Thursday, January 7, 2016

Cig Smokers In Colorado's BestTowns Will Have To Smoke In Alleys Or Bear Caves.

Let's concede that smoking cigarettes is one of the most disgusting human habits there is, not to mention one of the most unhealthy - prompting lung disease (including cancer), heart disease, strokes and sundry other problems.  There is also another problem: the pollution of the planet via trillions of tossed cigarette butts.

These issues have been on Colorado citizens' minds for some time, especially as they've beheld careless bumpkins  - often from other states- hurling cigarette butts out while driving through Rocky Mountain National Park and other scenic places.  The reaction of disgust isn't surprising. Colorado prides itself as being the healthiest state in the nation. This is based on multiple surveys based on the kinds of foods eaten, as well as mean body mass, and exercise times as well as other healthy habits. In this state, those who smoke are often looked on as social pariahs, and their smoky products are being banned in ever more frequent forays by communities around the state - especially the better ones. (Such as Fort Collins, recently named by MONEY magazine as 'one of the ten best places to live' in the U.S.)

One such place is Littleton, known more as the site of the Columbine shooting, which has been the latest community to disallow smoking in its city center. Its law kicked in on  New Year's Day. Littleton's move follows similar efforts in Golden, which said no to smoking in its downtown district a year ago, and Boulder, which outlawed smoking on the Pearl Street Mall in 2013 and expanded its prohibition to the entire downtown area, city parks and open space last year.

In addition, a  widespread "smoke-free zone" covering much of Fort Collins' downtown district also went into effect last Friday. Those who are determined to puff now have to go into alleys or in their own homes. (Many apartments also disallow smoking for the benefit of non-smoking occupants)

Why are we in Colorado determined to keep the puffers at bay? Kevin Bommer, deputy director of the Colorado Municipal League put it this way:

"What you're seeing as people rediscover their downtown areas is that they're trying to make them as welcoming and accommodating as possible,"

If you're walking along a downtown street in a place like Fort Collins and get a blast of smoke in your face then it puts everything off. As he notes, it detracts from the scenery and also from the right to enjoy the state's wonders  and public areas downtown without inhaling smoke clouds.

Of course, not all people are happy. For example, Justin Longo, media coordinator for the libertarian think tank The Independence Institute,  claims that's a determination that should be made by the marketplace, not the government. But this is nuts given the "marketplace" has already allowed so many travesties including permitting the price of critical cancer drugs to soar to unaffordable heights, and sustaining a gun buying frenzy based on fear instead of reality. The "marketplace" has also determined that 40 percent or more of our food be wasted, tossed out, as opposed to being remaindered to provide for the homeless or the food insecure.

He added:

"We're not giving consumers the choice about what they want — we're making the choice for them.  Consumers should be the ones to dictate these rules."

The problem is only 18 percent (at last survey) of Colorado adults are cigarette consumers. So why should this unhealthy minority "make the rules" for the 82 percent majority?  I would have to call that a tyranny of the minority. But this is typical libbie thinking.

Other Libertarian -leaning citizens also seem to have not adopted critical thinking here. Littleton resident Bill McGee, quoted in the Denver Post Monday (p. 2A), acknowledges he has never been a smoker, yet firmly opposes the city's new ban. According to Mr. McGee:

"I think it's an excessive violation of people's rights,"

Except that smoking is not any kind of positive right, supported by the Bill of Rights, but rather a privilege - just like driving a car is a privilege or flying a drone. It appears too many need to go back to school and learn to separate rights from privileges.

Littleton's ban applies to all sidewalks on a several block stretch in the heart of the city, but allows for smoking in alleys and other designated locations. So if you're a cig addict and need your 'break' you can usually find an alley somewhere to blow smoke.

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment executive director Larry Wolk, quoted in the same Post piece,  said there is plenty of data that show that the ill health effects of secondhand smoke aren't limited to the indoors.

Wolk supports smoking bans like the ones in Boulder, Golden, Ft. Collins and Littleton not just because of their implications for public health but because they help eliminate the tendency that smoking in the open has to "norm" the habit for younger generations.

Golden Councilwoman Marcia Claxton said the city's downtown smoking ban was partly driven by complaints received by diners on sidewalk patios affected by passers-by puffing away and partly by a civic goal of promoting a "healthy and family-oriented environment."  Besides, why should young kids at a dining venue be forced to hold their breath because of irresponsible puffers outside?

She said the ban has gone "well and quietly" since being enacted Jan. 1, 2015, with few if any complaints from downtown businesses. That, Claxton said, may be largely due to the fact that the ordinance wasn't a blanket ban for every square inch of downtown. Parking lots and alleys were exempted to give employees a place to get their fix.

"We wanted to be very reasonable about this," she said.

Meanwhile, Libertarian  Lexi Cohen noted her libertarian leanings pit her against a smoking ban as a matter of principle, but she said she can understand why some support it. She told the Post:

"I see how disruptive cigarette smoking can be,"

Well, duh! You have this smoke coming at you and you can't dodge it. It's especially difficult to those with emphysema issues - like me. (Ok, I admit to having been a heavy smoker in my 20s but I did quit cold turkey after a dr. told me what it was doing to my lungs.)

Now, the slightest bit of wayward smoke, say inhaled from somebody's secondhand smoke,  sends me into coughing spasms.  The worst experiences occurred when we were in Budapest and Vienna in September, showing that the Euros remain dedicated cig puffers.

Some Colorado towns remain libertarian in their approach, but these are not generally the places most tourists flock to.  In the meantime, Littleton's downtown smoking ban couldn't start soon enough for resident Erin Dameron. Quotes in the Post she said:

"I'm all for it. I am totally against smoking. My father smokes. It drives me crazy."

One doesn't have to be "totally against" smoking in the sense of banning it everywhere, but at least limiting it to alleys and bear caves helps a lot of us with lung issues - or who just prefer to breath fresh air.

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