T. GAVIN KING
Smokers are a persecuted minority
By T. GAVIN KING
By T. GAVIN KING
“Secondhand smoke – no one should have to breathe it.” We are told this every day, and almost everyone agrees. So, why are we bombarded without let-up about something with which most people agree?
We are because the anti-tobacco forces sponsoring the message, as well as “Tobacco stops with me,” are trying to entrench public opinion against smoking and tobacco so that legislators will favorably consider passing a law in the new session enabling cities to ban smoking more than state laws have already banned smoking. Their most powerful weapon, they think, is relentlessly proclaiming no one should have to breathe secondhand smoke.
It is true no one should have to breathe secondhand smoke. It is also true no one in Oklahoma has to breathe secondhand smoke. State law has banned smoking everywhere, except stand-alone bars, cigar bars, separately ventilated rooms in restaurants, 25 percent (about the percentage of smokers) of hotel and motel rooms, and private clubs.
The anti-tobacco forces want smoking banned in those places as well, even though they are places where smokers are not interfering with nonsmokers’ right not to have to breathe secondhand smoke because they don’t go to any of those places unless they choose to go or work there. Banning smoking so that nonsmokers may work without being exposed to smoke is to deny and displease a great many in order to favor and please only a very few. One hundred smokers in a bar could not smoke because one or more bartenders, staff, servers or musicians are nonsmokers. This is not reasonable but the product of mass hysteria for a utopia.
Moreover, if some nonsmokers might be in those smokers’ ghettos, which is unlikely because they don’t have to be there, exposure to secondhand smoke could not harm them. Contrary to the widespread misrepresentations about the 2006 surgeon general’s report, it did not state that brief exposure to secondhand smoke is harmful. Rather, the report stated that it is chronic exposure at high levels for many, many years that might be harmful.
As for the “Tobacco stops with me” proclamation, it might encourage nonsmokers to speak out against tobacco, and it might encourage some smokers to quit, but it will not discourage most smokers, all of whom already know the health risks involved. It is often said tobacco use produces huge tax revenues, which fund Insure Oklahoma, which provides supplemental health care for employees without their employers having to pay for all of their health care.
When the Republican leadership in the state House of Representatives recently met in Bartlesville to discuss their agenda for the new session, among the citizens outside their meeting place with signs supporting or opposing their agenda was a man wearing a tri-corner hat like those our freedom-loving Founding Fathers wore. His sign read: “Don’t Steele Our Cigar Bars and Taverns.”
Rep. Kris Steele, who was to become and is now the speaker of the Oklahoma House, promised last year not to support any smoking bans. Now he is leading those supporting a law enabling cities to enact a law he promised not to support. Mary Fallin, when running for govenor, said she would not support a ban in bars.
Smokers are a persecuted minority and should be left alone in their lonely ghettos. Oklahoma cannot be a utopia for nonsmokers or smokers.
T. Gavin King is a semi-retired attorney and rural Rogers County resident.
Walter Williams on zealots
“The late H.L. Mencken’s description of health care professionals in his day is just as appropriate for many of today’s: “A certain section of medical opinion, in late years, has succumbed to the messianic delusion. Its spokesmen are not content to deal with the patients who come to them for advice; they conceive it to be their duty to force their advice upon everyone, including especially those who don’t want it. That duty is purely imaginary. It is born of vanity, not of public spirit. The impulse behind it is not altruism, but a mere yearning to run things.”?
Thomas Jefferson put it simpler in his Notes on Religion in 1776, “Laws provide against injury from others, but not from ourselves.”?