On fire

January 16, 2009
By BOSTON PHOENIX LETTERS  |  February 9, 2009

Thank you for your editorial on the smoking ban! It’s rare to read or hear anything in any of the media that’s not in lockstep with the Public Health Commission and the movement it represents, which evidently will go absolutely as far as it can to achieve a smokeless America. That such utopian schemes (and if this isn’t utopian, the word is meaningless) have historically led, without exception, to at best disasters, such as Prohibition, and at worst to atrocities, such as the Soviet Union, North Korea, Pol Pot, Nazi Germany, and Maoist China, ought to be known by all educated people. But apparently it is not.

H.L. Mencken spoke of people with a congenital need to harass their betters. I’ve certainly known countless smokers who are exemplary people; and I’ve always felt contempt for those who brush aside logical and moderate arguments, ignore minority rights, and feel the entitlement to force the culture to change, as the Public Health Commission has done.

One last comment: I believe exaggeration is being employed when I read that smoking kills more people annually than car accidents, homicide, and every kind of flood and famine combined, and that the mere smell of smoke can imperil a child. I don’t even know how death from smoking can be positively determined, but I know that out of the deaths I’ve seen, at age 55, maybe half a dozen have been of respiratory or cardiac problems, while the rest — 10 or 15 — have been accidents, alcohol-related accidents and disease, drug overdose or drug-related illness, and viral infection in an elderly non-smoker. If trace elements were indeed so deadly, the mortality rate for smokers, one would think, would be 100 percent — and children growing up in the blue-hazy years before enlightenment would all have lung disease!

Paul Neff

Obvious answer
I am both a big fan of the smoking ban, and a big fan of cigar bars. Does this make me a hypocrite? No.

We needed the smoking ban. There was simply no way for a waitperson to work unless they were willing to deal with smoke, and no way for us to go out for the same reason.

But smoking establishments have become, overnight, a novelty. There are now 11 cigar-bar-type establishments in Boston, and there are five bazillion other bars. So the problem no longer exists. Period. Visiting or working at these establishments is completely by choice.

Banning cigar bars is crossing the line between public health and public freedoms. In some cases, that line is fuzzy. In this case, it is clear.

Joel Miller

Blowing smoke
For almost as long as it has been in existence, the Phoenix has editorialized in support of virtually every legislative initiative of the tobacco industry, always in the name of “liberty” and “individual rights.” The fact that the Phoenix derives significant revenue not just from cigarette advertising but also from night clubs and other businesses that benefit from their relationships with the tobacco industry is never mentioned.

If there is really no relationship between advertising and editorial at the Phoenix, why not disclose the annual revenue the newspaper derives from tobacco ads? Better still, why not simply decline tobacco ads so that you can advocate for liberty without even the appearance of a conflict of interest?

Andy Levinsky

EDITOR’S RESPONSE We suggest Mr. Levinsky cool off, calm down, and have a smoke.

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