We smoke. That is not a confession. Neither is it the hackneyed lament heard so often lately, that we would like to quit, but we just can’t seem to do it. We smoke – we enjoy smoking – and we apologize to no one.
It is difficult to imagine any activity, the enjoyment of which is not enhanced by a cigarette. From that first one in the morning to the last Chesterfield King before bed, we savor every unfiltered, tar-saturated, nicotine-fortified drag. Without a cigarette, coffee would be just coffee; beer would be only beer, and our cooking would be barely tolerable. We would be unable to suffer through one more home cooked meal of our own device, were it not for the promise of a good smoke to anesthetize our taste buds when we finish.
But in recent years an insidious plot has been developing across the country intended to deprive us of this simple pleasure. It began innocuously enough with the surgeon general’s report linking cigarette smoking with cancer. Okay. It’s our lungs. You pays your dime and takes your chances. But many were cowed by the report and, rather than risk lung-rot, dementia or genetic mutation, they turned their backs on pure smoking satisfaction.
Lord, preserve us from reformed drunks, born-again hookers and ex-smokers. When people give up something they really enjoy, the void left by their former habits must be filled – in many cases they fill it with a smug and self-righteous sanctimony. It is not enough that they gave up smoking; they insist that everyone else must give it up too. It becomes their mission in life to reform their erstwhile compatriots – to save them from all that unadulterated pleasure.
They were immediately joined, of course, by the usual cadre of the sexually unfulfilled. In an effort to add substance to their meaningless lives, these little old ladies of all possible sexes readily enlist in any movement that will afford them the opportunity to posture their supposed superiority over whichever group is momentarily in disfavor. Though they are not a majority, certainly not silent, and arguably not particularly moral, they have in the past formed the backbone of Nixon’s Silent Majority and Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority. They are all too happy to join in the anti-smoking frenzy.
Thus it was that “NO SMOKING” sections were established in restaurants and other public buildings. In spite of the fact that most patrons preferred to sit in the smoking sections, they continued to press for larger and emptier “NO SMOKING” sections, while the smoking sections became ever smaller and more crowded.
Today smokers are accosted and abused in the street by anti- smoking fanatics wielding the word of god almighty and the surgeon general. One airline has banned smoking on all continental flights; entire buildings have been declared off limits to smokers, and we have been relegated to the dark and dreary corners of marginal respectability.
We are now assailed with pseudo-statistical evidence of the dangers of so called second hand smoke. It is no longer merely a crusade to save us from ourselves. The anti-smoking forces have declared their fight to be a matter of defense of family, flag and faith. We are now perceived to be the aggressors in this struggle, and in their minds they are justified in the use of whatever tactics will further their cause. In the single minded pursuit of unanimous deprivation, these self-appointed saviors of our bodies and souls recognize no rules of common decency; they admit no subservience to ethical standards, and they are totally devoid of shame. We can expect no quarter, no mercy, and no respect for our rights as free and honest citizens. Gentlemen, the holocaust approaches.
I say we have had enough. By god, we are not criminals – we owe no debt to society. We are not idiots to be guided in our behavior by these would-be guardians of truth and wisdom. Nor are we children to be chastised and shamed into obedience by stern and omnipotent parents. They have no homestead claim to the air we breathe. This is our world too. As responsible adults and citizens of this great land, we have certain inviolate rights – rights that have been abrogated.
How then are we to reclaim our birthright? We are probably not outnumbered. Actually, very few non-smokers have joined the ranks of the fanatics. We have, however, allowed them to take and to hold the moral high ground, from which vantage point they so gleefully hurl their insults. When they pushed, we have not pushed back. So the next time they push harder. We have failed to challenge the results of the studies which they so readily quote – studies with very dubious qualifications. And each time their claims are more outrageous than the time before.
We have learned from bitter experience that they have no respect for a courteous reply to their fulminating tantrums. But let us not join them in the gutter. If we were to descend to their level, any victory we might win would be overshadowed by the shame we would bring upon the cause of universal freedom of choice. It is far better that, while remaining firm and assertive, we maintain a civilized and dignified mien.
We would do well to consider the good advice of Nancy Reagan in her courageous struggle against the proliferation of addictive drugs. Just say, “No.” she tells us. And “Just say, No.” should become our battle cry.
When you are told to please put out your cigarette, just say, “No!" When you are asked if you are not ashamed to be polluting our greatest natural resource, just say “No." When someone ventures the opinion that smoking is a dirty and disgusting habit and that smokers are uncouth and insensitive slobs, just smile graciously and reply, “Stick it where the sun don’t shine, Lady.”