I’m not, nor have I ever been, a smoker. I don’t like being exposed to second-hand smoke … so I accept reality and take precautions when I must. I may not like smoking (and, yes, I am thankful for the regulations we already have against public smoking) but smokers are still part of our world, our towns, and our communities — including Alameda.
The roots of what Americans now consider a social problem go back to 1789 when the first known advertisement for snuff and tobacco products was placed in the New York daily paper.
Since then, campaigns to hook people on tobacco are endemic and seemingly impossible to eradicate. Despite that mightily successful 1968 ad campaign targeting women, “You’ve come a long way, baby,” perhaps women and men have not come so far after all.
Tobacco products and those who use them have generated vast wealth in this country. In 2006 alone, cigarette companies spent $12.5 billion on advertising and promotional expenses, down from $13 billion in 2005 but more than double what was spent in 1997. Companies spend this kind of money because they recoup it and make generous profits selling products they know – and we now know — are addictive and dangerous.
Doesn’t it behoove each of us to consider the big picture, stretch our personal limits, move away from narrow-minded “individualism” and “individual rights,” and develop more complex understandings about our society’s interdependencies?
Interacting with our smoking neighbors instead of calling the cops on them would be a start.
Wouldn’t it cost about the same to enforce this new smoking law as it would to create (free) programs for smokers that want to quit? Wouldn't we reap more social capital too?
Why not spend that money educating our youth about smoking? Or fighting the companies that manufacture products that harm Americans, pollute agricultural land, and cause community dissension?
Why not treat smokers who cannot quit with dignity instead of turning them into pariahs and outlaws?
Indeed, why not embrace the complex reality of addictions and deepen our community’s capacity for ambiguity rather than impose more ridiculous, feel-good, and self-righteous rules and regulations?