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Making the Argument

A Reader Responds

To the Editor:

Psst, hey you. Yeah, you. Can I bum a cigarette? Gee, thanks a lot. I’ve been getting so many dirty looks I felt bad about buying another pack. I’m surprised you’re walking around so casually, smoking. Haven’t you heard? The health-conscious Inquisitors are hunting down anyone who smokes and making them wear little cigarette badges. Yeah, so that way people will already form an opinion about you just from knowing you’re a smoker. Wow, they even accused me of giving a baby lung cancer the last time I lit up at Bully’s. Well, good smoke. Take it easy and watch where you light up. Be careful. They are on the lookout.

I only wish this was a fictional account between another smoker and I. The witch-hunt against smokers in this state and around the country has come to a fever pitch with people jumping onto the “keep smokers out” bandwagon. The amount of hypocrisy dripping from the column “Make all public places smoke-free now” by Chris Pritsos in the Winter 2007 Nevada Silver & Blue (pg. 11)  sticks to my sense of outrage like tar stains on my teeth. We tell smokers that they can’t smoke in a restaurant but then we force a pound and a half of food down each person’s throat with each meal. We tell smokers they can’t smoke in a sports bar and then offer Quadstackers and Western Double Cheeseburgers to children who, at the age of 10, weigh more than me at age 25. California is the hardest on smokers and yet when I stand on a catwalk above the freeway in Alameda, I can’t see the road due to all the smog. We’re surrounded by death and fatal contaminants every day, natural and man-made and yet smokers are the only people being hassled for something that is legal. That is what is so humorous about smoking. It’s legal, but illegal, but than again kind of legal. 
The arguments against smoking have been drubbed into our heads for as long as I can remember and I’m sick of hearing them. The American Lung Association says this and the American Cancer Society says that...blah, blah, blah. Give it a rest. I’m not a fool. I realize that smoking is a great health risk, but I still get the wayward comment from some self-righteous health nut, “Did you know that smoking causes cancer?” the words barely able to escape from their mouth because of the snarl of their top lip. I usually reply with feigned ignorance/bad attitude. “Are you kidding? I never realized that. My God, I’ve been killing myself for years!” as I blow a ring of smoke into their face. Stay out of my business. I wish all of these associations would come out with some other way of scaring people into not smoking. Tell me that if I keep smoking I’ll grow a birthmark that Mikhail Gorbachev would be proud of. Tell me a spooky bedtime story about how if I keep smoking the FDA is going to come down on me like the NSA as if I had the audacity to bring a bottle of Pantene with my carry-on.
I flipped through the pages, eagerly hoping for the picture that ran in all of the periodicals portraying the man and woman smoking at a restaurant, content in their knowledge that they were murdering everyone in the restaurant. The bold print that brazenly stated, “Guess which table is going to cause 20,000 smoking deaths this year?” or some other hogwash to that effect. Must we try to demonize people in nonsmokers’ eyes by stating what is erroneously inaccurate? That I have caused cancer in thousands if not tens of thousands of people by simply walking by them when they breathed in the smoke from my foul weed? Secondhand smoke does lead to cancer and other breathing-related people who are constantly around a smoker. When I walk into a bar and casually drink my Beam and Coke while having a smoke and watching the Oakland-San Francisco game, I am not signing the death certificate of the person sitting next to me. Perhaps if I then married that person and smoked around her while watching reruns of Seinfeld for years and years, then she would have some sort of medical problem. 
Fine, the people voted and said that we smokers cannot smoke in restaurants or other public places, i.e. libraries, day-care centers, etc. Let’s be realistic here. How many times did anyone ever see someone light up while watching Baby Joey in the day care or while reading Great Expectations in the library? How many times did someone see did Dr. Whatshisname puff away on his Kool while performing a tonsillectomy? I can tell you and you already know the answer. None. Never. You have never seen it because human decency and decorum know the boundaries. So was that bill really necessary?
I’m a realistic sort of guy, and so I will concede.  I will not smoke in a restaurant and I will not smoke in a pediatrician’s office and I will not smoke in a bar that serves food (sigh). Now though, I am worried that I will not be able to smoke while I try and roll for a hardway 8 at a casino. I will not be able to have a drink and enjoy my cigarette while unsuccessfully hitting on the good-looking blonde sitting next to me at the regular bar? People call that a fallacy, a “slippery-slope” argument, but I’m not so sure about that. I see a future where smokers are herded up and forced into non-smoking facilities where they are forced to watch episodes of Everybody Loves Raymond until they cry out in pain and repent their smoking ways.
Smokers are people too.  Granted, people with a bad habit and smelly clothes, but people nonetheless.

Daniel Echebarria ’06 (English) (Smoker)
Campus Pharmacy
University of Nevada, Reno


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