Dear Editor, If there were a chemical factory downtown spewing out hellish filth, poisoning bars and restaurants, slowly killing everyone inside, would you say, "We can't say anything about that. It will take money away from the community. It's only present in a small number of businesses, and 'they' like it that way"? This is not a freedom of choice issue, it is part of a historic worldwide cultural and public health catastrophe. Fewer people died in the giant tsunami that brought the whole human species together in mass empathy than the number of American smokers and their passive murder victims that will die of cigarette smoking this year. The evidence on secondhand smoke is overwhelming, and the desperate corporate lies in response are laughable (but unfortunately perpetuated by their unpaid, complicit, and misinformed shill addicts). We might as well bicker over the subtle difference between sucking DDT up with a straw and shooting it into someone's open mouth and eyes with an aerosol can. And for fuck's sake, let go of those absurd notions of style and so-called personal "freedom" to pollute the lungs of everyone around you. Smoking doesn't make you look cool anymore. It makes you look like a murderer and a prime market share in the form of a haggard, stinking corpse-in-waiting. "Man, I know it's bad for me, but you gotta die sometime.” The real truth is that you are not only killing yourself, but playing Russian roulette with the lives of all your friends, family, and every person around you. "My uncle lived to be 100 and smoked every day.” This type of anecdote is perpetuated because it's not so fun to tell the stories of the other 500,000 people a year who went to hospitals and graves, hacking up pink pus and bloody phlegm.
[Editor's note: It should be pointed out that there is a widespread smoking ban in effect in Austin right now. The vote is about whether to extend it to 200 or so businesses that have bought licenses to allow smoking. Since more than 99% of the Austin businesses in the affected areas now ban smoking, since it is banned in all public buildings, the factory poisoning downtown metaphor doesn't quite get it.]