All Rights Reserved © 1998 Thomas W. Day
Here in Minnesota, a lot of math-impaired citizens are celebrating Hubbie Humphrey's kid's defeat of Big Tobacco in one of our state's famous kangaroo courts. The numbers, at least, are impressive. Right away, a whole bunch of lawyers are getting a half billion dollars for winning this suit. Twenty years from now, when a billion dollars will buy a nice, slightly used, Nissan minivan, the citizens of Minnesota will finally have had the pleasure of seeing all of their share of the tobacco settlement sucked up and blown away by the usual state government incompetence and corruption. Whatshisname Humphrey is crowing about how this is a "blow for public health" and waving that flag in his bid for the Minnesota governor job.
I want to make sure you aren't being fooled. It's my job.
First and most important, nobody really cares about public health. That's a universal, unless you count the people who are already sick and stuck in hospitals where they can't vote. Since they can't vote . . . draw your own conclusions. If the public health were an issue, these government goofs would have made smoking against the law as soon as doctors and scientists told them smoking caused fatal diseases, thirty years ago. Instead of using tobacco sales to produce billions in "sin tax" revenues, tobacco would have just joined the long list of illegal drugs and its users would have gone underground. That didn't, and hasn't, happened.
The tobacco lawsuits aren't about reimbursing the public savings accounts for the medical costs of tobacco addiction. If they were, state and federal governments would have saved all the tax money they were collecting on tobacco to use for those costs. As usual, for the last fifty years, the government has been throwing a party for itself with that extra "revenue" (a bureaucratic word for money stolen from the public).
The public bans of smoking aren't about protecting public health from second-hand smoke, either. The fumes spewed by internal combustion engines, factories, and the smoke blown by the media and government officials has be at least as toxic as tobacco smoke. Nobody's getting sued for that. Non-smokers have been choking on second-hand smoke for a couple hundred years and, until there was money to be made, no one gave a damn about our discomfort or asthma attacks.
Get it straight. The lawsuits are about money. The militant anti-smoking activity is about revenge.
For almost 100 years, smokers have had the upper hand. I can remember going to concerts where the smoke was so thick that the stage lighting only showed you where you would see the band, if the air wasn't opaque. Smokers have probably cured more alcoholics than AAA, keeping non-smokers from being able to taste beer or mixed drinks weaker than Everclear. Smokers have driven non-smokers from political conventions, bars, public bathrooms, business offices, and their own homes. When you think about it that way, it's possible that smoking created independent politics, bottled beer, pissing in the alley, home businesses, and outdoor recreation. Anyway, non-smokers have been looking for a way to get even since the invention of the match.
It isn't easy to find a way to get even with a smoker. They're obviously suicidal, so most threats are empty. They were clearly born in a smoke-filled, carpet-burnt barn, so threatening to tell their mothers isn't going to carry a lot of weight. Anyone who smiles and says "excuse me" after burning a hole in your knee with stray ashes won't be affected by Ms. Manners' quotes. If you aren't afraid of being beat up by a revolting smoker, you have to be afraid of their revolting mouth odor. Personally, I'd rather lose teeth than inhale smokers' breath. There's nothing left for non-smokers to do but to bring out the heavy weapons: lawyers.
In my young, impressionable, dumb as a rock days, I believed that lawyers were "a bad thing." Not anymore. A year ago, a real estate lawyer saved me from having to live under a rock. Without lawyers, comedy would be dead. The only way to hear a politically incorrect joke, these days, is to make the victim a lawyer. In the medical business, no one listen to patients unless they talk through a lawyer. But best of all, my wimpy asthmatic lungs are being saved from premature mechanical replacement by a pack of multi-millionaire Minnesota lawyers with nothing but good intentions and God on their side. I've changed, see? Now I'm old, impressionable, and dumb as a rock. Change is good.
A few short decades ago, Libertarians, Republicans, and teams of business interests and personal freedom fanatics would have shouted down the anti-tobacco campaign. Not anymore. It's payback time. Smokers are outnumbered, almost 5 to 1, and non-smokers are taking back the air we breathe. We're saying, "To hell with your free choice. I want to go anywhere I want to go, without having to breathe burning tobacco. You are banished to the smoking section of the darkest alley in town." By the time this is over with, tobacco company execs will be moon shining Virginia hillbillies, hand-rolling cigarettes in back of tarpaper shacks. Smokers will have to find a way to spontaneously combust, seconds after stuffing a fag into their mouths, to keep from being arrested. Even then, the ashes will get a littering citation.
That's the way I see it. Change is good. Smoking is bad. It's a simple world. This is a "personal space issue" that has nothing to do with building a safer, kinder, gentler world. It's a good thing most lawyers are also fat people. Otherwise, I'd worry about being their next target. Ever sit next to a sweaty, fat guy on an airplane?