Tobacco Policies & Legislation

How To Beat A Dead Dog: Anti-Smoking Activism in Modern America

by C. R. S. Lyles
As the old adage goes, the only two sure things in life are death and taxes. As smokers know, these elements of life are even more assured, since smoking can lead to early death and the current taxation on cigarettes has outshone any other taxable product since the Intolerable Acts of colonial times.

But now a third variable has crept into the mixture, a variable which not only exacerbates the previous two, but will inevitably lead to a poorer quality of life for all Americans who still continue to smoke: joblessness.

In a recent article published by the New York Times, hospitals and medical businesses are cutting down on the volume of employed smokers within their facilities and turning away applicants who either confess that they smoke or it is found out later that they smoke.

The application process for those seeking jobs within the medical profession warn explicitly of "tobacco-free hiring", and the applicants themselves must take urine tests and those who are hired and later caught smoking face termination.

In a world run rampant under the sway of the almighty attitude of "political correctness", smokers remain the only (and I do mean THE ONLY) group of Americans who are not only continually discriminated against, but are encouraged to be discriminated against by the rest of the American population.

In the case of the hospital bans against smokers, think about what would happen if just one hospital or medical business turned away an African-American.

Short answer, the NAACP would rally so quickly against that hospital and would slap a lawsuit against them so fast that by the end of the work day THAT DAY the subject who had been discriminated against would effectively own the business he was denied employment at.

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The examples are endless, because in today’s America we are so afraid of offending anyone that we inevitably end up offending not only our own dignity and pride but the memory of the founding fathers by forfeiting personal accountability in favor of the status quo.

Now, how smokers got left out of the jolly little band of sue-happy American gangs is unclear, but it is certainly assured and increasingly well-documented that smokers are on the outs in regard to the protection of anti-discrimination laws.

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I guess the ACLU was out to lunch when their name came up for potential membership.

Long story short, the pattern which will affect smokers should bans like this continue goes a little something like this:

Step 1: Person smokes. This is legal.

Step 2: Person applies for a job. This is legal.

Step 3: Person is denied job because they smoke. This is illegal.

Step 4: Person pays higher rates for taxes in order to smoke. With no income, this becomes harder to do. Money gained from tobacco taxes does not go to proper groups. This is illegal.

Step 5: Person has to take a job they are vastly overqualified for because they can’t get the other job since they smoke. Forget illegal/legal; this is just plain wrong.

Step 6: Person succumbs to increased amount of stress due to bills piling up and the inability to get a better paying job.

Step 7: Person’s immune system becomes weaker due to increased levels of stress. Person develops an illness.

Step 8: Person dies of illness. Anti-tobacco groups blame it on smoking and everybody cheers the fact that another smoker is dead and they can get more money through the twisted logic of fear mongering.

Yes, smoking is bad for you, but it isn’t the element that will kill you in the end; the stress from not being able to enjoy the same quality of life as everyone around because you stand out in a way that pisses off the self-righteous assholes which craft initiatives like this ban is what is going to kill you.

Jacob Sullum, author of the Reason Magazine article "The Right to Discriminate Smokers" sums it up the best.

"If anti-smoking activists truly believed that smokers are helpless nicotine slaves, why would they support policies that ‘punish the addiction’ through punitive, regressive taxes and restrictions that make it increasingly difficult for these addicts to get their fix (for example, by banning separate smoking rooms in workplaces and smoking near the entrances of office buildings)?"

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The fact is, smokers are not a group in the eyes of the American people anymore: they are akin to junkies and crack-fiends, and must, in the well-disguised words of Concord Senator Mark DeSaulnier and Jane Warner, President and CEO for the American Lung Association in California, be eliminated.

According to Warner, "There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke and people exposed increase their risk of developing lung cancer by 20 to 30 percent." She, of course, cites statistics fabricated by the U.S. Surgeon General’s 2006 report on secondhand smoke."

DeSaulnier, also an advocate against secondhand smoke, rallies his empty-headed supporters around a similar cry:

"California workers should not be exposed to secondhand smoke and the health risks associated with it. They go to work and earn an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work, not to breathe in carcinogens. It is time to bring California’s once-groundbreaking Smoke-Free Workplace law into the 21st century."

Funny, isn’t Hollywood located within California? Don’t the majority of actors working in Hollywood smoke? Hmmm….

Honestly, I’m at a loss with all of this.

I’m tired, folks. I’m tired of banging my head against a wall and trying to make stubborn, pig-headed people understand the irreparable damage they are doing to the rights of American citizens.

I’m tired of fighting and tired of being made to feel like a drug addict.

And, most importantly, I’m just flat-out sick and tired of having to talk about this. We shouldn’t have to talk about this; this should not be an issue.

Our troops are still holed up in Afghanistan. Our allies in the Middle East are dwindling, our economy’s still in a rut, China’s out-producing us and taking the once-great idea of American enterprise and creativity and making it their own while our lawmakers sit in Congress complaining about health care.

Health care? Are you serious? That’s the primary reason our country is going to hell right now? Because of smokers?

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Let me tell you what the real problem is. These issues, the Smoke-Free Workplace law, the applicants seeking jobs in the health care profession being turned away because they smoke, the endless commercials we see on television which brainwash our kids and teach them to "Live Above the Influence", none of these are what is really going on.

What’s really going on is that bipartisan politics have become so brutal, so divided and broken, that the only way for the separate parties to get their way is to remain in office, and the only way to do that is to dupe the American people into rallying behind them by attaching themselves to an issue before the other side can.

The issue? Doesn’t matter, because a good speech writer can make chocolate sound like an atomic bomb. Having an adequate grasp of the English language myself, I understand the vast power of words, how easily they can be used to move and sway the mob and unite them under a single mantra (remember "Yes We Can"?)

I could continue to cite the fallacies in statistics. I could continue to cite the missteps in syntax and logic employed by the most vehement of anti-smoking activists, but I’m just too tired.

As my grandmother often says, "There’s just no point in beating a dead dog."

The issue of smoking is a dead dog. So, to all the anti-smoking activists and lawmakers who are so entrenched in their own beliefs, who continually dig up the body of old Rover so they can punish him over and over again for all the senseless reasons they can conjure up, can’t you please just let sleeping dogs lie?

Carter R. Lyles is a student at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, FL and at the University of Florida in Gainesville. He is a journalism/psychology major, and in addition to his work at Pipes Magazine, he has contributed articles to The Alligator, Thursday Night Magazine, and The Fine Print.


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