I smoked for thirty years, not heavily, mind you, because ten cigarettes a day was about all I could handle. I am still able to smoke one occasionally without having the slightest urge to start again. It makes me sick. Smoking too much has always made my stomach a bit queasy, but now my colon joins the protest. I was the kind of smoker who could quit when I had cold and sore throat and when the children were little. I smoked while I was pregnant, because we werenÕt too smart forty years ago, but my sonÕs birth weight was 8lbs.13 oz. and thatÕs quite enough, thank you.
There is no doubt smoking is hazardous to oneÕs health and I donÕt mean to make light of it. But I donÕt like the idea of the State of Illinois deciding that restaurants and bars or other privately owned businesses must ban smoking. We enter private restaurants and bars out of choice. ItÕs entertainment and not exactly a basic necessity. Let them decide how to please their nonsmoking patrons. There have been smoking bans in most government buildings for years, such as the Knox County courthouse. One has to walk through a haze of smoky air to get into the place, where county employees and nervous citizens waiting for court appearances are puffing away, but itÕs only temporary, and with the next breeze, it will go away.
Now OSF St. Mary Medical Center has banned smoking anywhere on the property, even in oneÕs own car in the parking lot. I know many employees at hospitals smoke, and if I had their jobs, which are, for the most part, demanding and depressing, I would still be smoking. Hospitals never should have allowed smoking inside and I can understand the hospital not wanting patients to drag their IV equipment outside to smoke. It makes sense that they donÕt want the entrance to be smoke-filled. But would it be so terrible to have a space outside somewhere on the premises for smokers?
It is not our responsibility to stop people from smoking. We all know it can be unhealthy, perhaps fatal, but my mother smoked non-filter cigarettes with a vengeance for at least 30 years, probably more, and she is now 97 years old. Her heart and lungs are fine. SheÕs in a health care center where they bring her a bourbon and water every night about 5:30, but I suppose they wouldnÕt bring her cigarettes. Gosh, at 97, you sure wouldnÕt want to pick up any bad habits.
I think a ban on smoking in all public places, inside and out, by State government, is stepping on civil rights and a crummy idea. ItÕs rather like mandating motorcycle helmets. People who are determined to kill themselves will do so one way or the other.
So, put that in your pipe and smoke it.
Caroline Porter is a freelance writer from Galesburg who can be reached at email@example.com. Other columns are online at www.thezephy.com.