Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Where there's smoke, there's ire

Ah, the Great Indoors

Last night I went to Laurelhurst Park and watched “Singing in the Rain” along with a few hundred other Portlanders. I'm not sure there is a better way to enjoy a balmy summer evening that doesn't involve taking off all one's clothes or imbibing tall drinks with Spanish names. There were snow cones for sale at a tropical-themed cart, though most people brought their own picnics. The movie, which I hadn't seen in years, is one delightful song and dance routine after another, including the famous eponymous scene, plus the songs “Make 'Em Laugh,” “Good Mornin'.” and the incomparable “Gotta Dance.”

But this is a somewhat political blog, so for me, it's “Gotta Kvetch.”

It was the cigarette smoke. Enough people were smoking in the crowd that at times I grew a bit nauseous. At the least, it was irritating. And that brings me to my point: cigarette smoking must be prohibited in outdoor public places.

I applauded the extension of cigarette bans to bars, although it went into effect about a year and a half too late. Now I can go into even the most divey (and therefore most interesting) bars in town and inhale comfortably. It's great to be able to walk to my neighborhood pub and have a beer and dinner without suffocating from tobacco smoke.

Unfortunately, by implementing this ban on smoking in bars, we have ceded the outdoors to smokers. It's great indoors now. But it's virtually impossible to sit on at a sidewalk table, or on the patio of a restaurant or bar, without wondering if a tremendous fire is consuming Mt. Hood National Forest—except that forest fires, as devastating as they are, smell better than the incineration of tobacco.

So let's just ban outdoor smoking. Let the smokers puff away in a closet or a car with the windows rolled up. Or their own home, if they own it themselves, since very few landlords want to rent to smokers anymore.

Not that I'm totally unsympathetic. I did make this suggestion last winter when the bar ban took effect:

But don't cry to me about smokers' rights. Those of you who smoke should have no rights. You are drug addicts. You suck on an extremely lethal drug that is more addictive than heroin. Like meth tweaking, your addiction harms the people around you. And the weird thing is, it doesn't even get you high.

In any sane society, tobacco would be illegal. Only the largess and lobbying power of the tobacco companies keeps it legal. So that's not going to happen, but the non-addicted public is going to keep making it more difficult to feed your addiction. Get used to it.


  1. Why does cigarette smoke seem to be more offensive in hot weather than in cooler weather? I was walking 15-20 feet behind a person smoking during our recent heat wave and found the smoke and stench overwhelming. I, too, mourn the loss of patio seating.

  2. You drink alcohol. In public, at pubs, on lawns in front of children? Then -- and I say this as someone who goes through a pack of kreteks every few weeks, at home, in private and never in front of the weak-willed or impressionable -- you are as self-indulgent and drugged up as any of the rest of us. When you've taken up Carrie Nation's axe, talk to us about our bad habits. Which might slowly destroy our health, and impinge slightly on the world and lives about -- but is not responsible for the majority of car accidents that destroy entire families, for fatal beatings after 2 a.m. and abuse in quiet suburban households.

    It's more than a little hypocritical to demand that others be denied their drug while you are indulging in your own. Or do you believe that beer breath, witless laughter, boasting and loud displays of bad manners are less likely to ruin *our* evening out?

    I think you know you haven't a leg to stand on. And I'm willing to bet that if someone lit the green and offered you a hit, you'd accept.

  3. Dear Ann...

    As Barney Frank would say, "What planet have you been spending your time on recently?" There may be a few places where you see obnoxious drunks in public in our fair city, but nowhere nearly as often as packs of cigarette smokers. (Unless you are referring to the homeless, for which public drunkenness is a symptom of a far larger problem.)

    Beer breath is not nearly as toxic as second hand smoke. Alcohol consumption certainly can be dangerous for both the drinker and other people, but at least, unlike smoking, it's fun to do.

  4. Frank (who certainly doesn't deserve the tights & cape he's been awarded -- not after the travesty of a hearing he presided over while protecting smug CEOs from any possibility of having to answer actual questions) was on target. That you back up your usurption of his reply with the lame assertation that drinking is more fun than smoking, so its better! (to paraphrase) puts you squarely in the seat of the dissenter he was insulting. Your vice is better than my vice? Please.

    You put aside the devastation caused by alcohol, the violence and sudden death, because alcohol is fun?

    Not a single leg, Hand, not a foot, not a toe. Your reasoning for the extension of non-smoking bans into infinity leaves you lying in the gutter.

    And as a fun side fact, after a 100-year ban of wormwood-based alcohol, on the grounds that it was harmful, hallucinatory and mind damaging, the US has suddenly approved the production and sale of absinthe -- an 85% proof drug, guaranteed to cause an upswing in death and violence. The administration will not enforce the use of targeted public funds to actually create jobs, provide schooling or distribute food stamps, but they will make sure there is business for supportive industries. I wonder how much casket makers contribute to war chests, these days?

    Call me Shirley.

  5. Interesting that the healthcare issue is not discussed here, including the public's burden of caring for people who damage themselves through smoking, an the deleterious effects of secondhand smoke, especially for children and other loved ones who must endure it every day. I recently returned from living in Turkey where smoking was ubiquitous. I remember one beautiful spring evening out to dinner with friends. We were sitting outside (since I refused to dine inside where there was so much smoke you could barely see your food). We all got our meals and dug in, but then halfway through, several of my Turkish friends put down their forks and lit up. I thought they must be finished but their plates were half full. Turns out it was common for smokers to take a smoke break halfway through their meals. I saw this again and again while I was there. What effect does all this smoking have on the Turks? Anyone over 50 can't walk up stairs without huffing and puffing and stopping halfway. BTW was it in Tokyo that smoking was banned outside, not because of secondhand smoke but because too many people were getting burned? I can understand that after living in Istanbul where everyone smoked while they walked. One more thought: as for smoking being fun, in a sense it is, because it relieves anxiety that prevents addicts from enjoying anything until they light up. And don't forget: most hardened heroin addicts are not getting high for fun; they need it just to feel 'normal.' True for smokers too.

  6. Right.

    Alcohol plus the now popular open carry -- death for bystanders.

    Cigarettes plus the now popular open carry -- wheezing, misguided commentary on the foolishness of Swedish panels.

    500,000 deaths due to smoking each year. 50,000 deaths due to guns. Take away the guns -- I'll give up cigarettes with a song in my heart.

    As for the medical bills -- like we can afford to go to the doctor... and soon, we'll be fined for not being able to afford to go to the doctor.