The party that ever has “Rights!” on its lips, the party with the mania about diversity, the party that is most anxious that religious fundamentalists will take over and impose their puritanical wills on the rest of us, the party whose members remind us constantly of the dangers of the government meddling in our personal lives has, in a fit holy self righteousness, taken away yet another right, decreased diversity, imposed its puritanical will on the rest of us, and has used the law to meddle in our personal lives once more.
New York City Council Democrats have voted to ban smoking in city parks, beaches, pools, boardwalks, and, if it can be believed, marinas. Mayor Bloomberg, a man with much money and therefore with a near infinite belief in his infallibility, has said he will sign the new restrictions, and will do so with a smile on his face. One imagines it will resemble that of the Grinch’s.
Why did they take away the right to smoke in public? According to Speaker Christine C. Quinn, a Democrat, “The statistics don’t lie: second hand smoke kills. With this bill, all New Yorkers can now breathe easier and breathe cleaner air.” My dear lady, as a statistician I can tell you that if this is what the statistics are saying, then they are lying. A nasty habit, but one not unfamiliar to most statistics.
No council member mentioned that residents will still breath air polluted from tens of thousands of cars of which, even just one vehicle, in a single sight-seeing trip across our narrow isle, will pump out more “carcinogens” than an inveterate smoker can do in a week. Perhaps we should keep quiet about this, lest the government get ideas.
Another council member, Democrat Gale Brewer, said of her part in restricting her constituents’ behavior, that her vote “will help New Yorkers become healthier.” Ah, health. The modern be all and end all. This strange and recent worship of body is present perhaps because of the feminization of politics, or perhaps it is because of the increase of mothers and mamma’s boys (Bloomberg?) elected to office, or perhaps it is because of increasing secularization which teaches this is it!: miss your chance to be healthy now, and you miss out for all eternity.
You’re tired of seeing this, but it is my duty to remind you of the words of Mark Twain, a man surely wiser than Gale Brewer (D):
There are people who strictly deprive themselves of each and every eatable, drinkable and smokable which has in any way acquired a shady reputation. They pay this price for health. And health is all they get for it. How strange it is. It is like paying out your whole fortune for a cow that has gone dry.
All of us are willing to trade health for other benefits. This must be so because people regularly strap themselves to two-ton SUVs and hurtle their persons down crowded highways that lead to cabins on lakes, whereupon are found boats which trail ropes that are gripped by the SUV drivers with wooden slats tied to their feet. All this pleasure is purchased at the price of the likelihood of injury, even death.
Life is for living, not for crouching behind doors in fear and paranoia that something might—just maybe!—damage our health. This is important to acknowledge because we must never forget that this country once before lost its mind and wrote into its very constitution an amendment forcing health upon those who didn’t want it. If it happened before, it can happen again.
Now, the City Council, in its wisdom, graced its new law with a loophole which allows “actors in theatrical performances” to smoke where they like. Thus, when you are stopped for indulging tell the parks officer that you are rehearsing a play by La Rochefoucauld, and quote to him—by all means, with flair and through a cloud of smoke—“Attention to health is life greatest hindrance.”
Incidentally, unlike those epidemiologists who have received cash and free trips to exotic locales to write their papers and present their results damning second-hand smoke, I have never received anything—no money, no free smokes, no consideration of any kind—from any tobacco company, nor, to my knowledge, from any company even tangentially connected to a tobacco company. I do not smoke cigarettes and never have. This new law limiting freedom will scarcely effect me.