Monday, July 23, 2007

Thank yourself by not smoking

Today would have been my father's 78th birthday, and for me July 23rd will always be a date tinged with sadness because of his too early death in 1989. The Tobacco companies and their paid off scientists, spin doctors and apologists may deny any link between the lung cancer that decimated my father's body and his pack-a-day habit, but no one who knew him has any doubts.

Ironically, coincidentally, serendipitously — choose the word that best matches your view of fate — as if to comemmorate the anniverary of Anthony Edward Scudellari's birth, today I read that Governor Rod Blagojevich signed into law the Smoke-Free Illinois Act, which bans smoking in public places around the state begining next January (see Gov signs ban on smoking in public places from today's Chicago Sun Times)

I have many friends who smoke. I have relatives who smoke. I go to cafés and restaurants where I see smokers huddled outside doors, indulging their compulsions. I hang out in bars where I breath the emissions of 20-somethings who carelessly puff away at those leaves rolled with chemicals and toxins. I know the arguments well, having heard them flung my way like self-defending punches:
  • "It's my life and my body, and I can do what I want with them."

  • "We've all got to die of something ..."

  • "The government can't tell me what to do."

  • "I have a right to smoke where ever I want."

There's also the usual outcry from pro-business circles against the rise of what they call a "Nanny State." I could counter these arguments with my usual responses. I could discuss the social impacts of individual behaviors — both the ill-affects of second-hand smoke on non-smokers, and the way smokers' poor health escalates health care costs for the general population. I could point out that the right to operate a business is granted with the expectation that owners accede to regulations that protect and preserve the greater social good, just as individuals have to abide by the law in order to receive their civil rights.

Forget all that, however, and take some simple words of advice from someone who spent long hours and days sitting at the side of his morphine-sedated father as he lay in a hospital bed dying an agonizing death. You don't want to die that way, and you don't want to put your own family through that much sorrow.

Photo credit: Gregory Maxwell, copyright 2005
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