Key Words: Blowing Smoke

Now more than ever, the rights of the individual are coming under attack in this country. While there are protests and rallies to protect against the abuses in Guantanamo Bay and free speech zones, one group receives no such support.

Even if they wanted to defend themselves, there are laws against anyone going on television to support their cause. And all across the country, small towns and big cities are passing laws to keep them out of their restaurants and other public places.

Who is this disenfranchised minority?

The American smoker.

I want you to stop for a moment and consider what just happened. As you heard my anonymous description of a group being abused by society with no help from the people or the government, you were probably somewhat sympathetic.

But as soon as I mentioned that these people were smokers, your sympathy likely went up in smoke.

As of late, smokers have become virtual pariahs in almost all aspects of American culture. Passing legislation to ban or discourage smoking has become the hallmark of do-nothing legislatures at both the national and local level.

Those ridiculous Truth Behind The Curtain ads attempt to make tobacco companies look like they’re plotting to kill America’s children. And even on our own campus, Colleges Against Cancer (as opposed to Colleges For Cancer?) is trying to get a university wide smoking ban.

For all of the opposition out there, from the well-meaning students to the city council members to President Obama himself, I have one simple request: leave smokers alone.

In the United States of America, we are not allowed to prohibit another person from doing something simply because we don’t like it.

Freedoms of expression, religion, and press all rest on this same notion. We have a right to make decisions for ourselves, whether beneficial or harmful, without the government or anyone else stopping us.

Even if smoking is as harmful as the pundits claim, we still have every right to do it.

Of course, there’s always secondhand smoke. It doesn’t matter that a comprehensive 1998 study by the World Health Organization found there was no significant risk of harm from it even after 40 to 50 years of exposure.

It also doesn’t matter that the chances of getting cancer from secondhand smoke are less than from citric acid. Perhaps they should stop allowing orange juice on campus before they look into smoking bans.

No, despite all the scientific evidence to the contrary, nonsmokers will continue to claim that breathing in smoke that’s been filtered twice (through the filter of the cigarette and then through the smoker’s lungs) is enough of an inconvenience to them that no one should be allowed to smoke.

Raising taxes on tobacco to discourage people from smoking is simply un-American. Excise taxes, as they are officially called, are placed on certain items as a means to make it too expensive for people to use.

In modern times, they are commonly referred to as vice taxes and find themselves on things like alcohol and tobacco.

However, our Founding Fathers had their own experience with excise taxes. In an attempt to take advantage of the American love for tea, the British crown placed as an excise tax on it.

This, as most Americans know, led to the Boston Tea Party. Even from this country’s beginning, we knew instinctively that excise taxes were wrong.

So what is a smoker to do? They’re not welcome in restaurants and other public places. Even bars and taverns are falling victim to tobacco bans.

After all, we need to protect the large amount of children who frequent bars from exposure to secondhand smoke.

Whether it be my nosey neighbors or Colleges Against Cancer, nonsmokers need to leave those of us who choose to enjoy tobacco alone. We’re not harming you and we’re not blowing smoke in your faces. We just want to relax after a long day like everyone else.

So next time you see a smoker, instead of bothering him about what he’s doing, go hop in your Ford truck that produces more harmful emissions in a full day of driving than I could by smoking a pack a day for 20 years, pull thru the drive thru and order up a burger loaded with cholesterol, the real demonstrated number one killer of Americans, and enjoy your right to do what you want without someone else trying to tell you not to.

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