“They will only care when it starts to hurt their pocket books” – a comment the lady made one night when we were talking about the ridiculous new laws that are being enforced regarding the anti-smoking bans that continue to plague our nation. People being fined, even arrested for the simple act of smoking a cigar or a pipe in their home, in public, or even in their own business, after business hours… all because they decided to put flame to tobacco.
I know that this is an issue that has been slowly creeping across the country, certain areas are feeling the sting left from the gut punch, others still on the ground gasping for air. Sure, I am a tobacco user of dip, cigarettes and cigars so I may be a little biased in regards to the supposed freedoms we as Americans enjoy. I have also tried to hear out both sides of the argument, and in a few cases, I will admit that I do agree with some of the no smoking rules. Don’t smoke around infants, done. Don’t smoke in the hospital, done. Don’t smoke near flammable substances, done. The drawback for me is when the logical aspect of it wears off. I have been reading more and more articles where 3rd and 4th hand smoke is now considered an ‘issue to the public’! If we go outside and smoke, the smoke will linger on our clothes and if we sit on a chair or a couch – when we leave, a new person sits down and the smoke and chemicals are transferred to that person and can cause health problems, yet you can smoke a cigarette next to children at the zoo – are you fucking kidding me? This sounds like a poorly thought out ‘chaos theory’ produced by an 8 year old.
This has placed an unbearable strain on us smokers, who simply want to use the American, God given right of freedom to enjoy a crafted piece of art that happens to be tobacco. We are able to consume food to the point where our country has an ‘obesity epidemic’ that is killing more people (and at a faster rate) than tobacco related diseases yet people are able to get motorized carts at the grocery store so they don’t have to walk or increase their heart rate when getting their doughnuts and ice cream. Drug and alcohol use are at all time highs and our children are having schools closed due to lack of funding, but we cannot smoke a cigarette or cigar in a public park with common sense discretion?
Yes, that is one issue that I have heard of more than once, that when in a public park, open to the elements, if one were to light up a cigar they could actually be forced to throw it away and face a fine simply for lighting up. Going back to agree with the previous paragraphs, within reason I can understand this – If a 4 year old is having a birthday party in the pavilion and you light up no more then 3 or 4 feet away, yes I feel that is rude and should not be done, but the fact of the matter is that the right to do such still exists. On the flip side though, if a person is walking on a trail, taking their pet for some exercise or simply leaning against a tree and watching the world go by I feel they have every right to enjoy any cigar they want to in the park their taxes helps support.
Taxes are an entirely different thing and without making my rant twelve pages long, I will keep it to a minimum. Smokers, chewers, and drinkers all realize that we are supporting the ‘sin tax’ that the state and even federal government have instated. For years these taxes were actually being used (in my opinion) properly whether it was to fund schools, road developments or research programs – the taxes (although being higher and paid by a smaller group) ensured that all civilians would be able to use the gained revenue to better the people – in this respect I have no issues. My issue with this, as smokers pass away or quit smoking due to whatever reasons you want to believe, in order to maintain the same financial income the taxes must continually increase until they get to the plateau where people simply stop purchasing all together – a huge negative for everyone. One funny thing I find about this, our current President, Obama, is attempting to instate a ‘sin tax’ on soda and other sugary drinks – since I mainly drink beer, rum and water I’m all behind this tax, lets give it the 3000% increase we all recently absorbed with the increase in cigar taxes.
All of these comments are arguments and points I am sure we all have heard before, but what prompted me to write this was what I have seen a few establishments do, and hope will be a continued trend for other cities. Some local shops have been purchasing or expanding their property to encompass an outdoor location or a covered patio specifically designated for those who wish to smoke – one such bar in the St. Louis area is expanding into the alley to allow a non-smoking section inside while still allowing their patrons the ability to smoke at their establishment. One night club in the down town area even has a patio bar that can only be accessed from outside, allowing the non-smokers and smokers to exist peacefully.
St. Louis allowed exemptions within their new smoking laws, one of which was giving a break to tobacco establishments so they can allow smoking in and on their premises, which has actually been able to start a drive of business back to the B&M’s. I see this as a prime opportunity for the B&M’s to create that ‘safe haven’ for their customers and perhaps even for their families. No, I’m not talking about having a day care at the front door, but I am stressing that most us know one of the hardest things about getting out and going down to the B&M is the ‘getting out’ portion, but imagine if you could invite your significant other to go along with you, where they could also socialize and engage in activities in a safe, controlled environment.
With any issue that comes before you, there is always a way to turn it into a positive. I know that St. Louis has more relaxed laws pertaining to smoking than most other cities and states, but I hope that this town is able to turn this negative into a positive and may be able to influence other states laws in the process, creating a safe haven for tobacco enthusiasts without the non-smoking movement being affected. Taxes can remain where they are or even go lower due to the continued purchasing (perhaps even increased) power of these tobacco products and local shops could create more jobs by making a larger staff focused around what I feel a Brick and Mortar shop should do, catering to their clients.