Saturday, October 12, 2013


I used to be a smoker. Pack a day, maybe two.

I always said it’s easy to quit smoking. Heck, I did it almost once a week.

Back in 1974, I got serious about it. Went on retreat with the Jesuits and prayed fervently for three days, while I torched my way through about two and a half packs.

On Sunday, we went to dinner with the Bones, and I told Duane how my appeal to the Almighty had not been heard. He understood. Wanted very much to quit, too.

So we made a bet. $100.

I got through the next day until dinner time, then I called Duane and asked for a mulligan. He said c’mon over. I did and smoked one of his wife’s menthol brand.

That was the last cigarette I ever smoked.

Looking back, I don’t know how or why we ever did it. It’s an awful smell and a damn nuisance. And expensive. Can you believe $14.50 a pack in New York?

I don’t think anybody should smoke. I suppose you could say that I don’t approve of it. Don’t want anybody smoking in my car or in my house.

Still, I believe that smokers have their rights. Like anybody else. Of course they can’t smoke where the law forbids it. In restaurants and courtrooms. The States have their laws.

But smokers aren’t politically aggressive. They don’t go around telling everybody that they smoke cigarettes. They don’t hold rallies or carry signs to advertise that they are smokers or demand that their choice to smoke be somehow celebrated as the equivalent of my choice not to smoke. And they have never called me a ‘smokeophobe.’

They haven’t insisted that children be taught in grammar school that smoking is a normal, legal activity, and that smokers should be accepted as readily as non smokers as friends and associates.

Still, they don’t like to be told that they shouldn’t smoke. Or to hear that it’s not what people’s lungs are made to do. Or that most people find it unpleasant, unattractive, unwise.

But they don’t make a fuss about it.

They just go out on the porch or in the parking lot and light up.

Smokers have the right to smoke, and tobacco companies have the right to manufacture cigarettes. Of course, if they get sued for causing cancer, they have to pay the judgment. But that’s part of the cost of doing business.

The rest of us don’t have to approve. Mayor Blumberg, can’t regulate the length of a cigarette or the number of puffs you can inhale, but he can urge people not to smoke.

And Michelle Obama can tell us it’s unhealthy. Her husband might even quit and ask the American people to follow his good example.

It’s a free country, but even in free countries, there is such a thing as social grace. Some things just aren’t done by people who want to be part of the mainstream.

Over the centuries, right and wrong, good and evil, do and don’t have been largely the province of religion. And local communities.

The more local a regulation is, the more minute it can be. The village can regulate things that the federal government cannot.

Unhappily in our day the ease of mass communication has led to the attempt to legislate “political correctness” in every nook and cranny of the nation.

Just because you have the right to do something shouldn’t make it morally or legally wrong for me to express disapproval.

After all, it is a free country, isn’t it?