George Burns, Groucho Marx, Fidel Castro, Winston Churchill---aside from politics and comedy, what do these men have in common? The Stogie. Cigars. Some find them pleasurable, some objectionable. My Dad used to smoke cigars ‘back in the day.’ I remember the smell—it permeated my clothes, my hair, kind of filled my nostrils as I sat in his lap as a kid…and he never smoked cheap cigars—these were the good ones. He quit long ago. It was contributing to the ruination of his health and that of his family.
Since the time when our film and television heroes lit up cigars, cigarettes and pipes, the Surgeon General has determined that smoking causes all kinds of disease. The Marlboro Man has disappeared from the media—I do miss him--but he and his horse are probably healthier for it. Most large cities have banned smoking from public buildings to, in some cases, even outdoor venues.
I’m a former smoker. I smoked cigarettes for years. Even now, I’ll sheepishly admit to a smoke when I’m so stressed out and I have no other outlet. It may not be a healthy one, but it’s healthier than some.
This is America. I believe in freedom. I believe if we don’t like what’s being broadcast, we can turn the channel; we don’t have to read incendiary words on paper, we don’t have to listen to lyrics that may be offensive. If there is someone that wants to, it is their right, and we have a choice whether to follow suit. There is always an alternative. The issue with smoking in an enclosed public spot, however, is that the people that choose not to light up are forced to breathe in those toxic chemicals, to smell the burning tobacco; to draw that into their personal air space. It’s inconsiderate at best; at worst, it can eventually kill you.
DC is one of those places that has banned smoking. The law has little leeway. It isn’t for some, it’s for all. So like many, I was a little surprised that it can so easily be bypassed for a few. You might have read recently, how cigar smoking was unbanned for a couple of private events in the city. In the grand scheme of things, to me, at least, whether or not a bunch of guys sit around and spontaneously combust means little. You want to smoke cigars? Puff away and enjoy. But here’s the thing….the rest of us, should we make the decision that we want a Cohiba at a public gathering, cannot. When there is a wedding in the same venue the following day, those guests will be dubiously enjoying the stench of the smoke of the night before. Workers will spend days, if not weeks, trying to get rid of the reek that is now entrenched in carpets, curtains, etc. And oh, did I mention it’s against the law? Bypassing this with a couple of exceptions for the few is like saying…stealing is against the law unless you are of a certain group and really, really want the item in question.
This isn’t really only about cigars. It’s about entitlement. It’s about choice. It’s about what is fair and just. It’s about consideration…and more, it’s about a much larger picture.
Thinking about this has stressed me out. But instead of taking both the health risk and possibility of being carted away in handcuffs to some penitentiary for lighting up, I think I’ll just go for a run. It’s legal, healthier, friendlier to those around me, and we’re all allowed, at least for now, to indulge.
By Wendy Gordon