No Smoking, by Ken Burger

  • Tuesday, January 15, 2013


                Twenty five years ago a stern-faced Air Force Colonel called us all to attention and read us the new smoking rules.
                “I hereby ban all smoking in buildings where we work, outside building entrances where smokers congregate, on street corners where smokers think they are unseen, and eventually anywhere on base where I have to breathe your obnoxious smoke,” he said to a stunned audience of airmen and sergeants. “I’m going to make you quit. There’s no place to hide. You’ll thank me for this someday.”
                That day is now, because I was one of those smokers who arrogantly shared my second-hand cigarette smoke with anybody within range of my daily habit. As an addict of nicotine, I had no compassion for those who weren’t. I thought I had rights. I was wrong.
                It was that Air Force Colonel who boldly stood up to smoking many years before the rest of the world began closing ranks on the nasty habit. Under this strict enforcement, it became harder and harder to find a place to take a smoke break, so I eventually quit.
                A similar ban is now being brought to bear in a 10-block area around our hospital zones in downtown Charleston.
                At the request of Roper St. Francis Healthcare and the Medical University of South Carolina, the City of Charleston is moving toward the creation of a “tobacco-free zone,” around the two hospitals, effectively outlawing smoking in public on the surrounding blocks.
                If caught smoking on the sidewalks or near the entrances of these healthcare facilities, smokers could be fined up to $25. This ordinance should be fully implemented in March.
                This comes much to the dismay of people who think they have the right to blow smoke in the face of reality and smokers who are finding fewer and fewer places where they can light up.
                While smoking is already banned inside the hospitals, smokers move to the next safest place to feed their addiction, usually just outside the doorways. For years, non-smokers have had to plow through clouds of smoke just to get in and out of hospitals. 
                Now the no-smoking zone is being expanded, much to the delight of everyone except the smokers.
                In their defense, they are not smoking to irritate others. They are smoking to make their life less irritable. Being addicted to nicotine creates a powerful desire to feed this vicious addiction. But it’s getting harder and harder to find a place to light up.
                While the immediate goal of this no-smoking ban is to remove noxious, second-hand smoke from the healthcare environment where people are trying to heal, the ultimate result is people finally saying they’ve had enough of being treated like a second-class citizen, and they quit smoking.
                So thanks, Colonel. It worked on me.
                Maybe this will work on them.
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