…or how it’s bad for your health. It’s not about people opening their hearts and offering the gift of self for the betterment of others.
You will probably not like what I have to say here but please understand this is not really to convince you that you are wrong about something and that I, therefore, am right. It is, rather, to get something off my chest. You have your own mind.
Just two days ago the University campus at which my office is located implemented the latest phase in its “anti-smokers” policy (my term—it refers to itself as an anti-smoking policy; I differ). This has been playing out for decades: first no smoking in class, then no smoking indoors, next no smoking in proximity to the buildings and now, finally, a complete ban on smoking anywhere on the extensive campus. Those who wish to smoke will have to leave campus to do so.
I’m not at-ease with this latest round but it’s not because of the smoking.
Here’s an imaginary conversation I have had with the members of whatever committee made this decision.
Me: I’m not a smoker but I’m not happy about this smoking ban.
Member Number One: Those People are out there ruining their health and we need to stop this.
Me: But we have an excellent fitness infrastructure here. Wouldn’t it be a better investment if instead of acting negatively (banning smoking) we instead promoted healthy living by doing a better job of getting more people to use it? I don’t see you over at the field house very often. Never, actually…
Member Number Two: Those People are sicker because of smoking and it’s my taxes that are paying for their extra health care. I’m not having any more of it!
Me: Is that a bag of chips you’re eating? I guess we will need to ban foods that lead to type II diabetes and heart disease next. Get off my campus while you eat that junk.
Member Number Three: I don’t want the secondhand smoke created by Those People.
Me: The actual damage done to you by breathing in secondhand smoke outdoors is negligible. I noticed you just had a barbecued hamburger for lunch. The smoke from your ‘cue (which is thousands of time more intense) didn’t seem to bother you much. Oh, and about your backyard fire pit—smoke-free is it?
Member Number Four: It’s bad for the environment.
Me: Tobacco smoke is significantly less a polluter than are cow farts. Do we need to ban those too? Oh, yeah, your pickup (you don’t car pool) has a Hemi V8 in it, right? Can you please disable four of the cylinders—they’re bad for the environment.
Member Number Five: Those People are supposed to be allowed fifteen minute breaks but with all their smoking it’s more like 20-35 minutes. Think of all that lost productivity that WE have to make up for.
Me: And you figure that making them walk all the way to their car and then driving off-campus for a puff will make that better? Tell me, where, exactly did you get your Ph.D.? I think it needs t be rescinded. Ummmm…is that Facebook I see open on your computer?
Member Number Six: We told Those People they could smoke outside blue lines we had painted by the entrances yet Those People kept on smoking by the doors anyway. If they can’t obey that rule then that’s it—we’re banning it altogether.
Me: I’ve been on campus here now for 21 years and I’ve never once been choked up with smoke like you seem to be suggesting. In fact since you had those cute, sassy lines painted on I’ve never seen a single person smoking inside one and the only smoke I’ve detected has been blown over by the wind; the smokers were stood way out there trying to hide away and shivering in the wind and rain at the time–not by the door.
Member Number Six: (seems to be in touch with is really going on here) That’s not what we’re hearing. We have reports of many people violating the line and, besides, we’re the majority so…there.
Me: This is a place of learning; we rely on data. I have seen none that supports what you are saying. And yes, I suppose, to you, might makes right.
End of conversation.
This is not about the smoking. And, while I see this as an ‘Anti Smokers’ campaign, not an ‘Anti-Smoking’ campaign, I re-state that it’s not about that at all.
Let me be clear: I do not approve of smoking. I am not a smoker and neither, thankfully, are any of the members of my immediate and extended family. The research is clear. It is very bad for your health. It is an expensive habit that ruins lives, families and, yeah, annoys those who do not participate. The whole ‘Anti-Smoking/Smokers/Whatever’ thing is not what got my goat.
Think back on the bit that involved Imaginary Member Number Six. It was clear that while the members tried to put forward rational arguments they were not interested in hearing any reasoned response. The committee was on a roll, convinced that (A) it was totally in the right and (B) that overwhelming public support was behind it. It did not need anything else. It was justified and was bound and determined to let its momentum crush “Those People.”
“Those People.” Not individuals, no, just a nameless, faceless mob that needs to be eliminated.
Yes, I know you think I am going way too far; that I’m backing the wrong cause; that this is one of those times when this hive/herd mind thing should be left to do some good.
No. Just plain no.
We live in an advanced democracy. A wonderful, complicated, messy and generally rancorous melee of individuals, each with her/his own story.
And every voice counts.
Mobs of people, no matter what the cause, cannot be left to make decisions for all of us. All of the voices need to be heard but one voice is left out. That can’t be allowed. We have gone too far so it’s time to back this thing up and take another good hard look, this time with all of the voices present and listened to.