Letters to the Editor for 12/28/09

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Smoking a privilege, not a right

I’ve read the Hotline calls of irate smokers (and one non-smoker) who claim their rights were trampled by the recent law going into effect that bans smoking in restaurants.

I certainly understand their anger, given how unreasonable it is to ask them to walk 20 feet to the door, open it, and stand in the open air to smoke. How unreasonable!

Further, it is a shame to make smokers not want to go out to local restaurants, since we know these eateries exist solely for their benefit. I mean, isn’t it obvious that non-smokers should be relegated to their homes and fast food chains for their nutritional needs?

And it’s quite simple to figure that every restaurant patron wants to have his or her clothes smell like an ashtray after finishing a meal. Who wouldn’t want that lovely aroma following them around the rest of the day?

In all seriousness, the new law is an annoyance to those who smoke, and certainly no one likes encumbrances to their actions. Yet, to equate not being able to smoke in a public venue to losing a freedom or right is an egregious mistake.

We are guaranteed the right to vote, the right to free speech, the right to worship as we please — or not at all. We are not, nor ever were, promised the freedom to pollute the lungs of everyone around us or to enjoy a drag on a smoke while nursing a beer.

A couple of callers compared the freedom to smoke with the freedom to drink. A more accurate comparison is that drinking to the point of inebriation, then driving, is illegal since it endangers others’ lives, just as secondhand smoke has been found to do.

I’ve lived in two states that banned smoking in restaurants, and in both cases those establishments reported better sales after the ban went into effect, as non-smokers felt they could finally visit a restaurant and enjoy a smokeless meal.

We thank you, sincerely, for making that small effort to step outside so that the rest of us may breathe more freely.

Patrick Butler