Anti-smoking activists in the US have had great success limiting the freedoms of smokers. California seems to have led the way for many other states and cities looking to just save one person from the dangers of second hand smoke. HoT commented about the latest ban in New Jersey here and here, and I read the articles thinking, well it is at least not Paris, Spain and
Italy. The day that smoking in public is illegal in those places will truly mean the end, right?
Tonight as I sat finishing laundry, I caught up on some reading. My favorite place to start in the paper is the Op/Ed section. I think that if you want to know what’s going on in the world, there is no better place to start. Most people don’t develop their own opinions anymore- they just borrow from whomever they believe to be “smart” and parrot the “news.” You can always find tomorrow’s buzzword in today’s opinion page. Well, as I stubbed out (what I thought was) my last cigarette of the night, I found this article in the NYT and had to cross Spain off my list. Spain has joined the anti-smoking crusade. The article was translated from spanish, so I am sure some really funny nuances were missed, but I really enjoyed it. Javier Marias really hit home in a few places.
Consideration for one’s fellow man was addressed:
Many of my friends are smokers too; many are not. But we have always managed to come to terms by asking if anyone minds our smoking – without the government’s intervention.
Government hypocrisy was addressed:
But the government’s argument that it is seeking to improve public health is hypocritical. The Spanish Treasury takes in colossal revenues, direct and indirect, thanks to this pernicious habit. Every time the government needs to find a way to finance some exceptional expense, a new cigarette tax is levied. The implicit message to Spanish citizens is this: “Smoke! Smoke more – so we can balance our budget.”
And the ridiculous nature of the argument was addressed:
Nowhere have I ever heard, for example, that cars are obliged to carry, just above the driver’s-side door, a warning, like those on cigarette boxes, that “Driving a car may cause death, grisly amputations, quadriplegia and involuntary manslaughter.” I have also never seen anyone lay blame on sunbathers who go to the beach and almost drown, or mountain climbers who get lost and fall off cliffs, and whose rescue incurs a tremendous expense and endangers the lives of others. Nobody is forcing anyone to swim in the ocean or climb mountains, just as nobody is forcing smokers to smoke, and yet the latter are regarded practically as criminals.
In the end, Spain has a little more sense than we do. According to Senor Marias, its ban is not absolute:
…after tremendous protests and battles over the law, that is – in establishments of less than 1,100 square feet (spaces that are too small to be divided into smoking and nonsmoking areas), the owner can decide if the place will be smoke-free or not.
I wish that Dallas had decided it that way.
My city is also a no bar/restaurant smoking city, and while I am not a closet smoker, I only smoke in the evenings. The evenings are when I spend my money. Before the ban in Dallas, I might have been smoking in a local bar, paying way too much for a drink while playing a spirited game of Golden Tee. Now, I don’t bother. I stay home knowing that they cannot stop me from lighting up here. (Unless my employer goeson me) Sorry, I got a little personal there and a lot off topic.
Back to Spain: The writer summed up the point rather nicely with words that could address any topic.
A totalitarian state is one that sticks its nose where it doesn’t belong and attempts to intervene in every aspect of its citizens’ private lives, and many governments today, whether left, right or center, have developed this practice of behaving like busybodies. The old notion that only dictatorships can be totalitarian seems terribly naÃƒÂ¯ve nowadays. And that is the worst thing about this antismoking law and others of the same ilk: they unfortunately prove that totalitarianism is no longer incompatible with the democratic systems that once guaranteed our freedoms
Oh well, France is left, right?