I was speaking with my father-in-law the other day about the so called "nanny state." The discussion arose from an article I had been reading in the local newspaper about the proposal to make all bars and restaurants in Wisconsin smoke-free. I recalled there had been a number of blog posts by conservatives friends in which they take Governor Doyle to task unkindly and, in general, rant about excessive government oversight. My father-in-law is fairly conservative (but a real nice guy) so I asked him what his view was.
Well, my father-in-law admitted he was no fan of cigarette smoke either, but, you know, it is their (cigarette enthusiasts) choice and besides, what about all the bars that would go out of business. I noted that he did not include restaurants as potential closings. We seemed to agree who wants to eat and inhale poison at the same time anyway?
Anyway, I came right out and said I was fully in favor of the ban for both restaurants AND bars. I explained I am the worst of the anti-smoking zealots, a former smoker and one who smoked on average one pack a day. I'm a former smoker who does not miss the telltale smell of smoke, the yellow fingertips, nor the accumulation of the following chemicals in his lungs (the list is actually longer, I just went with the popular ones):
Acetone (nail polish remover)
Ammonia (floor/toilet cleaner)
Arsenic (rat poison)
Formaldehyde (for preserving my youthful visage)
Methanol (rocket fuel)
Napthalene (moth balls)
Nitrous oxide phenols (disinfectants)
Toluene (paint thinner)
Back to bars ... alcohol and cigs, that's another story. Don't they go together like Sigmund and Freud, like Green Bay and Packers? We discussed the difficulty in seperating the cigarettes from the bar. Wouldn't it cause large ripples in Wisconsin's economy? I felt a moment of despair for the poor bar owners destined for bankrupcy. This was quickly extinguished by thoughts of those poor workers who must endure entire shifts filled with smoky air. Surely they can find other jobs, it was proposed, but then, I asked, why must their economic needs be held secondary to addiction?
And then my thoughts turned to reckless behavior and drunkeness. Why, one might ask? Well, you see, I reasoned, bars are major sources of drunk drivers. Tell me I'm wrong and I'll call you a liar. People go to bars, drink too much, ignore friends' requests to accept rides, try to drive home and usually make it there safe and sound. However, too many times they don't and far too often they either damage someone elses property or injure, even kill others ... all for their right to imbibe ridiculously.
We have laws against that sort of behavior. So, why not for cigarette smokers? Their behavior could be considered reckless. They continue to smoke though their smoking is dangerous to my health, similar to drinking to excess and driving drunk. Not dangerous? There are a slew of reports that say otherwise. For example, as reported by the American Heart Association (you know, I can't remember where, but a righty once dismissed anything from the AHA as having an agenda ... gee, improving health and saving lives, some agenda), a study that evaluated the smoking ban in 2003 in Pueblo, Colorado (a city with higher the average smokers than statewide) determined that the ban contributed to a reduction in heart attacks, 108 fewer in an 18-month period.
The point of this is, wasn't it not too long ago that driving drunk was considered less serious than it is now? Hands were slapped, eyes were winked and the occasional death was shrugged off as unfortunate. But no more. In a sense, society grew up and decided it no longer wanted to nanny its wayward children. Responsibililty! Charlie Sykes and his herds' favorite word.
Instead, society decided that adults would be treated from now on as adults. Don't you think it's time for smokers and conservatives to grow up, too, and leave their nannys behind?
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