ means…. Being offended is that natural consequence of leaving one’s home.”
I’m going to miss the old, grimy atmosphere. I’ll miss our shared history. Bogey wouldn’t have been Bogey without the coffin nails. And the bars near my Southeast home won’t be as fun when half the working-class regulars—who’ll be most affected by this antismoking jihad—have to huddle in the rain just to get a relaxing huff. By kowtowing to yet another milepost on the road to American pussification, we might be saving our lungs, but we’re killing our souls.