Smokers “rights” clash and burn

Nicotine addicts of New York City have now tasted the wrath of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Last Saturday at midnight, the “Smoke-Free City Act” went into effect. To the chagrin of bar and restaurant owners, smoking is now illegal in their establishments.

Claiming that this new act will cause irreparable damage to their businesses, these owners have formed organizations to contest this law. One group, Citizens Lobbying Against Smokers Harassment has managed to organize a protesting smokers bash at a New Jersey restaurant. On the CLASH website, they also ask smokers and non-smokers for two dollars each so they can properly publicize the story of their struggle.

As bad as I feel for the persecuted smoker, and as much as I see their point about infringement of rights, I must agree with the mayor; this is first and foremost a health issue. Smoking will certainly damage your health, but that is your choice, your right as an American. Secondhand smoking will also damage your health, but it is not your choice to be surrounded by a cloud of tobacco, tar, and nicotine. It is the right of non-smokers to protect their health as surely as it is the right of smokers to destroy their own. I am sure Mayor Bloomberg wouldn’t mind if New Yorkers dropped smoking like the bad habit that it is, but his plan is primarily an issue about the health of non-smoking New Yorkers.

Also, the CLASH claim that business will suffer due to this law is completely false. According to the New York Times, a study conducted by the Substance Abuse Program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that restaurants in Massachusetts and New York did not suffer a loss of business from smoking laws. Instead, jobs in the industry rose 18 percent from 1993 to 1997. Mike O’Neal, who owns O’Neal’s Restaurant on West 64th Street, supports the ban, saying, “If 75 percent of people don’t smoke and 25 percent do, that means 75 percent are going to eat out more and 25 percent are going to eat out less.”

It seems hypocritical that smokers are complaining about infringement of rights and of citizenship when they themselves heavily infringe upon the rights of others: the right to breathe clean air. Some people may not want to live healthy lives, but they certainly cannot make that choice for others.

Even if every smoker boycotts all the restaurants and bars in New York City, business will go on as usual and it will certainly be a cleaner atmosphere for those who must earn their living as waiters, waitresses and bartenders. Doctors across the world have been calling for this type of legislation to be passed and now the time has come to carry it out.

Smokers should stop seeing themselves as victims of Michael Bloomberg and start seeing themselves as victims of Philip Morris USA Inc. and all the other tobacco companies. If anyone takes away the rights of smokers, it would be these companies who profit from smokers while slowly killing them.