Friday, December 1, 2017

Tobacco Nannies on the Prowl

We’ve all seen the pathetic sight on city streets. Downtrodden people, bracing against the rain and wind, huddled in doorways or back alleys, oblivious to the rest of the world and desperately indulging in their addiction.

No, I’m not talking about homeless alcoholics or crack addicts. I’m talking about office workers taking a cigarette break. It’s so sad. Otherwise normal and productive citizens are now treated like scum. Vilified and ostracized, smokers these days must grovel and humiliate themselves just to get a quick nicotine fix and temporarily relieve their insatiable cravings.

But if you think smokers have a desperate urge to light up, that’s nothing compared to the desperate urges of the people who forced smokers out into the streets in the first place: the Tobacco Nannies. These self-righteous, virtue-signaling do-gooders will not rest until every smoker in America is branded with a scarlet “S” on his or her forehead and shackled into stocks on the town green.

I had a meeting recently in the financial district of a New England city. On one street corner there is a cute little plaza, with benches, trees, and a fountain. As I walked past, I saw a huge plaque on the wall: “SMOKE FREE PLAZA.”

Because this particular city is near the ocean, and because this particular plaza is surrounded by high-rise buildings, the wind is constantly blowing at a minimum of 30 MPH. I’m not even sure anyone could get a cigarette lit in that wind, but if they did, every molecule of smoke would be whisked away instantly before coming anywhere near the indignant nose of a Tobacco Nanny.

However, smoking outside is not good enough anymore. The Nannies don’t even want to see smokers in their precious little open-air plaza. I finally located the smokers about half-a-block away, standing in a slimy alleyway next to a row of Dumpsters.

Let me say for the record, I’m not a smoker, and I truly believe smoking is one of the dumbest things a person ever could do. Smoking kills thousands of people each and every week, which is not surprising because cigarettes are very effective at turning healthy pink lungs into lumps of black charcoal.

Let me also say, for the record, that smoking is a legal activity — and always will be. I can make this statement with complete confidence because there is one substance in the world which is even more addictive than tobacco. That substance is tax dollars. If you think smokers are desperate when they scamper into the alleyways to light up during mid-morning break, just imagine how desperate politicians would be if billions of dollars of tax revenues suddenly disappeared because smoking was declared illegal. It will never happen.

And so, everyone will continue to play the game and do the daily dance. The smokers will brave the elements multiple times each day, puffing away in doorways and alleys, balancing the internal guilt of a self-destructive behavior with the external ridicule of sneering passersby.

The politicians will pontificate endlessly about the dangers of smoking and the sinister marketing tactics of evil tobacco companies, all the while filling their coffers with tobacco tax money. 

And the Nannies will relentlessly patrol our cities and towns, ready to pounce on any smoker who dares to light up in an unauthorized area. When break time is over, the Nannies will return to their offices, filled with the smug pride that comes with knowing exactly what’s best for everyone else. The Nannies then will joyfully wolf down another pound of cheese Danish, pop a few Valium, and think of new ways to monitor other people’s unhealthy behavior.

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