Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Long Awaited Smoking Rant

For some strange reason, as I entered my twenties, a group of diabolical nerds began to put their evil strategy to take over the Universe into action. Pocket protectors at the ready, they marched fearless and unwavering into the offices of our politicians and our Health Ministers. This group was carefully compiled of each and every geek, nerd or outcast you and I ever blew smoke in the face of, or disgustedly flicked an ash at. Little did we know then, these assholes were carefully documenting each humiliation suffered at the hands of cool kids and their cigarettes. Documenting because the geeks knew, my friend, that with a few careful words, a smattering of trumped up statistics and the odd well placed tear jerker ad campaign, they could make us their bitch.

It was done ever so cleverly, I’m sure you’ll agree. Despite their full intentions involving making us beg for mercy at the end, the nerds only revealed enough information to the Heath Ministers and politicians to ensure they would gain a little much needed ground. So, it started small, folks…small but deadly. You see, the first thing that the geekoids did was seek a non-smoking environment for their children to eat in. Now, as far as I’m concerned, if non-smokers want a place for their kids to eat in, they can put their fucking kids in a bubble and bounce their asses down to the restaurant where I’ll be eating…with my cigarette in my mouth…and large clouds of smoke enveloping my entire table.

But did the government think to tell people to put their non smoking pussy ass kids in bubbles? No, they did not. Now, I know what you’re thinking…the government couldn’t possibly know what I was thinking, and therefore couldn’t accurately articulate the beauty that is my thoughts. Except that I emailed the whole bubble solution to them…several times… until they politely asked me to stop, if you must know. Now, stop interrogating me and focus on the issue at hand, and that issue is that instead of implementing the purely reasonable bubble solution, the government instead implemented the completely unreasonable “No smoking in any facility unless they had a designated smoking section with ventilation adhering to our ‘six-thousand-rules-for- ventilation-because-we-really-don’t-want-you-to-have-a-smoking-room-at-all’ clause.”

Now, let’s talk for one brief shining moment about those so-called ‘smoking areas that adhered to the rules outlined in the by-law. Basically, what happened was this: restaurants immediately began to speak out in regards to the ‘no-smoking anywhere but in a designated smoking area where proper ventilation must be present and anyone under the age of 18 must not be’ bylaw due to their grave (and as it turned out, valid) concerns that such a by-law would be very costly and may still cost them substantial business as most smoker’s were not apt to take kindly to being forced into a little bubble type room. (Damn straight…those are only for the non smoker's kids!!) Moreover, such a room would incur substantial debt in some cases, and what guarantee did these businesses have that the laws wouldn’t be changed again in a week? The government assured them that their fears were completely unfounded. Studies had proven that smokers genuinely enjoyed the exotic plastic like feeling that only smoking in a bubble could give them. As far as changing the laws again so as to make the bubbles useless, come on now…would the government do that to you? (Legend has it that following the utterance of these strange words, the government gently scratched the restaurant owners under the chin, cooing “who has a government who loves them? Who has a government who loves them?” until finally the business owners retreated from the politicians offices feeling confused and vaguely dirty.)

The law was swiftly implemented, causing many restaurant owners to install properly ventilated smoking rooms in their establishments in order to keep their smoking clientele happy. Sounds like a happy ending of some kind, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, unlike most happy ending’s this one involves non-smoking crazy ass mother fuckers, and the non-smoking crazy ass mother-fuckers forget to let things end, ever...no matter what. As a result, they marched their crazy asses back into the offices of our politicians to engage in some merry bitching, the purpose of which was to discuss how unfair the smoking bubbles really were to the non-smoking population. How, you ask, could a properly ventilated smoking bubble completely encased in glass so that the virginal non-smokers would not be subjected to the vile killer that is latent tobacco smoke ever be unfair to a non-smoker? Because when smokers are going in and out of these properly ventilated bubbles, they may allow a tendril of smoke or two to escape, which could easily cause a non-smoker to curl their nose up in disgust and then yell "Avenge me" with their last dying breath because, as we all know, latent tobacco smoke kills innocent non-smoking lungs on first contact.

So as not to force the delicate non-smokers to have to deal with such an atrocity as the odd tendril of smoke, the government began deliberations in regards to how best to eliminate this mighty horror. Meanwhile, smokers became annoyed at the mounting number of non-smoker’s who felt it their divine right to slap cigarettes from smokers’ hands and then grind it out with the virginal heel of their delicate non-smoking foot. As a direct result of this frustration, smokers began the first round of negotiations to turn "Smoking Area" signs into "Mandatory Smoking Area" signs, allowing us the freedom to fine non-smokers for failing to light up in smoking areas.

In California, a bylaw is passed making it illegal for a smoker to roll down their car window whilst having a cigarette. On a completely unrelated story, vehicular accidents in California soar, smokers say that vast amounts of blue smoke clouded their vision rendering a tremendous number of on-coming non-smoking pedestrians completely invisible.

In Ontario, laws are passed making it illegal to light up in any public place whatsoever, bars and bingo halls included!! Charities relying on the bingo halls as primary fund raisers start feeling the effects the “Smoke Free Ontario” campaign inevitably has on their primary source of funding. Ontario residents are told that allowing smoker’s to enjoy a cigarette on any type of covered patio will no longer be tolerated under the new bylaws. In addition, despite the politician’s repeated promises not to allow the “Smoke Free Ontario” campaign to affect nursing/ psychiatric/ addiction recovery homes, (as these types of institutions were being used as the patients home and therefore should be exempt from no-smoking bylaws,) the instant the laws were passed a myriad of the aforementioned institutions used these new bylaws as a method of forcing residents to quit smoking altogether. Imagine how wonderful it would be, in the twilight years of your life, to be given the amazing privilege of quitting smoking at the age of 95!! Senior citizens the world over rejoice!! Your long awaited return of the Gestapo has come at last, and this time, it’s the smoker’s their after.

Back to my happy little corner of the world! Bylaws have been passed now to make all our public places non-smoking. For us too, this includes bars, casinos, legions and bingo halls alike. What of the restaurant owners that installed the smoking rooms and incurred substantial expense in the process? They lost double the money in the end, first losing the money they spent/borrowed to create the smoking room, then incurring additional expense to revert that room they went to great expense to create back into a part of the restaurant. The government is not planning on compensating these restaurant owners, because regardless of the fact that they told the restaurant owners it was the only way to retain smoking clientele, and regardless of the fact they all but promised with blood that the laws would not change in any way that would make this investment a waste, they are NOT to blame for the restaurant owners actually believing them and doing it.

The smokers who check into hospital are also out of luck because now, in order to light up they need to be clear off the property. What does this mean? Well, what it really means is that you all are going to be seeing a lot more smokers on the city block preceding the hospital puffing away in their spiffy hospital gowns. What does it mean for the patients? It means an increased occurrence of pneumonia in all hospitalized smokers, yours completely free, courtesy of the government. This hospital wide ban on smoking does indeed extend into the palliative ward. Patients that are dying of cancer, AIDS, diabetes, etc are now forced to not only make the interminably long walk downstairs (which I assure you it is when you are feeling horrible) so they can step out to smoke, now they must also walk for an additional five or ten minutes to get themselves clean off of hospital grounds prior to lighting up.

If you’re an astute type, you’re apt to be asking “How would they even get downstairs, let alone off of hospital property, without a staff member if they’re dying?” The answer is simple, they don’t. Patients that are in the palliative ward do need assistance to go anywhere, including the bathroom, and I assure you that going all that long way to have a cigarette is no exception…in terms of them needing the help; unfortunately, it is a glaring exception in terms of them getting that help. Consider this for a moment, if a nurse or doctor takes a patient off of hospital grounds for any reason, said nurse or doctor accepts sole responsibility for that patient for the duration of that patient’s time off hospital grounds. Now, realistically, if you were a doctor or nurse working in the hospital with palliative patients that could realistically go any minute, would you DARE to take them off hospital grounds for a cigarette? Considering that they could easily die while in your care, and considering that if they happened to be with you having a smoke off of hospital grounds when that happened you easily could be sued in connection to their death, for most sane minded people, the answer is a resounding “no.” Not, you understand, because all these nurses and doctors are cold-hearted, or because they are vigilant non-smokers because nothing is further from the truth. A good many nurses and doctors are just as outraged, if not more so, about these laws as are the patients. Unfortunately, the laws as they are prevent staff members from taking a patient outside for a cigarette.

So what happens to the patients unlucky enough to need to be hospitalized for a long period of time? Simply put, either they have family member’s kind enough to come in and take them out when they need a cigarette, or they get a patch slapped on their arm by the hospital staff and told to “cope with the cravings best (they) can.” Now, thinking just about the palliative patients for just a moment, why the fuck would they want to quit smoking? Seriously, if you were dying of lung cancer, wouldn’t you think it was a little like closing the barn door after the horse is gone to be forced to quit in your dying hours? Remember Barb Tarbox? Well, she was adamant about the anti-smoking crusade. She spent the better part of her dying months speaking at schools to kids about quitting smoking. However, when she was admitted to the hospital, they put her on the palliative ward, which included a smoking lounge at that time. A little place right down the hall from the patients’ rooms; decorated sparsely and adorned with a few cigarette burns, but convenient and accessible to the palliative patients nonetheless. If she were to be admitted to hospital today, she would be told that she has to quit smoking in her final hours, and a patch would be duly slapped on whichever body part was most accessible at the time. What a lovely thing to put a dying patient through…withdrawal from tobacco.

Okay, now let’s consider the bars, who are also now being subjected to the vehement anti-smoking crusaders. Bars serve a little something called alcohol. Alcohol, for those of you who don’t know, kills brain cells and dehydrates the body. In fact, when you wake up from a night of drinking with a pounding headache, it’s actually the sac around your brain, which is usually full of fluid to protect your grey matter, completely dry and sticking to the brain itself. Don’t tell me that isn’t what your hangovers are, either, because guess what folks? That’s what everyone’s hangovers are!! So, this whole drinking thing, doesn’t really sound all that healthy does it? However, apparently, people that are frequenting these establishments in order to kill brain cells and dehydrate their bodies are much better off if we can keep them away from second hand smoke. Oddly enough, the people that are frequenting these establishments don’t seem to agree that they want a smoke-free environment. In fact, the patrons of the bars seem to feel quite strongly about being able to either a)breathe second hand smoke or b)breath first hand smoke, from the cigarette…that they are smoking…while they are drinking….because the two naturally go together.

The best part of these anti-smokers who are charging about selling this drivel to the government is their colorful license with the truth. For example, they proceeded to tell restaurant and bar owners that after an initial lull in business, they would experience an increase in clientele because non-smokers would flock to their non-smoking environment in droves. They said the same to the bingo halls and casinos. Let’s see here…since Ontario forced its restaurants and bars to disallow smoking, many of them have closed their doors, citing a lack of business as the reason. Bingo halls are reporting large decreases in income, which has also adversely affected the charities that rely on the revenue from bingo’s to fund them. Casinos are no different, and similarly, the chartable organizations that rely on casino’s to fund them are suffering greatly. It would seem that the increase in business these organizations were supposedly going to enjoy in the wake of the non-smoking blitz was actually in the form of invisible customers. Invisible non-paying customers…

Similarly, we were all originally told that the reason for the pressure to quit smoking, and remove smoking from all public places, was that the health care costs would be dramatically decreased by removing second hand smoke from all public places and encouraging smokers to quit. Well, let’s see here, last I heard, the health care costs are actually on the rise!! Yes, that’s right, health care costs have reportedly gone up from $1.2 billion to $1.7billion dollars over the same period where smoking has reportedly gone down nearly 20%. Soooo…uh…I’m really confused. If stopping smoking was supposed to save the government all this money on health care, then how is it that when smoking went down nearly 20%, healthcare costs are nearly half again what they were the year before?? Something sure smells rotten in the state of Denmark, and I don’t think it’s the cheese.

What’s the bottom line? Well, I think the bottom line is very much about what the government finds it convenient to get behind. Realistically, by standing behind the anti-smoking movement, they gave themselves a perfect license to raise the costs of cigarettes continually, thereby increasing the amount of tax revenue they receive. Who’s going to bitch about it guys? Surely not the diligent anti-smoking activists, and if the smoker’s bitched, who cares? They’re the bad guys that created this whole problem of second hand smoke anyways, and are constantly putting our lives in danger by their very existence on this planet, so why should anyone listen to them? It’s an easy cash grab. Now, if you can believe it, the same government is whining about the increase in black market cigarettes. Yes, that’ll happen when you decide to tax people into the very ground they smoke on.

BUT, considering that the government makes a very large portion of its revenues off of cigarette taxes, what would they do if we all listened to this campaign and quit? I’ll tell you what; they won’t be dancing in the streets with the anti-smoking activists if that happens. Not AT ALL. In fact, they would be scrambling about searching for something, anything, to replace the billions of dollars worth of revenue smokers give them each and every year.

What’s the answer? There isn’t one. Smoking does kill, let’s face it. It kills the smoker, and it can certainly have a very detrimental affect on non-smokers living in the same residence if they are smoked in the house. On this point, the anti-smoking activists do have a point. The real problem is how far things are being taken, and where those things are going now. Consider this, how much longer do you think it will be before social services cites “Smoking Home” as the reason to apprehend a child? How much longer before parents are charged with abuse for smoking in their vehicle if their child is in the car? How much longer before we are told that smoking on our back porch is ‘polluting the air’? My personal fear is that we aren’t far away from these and other developments. Do I think quitting smoking is the right thing to do? Well, it would really depend. First and foremost, it would depend upon your age, your health and your reasons. If you are ninety years old and dying of cancer, no, I don’t think you should quit smoking. You’re old and you’re dying, what the hell good would it do? If, on the other hand, you happen to be a thirty year old parent, then yes, I think you should quit so that you can watch your children grow up and get married. I know that’s why I’m doing it. I just resent being told all that by a group of zealots who haven’t had sex since I was five…that’s all.

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