While I frequently read Bill McClellan’s column in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and generally find them insightful, on the subject of secondhand smoke I’ve found him to be reliably ill-informed, and showing a Libertarian bias, i.e. small government is better than good government.
Today’s column was no exception, but the title is apt, because it’s Bill who’s blowing smoke on this one.
He makes the same mistake as other opponents of smoke-free air, using the “slippery slope” argument of “where will it all end?”
He notes that the bill has many exemptions and writes:
“Of course, the supporters of the ban would argue that this is just a start.
To me, that’s frightening.”
Frightening because he suggests that once we succeed in getting protection from secondhand smoke we’ll go on to prohibit his favorite unhealthy food. Not only is Bill confused but he’s misinformed.
Speaking personally, and I suspect for many others seeking smokefree air, my only goal is protection from secondhand smoke, which has had a major negative impact on both my work life and social life for decades. That is particularly true since I emigrated to the U.S. in early 1977 where workplace smoking has been far more prevalent than in England.
In St. Louis I worked at McDonnell Douglas Astronautics Co. for over 11 years, starting in 1980, most of that time managing a laser diode fabrication lab., and I avoided any meetings I could for much of that time because of pervasive smoking. I also spoke out against workplace smoking. Neither of those things helped my career.
My wife stopped taking me on trips because my attempts to avoid secondhand smoke when I was with her, or complaints about it, were like a ball and chain around her ankle. If we ever go out together now it has to be to a guaranteed smoke-free venue.
These are issues about which Bill McClellan, who is evidently not susceptible to secondhand smoke, is totally unaware and unconcerned. Too bad, because I think he could be influential in a positive way, instead of pouring scorn on those for whom it’s a major issue.
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Although I know I should eat healthy foods, I found myself in front of the vending machine in the newsroom the other day. The animal crackers looked good. Plus, there was a notice on the package — “Only 1.5 grams of fat per serving.” Truth be told, the notice could have said, “Only 30 grams of fat per serving.” I would have been just as impressed.
Who knows about grams of fat? People never used to worry about such things.
My grandmother lived with us when I was small. My mother worked, and so my grandmother was in charge of lunch. She was not much of a cook, so usually I made myself a sandwich. My favorite was mayonnaise and mustard on white bread. Of course, white bread. In those happy times, whole wheat bread was considered something primitive. It is what cave people used to eat. Then society advanced and scientists developed white bread. It tasted better and so it replaced whole wheat bread. The only people who still ate whole wheat bread wore animal skins. If you wore clothes, you ate white bread.
Sometimes my grandmother gave me some change and let me go to the nearby bakery on Halsted Street to get lunch. I always bought the same thing. Two long johns. If there was anything richer than white bread, this was it. Grams of fat per serving? No one would have thought to ask.
This was in the days before pizza. That is not entirely true. There was a pizza joint near the bakery. I remember when it opened. The sign said, “Pizza Pie.” My mother commented on the sign. She thought it spoke well of the Italians that they could laugh at themselves. She thought they were calling their place “Pizza Pie” to mimic the way they spoke. As in, “I’ll have a pizza that cherry pie.”
In fact, my mother went in to the pizza joint one day to get a pie, and was astonished to learn that they didn’t have cherry pies or apple pies, but instead had sausage pies and anchovy pies. It was hard to believe that the people who had given the world such staples as spaghetti and macaroni had suddenly gone exotic. My mother had no interest in buying a sausage or anchovy pie and her feelings had nothing to do with grams of fat.
In addition to being happily oblivious to grams of fat, we didn’t worry about secondhand smoke. In fact, no one had heard of secondhand smoke. It was just plain old smoke, the sort that wafted around in our kitchen when dad smoked at dinner. He smoked the way people used to, which is to say guilt-free. In the kitchen. Or in the living room. Or in the car. Nobody thought anything about it.
I am not a smoker myself, but I sometimes feel a pang of envy when I watch old movies and see the people smoking with no self-consciousness at all. They’re not trying to act cool or rebellious, and they are not mindful about where the smoke goes. Why should they be? It’s just smoke. That is the way people used to feel.
No longer, of course. Those of us who live in St. Louis County are going to have a chance to vote this November on a plan to limit smoking. The plan would ban smoking in many so-called public places. I say so-called because the ban would impact restaurants which are owned by private individuals. I have a hard time thinking of them as public places.
To me, privately owned means privately owned. If the owner wants to cater to non-smokers — and we’re the majority — he or she can ban smoking.
Bear in mind, too, that the ban is not absolute. If food is less than 25 percent of an establishment’s gross income, the establishment can apply for an exemption. Also, casinos are exempt. Also, private clubs are exempt.
These exemptions would seem to put the lie to the notion that we are attempting to do this for the sake of the employees who would otherwise be exposed to secondhand smoke. Why should the employees of a casino be any less deserving of our protection than the employees of a restaurant? What about employees at private clubs?
Of course, the supporters of the ban would argue that this is just a start.
To me, that’s frightening.
Right now, we’re going after second-hand smoke. But what about grams of fat? Admittedly, you are not risking injury if you sit next to somebody eating a high-fat snack, but if we start talking about the overall cost to society of obesity and the Greater Good and all that, well, it’s easy to see where this could lead.
After all, the crusade against cigarettes started with warning labels. I thought about that when I saw the notice on the animal crackers.
By the way, the machine didn’t take my dollar. Not to worry. I went home and had a pizza cherry pie. That’s still legal.