“Someday Tobacco May Be Like Lead Paint”

The letter reproduced below was published in the September 24, 2009, issue of the Webster-Kirkwood Times. It was clipped from the newspaper and mailed to me by Peggy, a friend of my wife’s and Kirkwood resident who also supports smoke-free air. I’m grateful to her because I don’t routinely check out these letters on-line.

As Peggy remarked, this letter was a standout from the normal ho-hum variety.

The writer talks about banning smoking. That’s something opponents of smoke-free air throw out sometimes too, but that’s designed to divert the argument rather than really promote health and welfare; there’s no way tobacco products will be made illegal in the U.S. and we, for one, are not advocating it.

Missouri GASP’s focus is on smoke-free air in public places and the private workplace, with the eventual goal of smoking being done “only between consenting adults in private.” That would also mean no smoking around children in the home or in cars. It would also mean no smoking in outdoor public places. Eventually that may happen, but for now it’s hard enough getting indoor places smoke-free.

Letters from former smokers like James Mills of Kirkwood help. Here’s his letter:

Someday Tobacco May Be Like Lead Paint

In a comedy skit by Bob Newhart, he pretends he is getting a new idea from Sir Walter Raleigh in the colonies: “What’s that Wallie, you say you take leaves, roll them up, stick them in your mouth…then you light them on fire…OK, then what? You say you then breathe the smoke into your lungs. Well, I don’t think that is going to be a good idea, Wallie!”

Well, that is what countless many do though.

I smoked and ended up with throat cancer. The cure was neck disection and radiation which wiped out my taste buds and saliva glands.

Interestingly, the federal government bans and regulates anything that is known to cause cancer, except cigarettes! What is sacred about tobacco that we aren’t protected from it? Oh, it is a profitable industry. I see and there is the ability to hide within the insistence of some sadly-addicted folks’ strong ideal about freedom (today’s easy banner to wave for anyone defending a bad habit). I find that the people who are talking “freedom…” well, that is usually all they are talking about. They never talk about consequences.

As for me, after sitting in my doctor’s waiting room, and seeing the tongues gone, the voice boxes missing, the jaws sawed off and the lugging of oxygen bottles, I am for – yes, dare I say – at least banning smoking where the public is entitled to go.

Smoking is a stupid habit, and I was once stupid. I wish tobacco had been banned. I would be better off today.

If you want to put leaves in your mouth, light them on fire and take the cancer-causing smoke into your mouth, throat and lungs, do it. But please don’t do it in my space.

Banning is a good idea, not a bad idea.

Maybe one day tobacco will have fallen into the category of things like asbestos and lead paint. Future generations will say “can you believe those folks actually wanted to smoke and the smokers actually fought to do it in spaces where the public went?”

James Mills
Kirkwood
September 24, 2009

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