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Let the market dictate smoking policy

POSTED March 4, 2011 10:53 p.m.

I have a confession to make: I used to be a smoker.

I started smoking at the age of 16, because it was the “cool thing to do.” (Good thing my friends didn’t start jumping off bridges or I may not be here today!)

I smoked on and off for the next 10 years before kicking the habit. I had a relapse about two years ago that lasted eight months but, thankfully, I was able to quit once again.

I am a firm believer that smoking is bad for your health and the health of others around you. I saw my dad smoke a carton of non-filtered Pall Malls EVERY day and die at the age of 54. I have personally seen my health improve drastically within two days of stopping smoking.

However, I do not support smoking bans in private businesses, such as restaurants and bars.My lack of support for legislating smoking in private businesses has nothing to do with the facts about tobacco. I believe whole-heartedly that smoking causes cancer, heart disease, stroke, and lung diseases, including emphysema, bronchitis, and chronic airway obstruction. I also believe the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention when they say that for every person who dies from a smoking-related disease, 20 more people suffer with at least one serious illness from smoking.Anyone who still questions the negative effects smoking has on health is in a deep state of denial and should probably seek psychiatric care.I just think that market forces should determine whether a restaurant or bar owner wants to be smoke-free, not the government. I am not the only one who believes this.

"I do believe that we are violating the right of people to invest in a business and determine how they want to run that business if we allow a ban on smoking," said Indiana House Representative Phil Hinkle in a wthr.com report about a statewide smoking ban that made it through the Indiana House and Senate for the first time ever in February.

The lack of cigarette and cigar smoke in restaurants and bars in Indiana will be a positive thing — I just think that individual business owners should decide to do the right thing, while catering to the majority of Americans who do not smoke. During visits to my home state of Indiana, I have left restaurants and bars because of the smoke and had no problem telling the proprietors why they lost my business. But I do not begrudge them the right to cater to smokers, if they so desire.

I can’t help but think that someday our society may be run by health Nazis, similar to the 1993 movie “Demolition Man.” In this action thriller, Sylvester Stallone is 1996 Los Angeles police officer cryogenically frozen and reawakened in 2032.

Over the 36 years Stallone’s character was frozen, Los Angeles, San Diego and Santa Barbara became a pacifist utopia called "San Angeles." And although crime is virtually non-existent, all carnal pleasures, including unhealthy food and kissing, are prohibited. Even cursing is illegal and people are fined every time they swear.This movie is a cautionary tale of Big Brother societies. Smoking bans are just the beginning of a slippery slope that could eventually lead to bans on anything unhealthy. Who really wants to live in a world without butter and hanky panky?

To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail khacker@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.

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