Just butt out!

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: smoking is dumb. It is stupid. It is foul, it is self-destructive, and it is disgusting. I have no sympathy for anyone who smokes; the evidence of how vile it is has been around for a long, long time, and today’s smokers have no one to blame but themselves for their choices — and the consequences they might suffer thereof.

That being said, I am getting more and more disgusted with the anti-smoking side than I am with the smokers — and as someone whose parents both died of smoking-related causes, that takes a hell of a lot.

First up, in Massachusetts, they’re considering a new law that would fine parents for smoking in a car with kids. While I think that is a truly noxious and vile thing to do, leave it to the Bay State to try to criminalize it. We are rapidly approaching the point where “everything not forbidden is mandatory,” and this intrusion into the way people choose to parent (or, in this case, choose to badly parent) is just too damned much.

Not to mention that it gives the police yet one more reason to pull over a motorist in Massachusetts. According to the last count I heard (during the debate over seat belt laws in Massachusetts), they already have in excess of 1,300 reasons on the books for a cop to pull you over. They “need” another one like Ted Kennedy “needs” another shot of Chivas.

But that’s Massachusetts. Such things are to be expected. If they didn’t invent the notion of the “nanny state,” they’re certainly doing everything they can to perpetuate it.

But here in New Hampshire, we have higher standards. We are a bit brighter, a bit more independently-minded, a bit more concerned with freedom, a bit more involved in individual rights and free choices.


Yeah, here in New Hampshire we’re looking at a ban on smoking in restaurants and bars.

What’s wrong with the free market model? Why can’t that determine whether a public place has smoking allowed, segregated, or banned?

Several years ago, the Red Arrow Diner in Manchester — a 24-hour eatery with a huge place in local history and folklore — bit the bullet and went non-smoking. Opponents predicted it would pay a heavy price for the move, as the place was practically synonymous with cigarette smoke. But the owner thought it would, in the end, be good for business — and he was right. It’s not only going strong, but has been ever since it took the plunge.

Other places set up “non-smoking” areas with separate air systems, to keep non-smokers from being troubled. They worked out pretty well. And when they didn’t, customers voted — with their wallets and their feet — until the establishments worked out the kinks.

I have my own rule of thumb: if I go somewhere where smoke bothers me, I won’t go back. If they allow smoking, but it doesn’t interfere with my dining experience, I don’t really care.

In Massachusetts, a lot of businesses made the mistake of trusting the state. First, they passed a law requiring very expensive, very elaborate air systems to properly control the smoke of the smoking areas, doing everything humanly possible to keep any stray smoke from wafting out of its designated zones. A lot of businesses spent a lot of money — some well in excess of six figures — on the equipment and installation.

And then, a few short years later, saw it all wasted when the state went back and said “never mind, now you can’t smoke anywhere in the building.” All those very expensive ventilation systems suddenly turned into colossal piles of useless junk, and the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars the bars and restaurants had invested in them was just pissed down the drain.

Again, I say that smoking is stupid. People who smoke are idiotic, self-destructive, narcissistic, selfish morons who pretty much deserve all they get — diseases, poor general health, stinky breath and clothing, and scorn and disdain from the general populace.

But they have a right to be idiotic, narcissistic, selfish morons. There is no more important right than the right to be wrong.

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