Society

Should Smoking Really Be Banned Everywhere?

| by Suzanne Venker

My heart bleeds for smokers, and not just because I used to be one. It's just a terrible time to be a smoker. God forbid a person wants to light up anywhere in public -- even outside. Ten tables away from a nonsmoker. Blowing in the other direction. With a smokeless ashtray.

I'll never forget my shock several years ago when I was in Manhattan with my husband. It had been several years since we had been there (babies have a way of stunting travel) and during that time the city had banned smoking in all public places. It was one of the first cities to do so, but I didn't know that.

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It was around New Year's, and we were in SoHo. Snow had laid a beautiful white coating on the city, and it was still falling. Nothing of any consequence accumulated; it was just enough to make everything gorgeous. At any rate, we bought my husband a cigar and I decided to buy a pack of cigarettes with the intention of having just a few. Having been home with babies for five years I think I just wanted to smoke because I could.

After my initial shock in paying over $7 for a pack of cigarettes -- I'm still not over that -- I was promptly asked if I knew about the smoking policy. No, what smoking policy? You can't smoke anywhere in New York. What do you mean, I can't smoke anywhere in New York? Just what I said: You can't smoke anywhere in New York. Except outside. Nowhere? No corner of a dark hotel bar? What about my husband? Is there a cigar bar anywhere? Nowhere, he said. Except outside, of course.

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I was shocked. Floored. Flabbergasted. If there was anywhere in the world I could maintain my liberties it would be New York City. Alas, those days are gone. So my husband and I were banned to the elements. I opted not to smoke -- out of sheer defiance and because I hate smoking outside -- but my husband smoked his cigar and we bound through the streets of New York. He looked so debonair in his long coat and hat -- with the snow falling all around him. Down by Washington Square Park, the scene was reminiscent of the 1940s.

Bottom line: I understand banning smoking on airplanes. I understand banning it in restaurants or even cars with kids in them. But everywhere? Preposterous. I don't smoke anymore, and I hate being around the stuff in close corners, but to ban it altogether is just wrong. The few smokers I know are left to feel criminal if they light up anywhere in the vicinity of another human being.

Something is very wrong with that.