June 2007

He Says, She Says

Author: Smoker/ Non-Smoker

One Topic.
Two very different opinions.

This Month’s Topic: Smoking

She Says:
By: A Non-Smoker

I don’t believe that I will be the first to bring the follow statement to your attention. Smoking is bad for you and bad for others. You cannot and should not be allowed to purposefully, willfully and intentionally expose other people to any known carcinogen. Didn’t you see Erin Brockovich? I see the same concept in action with smoking and secondhand smoke. If your right to smoke interferes with my right to breathe clean air, then something must change. I am glad that Hilton Head Island approved the smoking ban.

I agree with my counterpart that most Americans choose to do things that potentially shorten their lifespan, such as driving without a seat belt, visiting the beach without the use of a wide spectrum sunscreen or eating a diet high in saturated fats. However, one’s personal decision to eat a bag of pork rinds dipped in a tub of lard is not in any way doing bodily harm to the person sitting next to him eating a celery stick. Smoking is a hazard to the smoker and those around him. According to the American Lung Association, “Scientific evidence indicates that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke.”

Smoking has been banned inside most public places for a number of years. With good reason, malls, offices, government buildings and airports have all prevented smokers from lighting up inside or at least have quarantined the “smoker’s lounge” to an isolated area.

I believe in a person’s right to choose what is best for him or her. I do not consider myself an authority on anything but myself. In my personal experience as a non-smoker, entering a smoke-filled bar can be excruciating. Not only is the smoke causing damage to my skin, lungs and hair, it permeates my clothing, nose and taste buds.

I lived in New York City during the months following the smoking ban, similar to the one now instated on the island. The ban had cultural ramifications for the nightclub and restaurant scene that I don’t see as an issue on Hilton Head. However, people who smoked simply went outside or to private establishments where smoking would be permitted. In 20 degree temperatures, New Yorkers got their coat from the coat check room, stepped outside for their cigarette and returned when ready.

As a regular patron of various Hilton Head eating and drinking establishments, I’m thrilled to no longer have to deal with the smoky aftermath of meeting someone for a quick bite to eat or watching a sporting event over a beer. As an alumni of the waiting tables game, I’m also glad to see that wait staff, managers, busboys, bartenders and hostesses no long have to smile at smoking guests, pretending not to be annoyed or disgusted by the smoke while they work. Making a living at a restaurant or bar is hard enough. Non-smoking staff members should not have to be put in jeopardy night after night. Besides, do you really want the same person who just emptied an ashtray full of cigarettes butts to be slicing your bread and serving you a cocktail?

Recently, while in a Hilton Head sports bar, I watched a man light up a smoke at the bar while having a laugh with a few friends over beers—not an uncommon sight before the ban. I noticed him because he was handsome and well-dressed. However, this particular man lacked the personal responsibility to move his infant child, who was sitting helpless in her baby carrier on the bar. The infant was in direct line of his smoke, not to mention the smoke of numerous others around the bar. It was really disturbing and sad. I hope that with the new ban, individuals who lack conscientious decision-making skills are now able to determine that their personal habit should not infringe on any other person’s rights.

He Says:
By: A Smoker

I thought the world would be safe once we got past 1984. In school, we had to read George Orwell’s masterpiece detailing the ultimate totalitarian state. We all thought it fanciful back then. But it isn’t quite so fanciful anymore, is it? Welcome to “Big Brother’s” smoking ban on Hilton Head Island.

Full disclosure: I smoke. I like to smoke, especially after meals, or if it’s taking a bit long for my meal to come, have a cigarette to bide the time. It gives me pleasure and, until May 1, it was legal. Now it isn’t.

Even though the PC Police somehow got this ordinance through town council (Why did the mayor change his mind in just three days?), I am still allowed to smoke, just not in the places I most enjoy!

I will not argue. Smoking can be irritating to others. My friends tolerate my smoking because there is more to me than cigarettes. I tolerate cheap, sweet-smelling perfume, which also gives me migraines, but I don’t see anyone trying to pass laws against cheap perfumes!

What alternatives to an outright ban were even sought out or tested—like allowing smoking after certain hours or making non-smoking and smoking sections of restaurants less permeable? How about looking to science and high-end air purifiers? They are out there with some pretty impressive CADRs (industry lingo for Clean Air Delivery Rate) slapping that tobacco smoke, pollen and dust right out the window, so to speak.

Or, in the good old American tradition, why not let the marketplace decide? If a restaurant owner chooses to have a smoking section, then non-smokers can choose to do business there or not.

Smoking might be dumb and unhealthy, but we all do a lot of dumb and unhealthy things. (When was the last time you used your turn signal?) What has happened to our individual freedoms? Where are we headed? I’ll ask again, Mr. Orwell, does this remind you of something familiar? Are we now going to fall under the spell of the Cholesterol Police? Watch out, Mickey D; you may be next!

Trusting in the spirit of American ingenuity, this may offer yet another business opportunity. During Prohibition there was the speakeasy, right? Well how about a “smoke-easy” on the shores of some dark lagoon.

Too bad about the ban. It should be against the law. Ah, heck. I’m going out for a smoke.

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