I heard on the news today that a recently proposed bill in New York State would ban smoking cigarettes in any vehicle containing children under 14.
I know I'm going to get flak for this one. Yes, I smoke cigarettes. Yes, I know they're bad for me. Yes, I know the studies show that second hand smoke is bad for others. No, I do not drive and blow plumes smoke into the back seat if there's a kid in the car because I have more brains than a chicken. I try to be considerate when smoking near other people, and if they're waving their hands around at the smoke or if they ask me to put the cigarette out, I usually do. I get it. Smoking is a vice. Smoking is a health hazard. We all know this. Nevertheless, the idea that politicians are poking around in my personal business and telling me where I can and can't smoke...first in bars and restaurants, then in offices and other public buildings, then outside, and now in my own car...chills me to the bone. What's next? Are they going to bust into my living room and tell me to stub that Marlboro out or else? Whatever happened to people being allowed to use good sense about what's right and wrong instead of our being punished like bad children by elected officials?
For me, this is not an issue about health. This is an issue about being told I am required be healthy and for that matter am also required to be responsible for the health of others. Everyone has gotten so busy worrying about being politically correct and "helping" our society to get on the supposed right track that we're starting to forget the importance of our own civil rights. The right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, as written in the Declaration of Independence, is considered by many to be one of the most influential sentences in the history of the English language. That's because, in my humble and well-traveled opinion, there aren't very many places in this world where citizens have the right to such pursuit as dictated by their own founders. According to one of the most important documents ever put on paper, if it so happens that my definition of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is to sit in my car or on a park bench or on top of the space needle and smoke a pack of cigarettes, I have that right. But not anymore. Now we have politicians drafting bills that interfere with my pursuit. Their reasoning I guess is that if my pursuit of happiness interferes with somebody else's pursuit, and if enough people decide my method of pursuing happiness and liberty isn't important anymore, then tough nuts to me.
So I repeat: What's next?
Let's just suppose there's a non-coffee drinking Washington politician who thinks it's dangerous to drive with a cup of coffee in one hand. He warns that coffee-drinking drivers might hit a speed bump and spill that coffee all over the innocent child in the passenger seat or (egads!) onto one's own lap, threatening future fertility. And walking with hot coffee can be dangerous, too. You might trip and slop your caffeine all over a fellow walker. That's it! Coffee drinking under any circumstances when you're moving...illegal! According to the new law, we must all be stationary when drinking coffee, sitting quietly facing forward with ankles crossed. The to-go coffee cup drifts into the quaint and misty past, brethren to the Swinger camera and the chamber pot.
This might sound ridiculous but I have to say that not being able to smoke outside in New York City sounds ridiculous to me, like something from a movie portraying a scary future. If I'd looked into a crystal ball 30 years ago and heard this would happen I wouldn't have believed it.
Every day people I encounter do things I find objectionable. They pass gas, they belch, they're loud and obnoxious, they tell stupid jokes, all of which I suppose I could say affect my mental health because it makes me crazy. However my reaction, as a free American, is to stay or walk away: my choice, my right. Just like it's their choice...and their right...to tell another joke or let their flatulence fly. We are supposedly free in this country to pursue a life that makes us happy, even if our behavior doesn't thrill the people around us and even if the legal behavior (because let us not forget, cigarettes are legal) is unhealthy. Now suddenly our politicians have become our protectors, saving us from ourselves as though we're kindergarteners who don't have enough sense to come in out of the rain. Will somebody one day pass a bill restricting us to one slice of pizza because of the obesity problem? Will mothers get a ticket for giving their child a cookie because of rampant diabetes? And how long will it be, I wonder, before cops are knocking on my door to write me a ticket for smoking at my own kitchen counter?
This is a slippery slope, folks, and there's no sand in sight.