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  • As other members of minorities are wont to say, I happen to be a smoker. For most of my adult existence and for two years in high school I smoked cigarettes or a pipe. The longest I ever quit smoking was four months. I find smoking as pleasurable as ever, but not as much fun as it used to be, because now I almost always smoke alone or in the presence of strangers, outside.

    My brand of smokes for the past 15 years has been American Spirit, unadulterated tobacco wrapped in chemical-free paper. I prefer their orange label, made from organically grown tobacco. See, I have this crazy notion that what makes smokers sick isn’t the tobacco, it's pesticide residues and the hundreds of chemicals that most cigarette makers adulterate their tobacco and papers with. All of these substances are trade secrets, meaning nobody gets to learn how bad they might be alone or in their gazillion combinations. So I just stay away from all that crap. Nevertheless, I avoid inhaling deeply because I don't want to cut my wind.

    For decades I have smoked two packs a week, give or take four fags. That works out to six a day, plus or minus one. My habit costs me $1.78 a day. It would cost more if I bought local, but I get cheaper smokes out of state. Starting at 6 AM, I allow myself one cig every three hours. I nurse each of those fags, smoking it in three or four sessions. So I'm doing less than a third of a pack a day while taking a toke once an hour. That qualifies as a serious habit, but at least it's under control.

    So last year, the city of Cambridge Massachusetts, that bastion of progressive municipal goodness, decreed that no one shall smoke tobacco products in any city park. The theory behind this ordinance is that adults and children who use the park might sicken and maybe die due to exposure to second-hand smoke.

    Well, I sometimes go to parks in Cambridge, and I must say that although they may be smoke-free, they are definitely not noise-free. Constant shouting, wailing, screaming, and bantering assaults my ears nearly constantly. All that din irritates me enough to raise my blood pressure into an uncomfortable zone. So I am thinking of asking a Cambridge resident to file a petition on my behalf before the City Council. The petition would request them to issue an ordinance to prohibit generating noises greater than 60 DBA within ten feet of any visitor to a municipal park. That would take care of the noise pollution problem as efficiently as the anti-smoking rule solved the air quality problem.

    The reason I smoke alone and outside is due to the terms of my lease and to a clot of state and local laws passed to satisfy the Antismoking Nazis, a loose coalition of nincompoops who confuse the act of smoking tobacco with the marketing of deadly additive-laden cigarette products by irresponsible multinational companies.

    Instead of calling for investigations of the health effects of tobacco additives, these crusaders decided that tobacco in any form is the culprit. Well, what else could they do? If they tried to force cigarette manufacturers to clean up their act and stop polluting their products, the law would be struck down as a restraint to trade. But just because they target tobacco itself doesn't make that gift of nature – which was enjoyed for centuries without serious health consequences – the bad guy. He's the patsy in this offensive, and smokers are collateral damage.

    The Antismoking Nazis have nearly triumphed. I don't know exactly how they will manage to outlaw tobacco, but when they do, the DEA will enforce the ban, enlarging its budget, and providing jobs to thousands of new law enforcement and correctional workers who will apprehend, prosecute, and supervise those of us who are caught in the act. But whatever the cost, it will be worth it to prevent innocent citizens from being harmed by multinational corporations.

    In 2000, big tobacco famously paid out $200 billion to state governments to settle a class action lawsuit brought by the Antismoking Nazi Alliance. The money was supposed to fund anti-smoking initiatives, but very few states used it for that. Instead, it got used to balance budgets, fund private projects, and even to provide subsidies to North Carolina tobacco farmers. The irony of that makes me chuckle.

    See you out by the garage.

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