Letter to the Editor, Arkansas City Traveler, Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Dad went to North Carolina to coach high school basketball in the early Twenties. When he told his players not to smoke, he got in trouble with the school's administration for disrespecting the state's sacred tobacco industry. More than eighty years later, on January 1, 2010, North Carolina joined the many other states that have ended public smoking, while Kansas continues to wallow in the ignorant past.
What's the matter with Kansas? I see two problems. One is inertia. It's easier to do nothing than to do something.
The other problem is denial. Some people pretend that their toxic emissions are harmless to themselves and their downwind victims. This denial of science leads those people to advance a variety of specious arguments against dealing with the hazard.
Every time the subject of smoking comes up, defenders of the status quo shovel out the same old bovine exhaust in opposition to dealing with the problem. Let's look at some of the arguments.
"It's a matter of individual rights." A member of the legislature told me that, and he's correct, but not in the way he intended. The question before legislators is whether they're going to protect the rights of most of us not to be assaulted with poison gas, or the right of the poisoners to poison.
"I don't need the nanny state protecting me from myself." Au contraire, old buddy. I'm perfectly willing to recognize your right to kill yourself. The idea isn't to protect you from yourself. It's to protect the rest of us from you.
"It will put bars and restaurants out of business." Yeah, right. That's why California, New York, and all the other states that already passed smoking laws years ago no longer have any bars or restaurants. Duh.
"Goverment shouldn't tell business what to do." Oh, really? Then we can get rid of health departments, pure food and drug laws, traffic safety regulations, and all that other annoying government interference.
"We already have enough laws." That's an actual quote. Who said it? A legislator. A person whose job it to make laws. Excuse me, sir, if you truly believe we shouldn't pass any new laws because we already have enough of them, what in blue blazes are you doing there?
Soon the legislature will convene in the capitol. One of the questions before the members will be whether, at long last, to pass legislation protecting the majority of our people from the willfully uncaring minority. Will they act, or will they continue to dither until Kansas is last among fifty? That depends on what they hear from us citizens.