- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 3, 2003

The Smoke Police have invaded the political corridors of the city after saving the lives of the enlightened ones in Montgomery County, excluding the precincts of Rockville and Gaithersburg.

The District could prioritize its life-saving mission with those bullet-riddled bodies piling up on the streets, except that would take real change in the public sector, as opposed to a feel-good measure that threatens only the owners of restaurants, nightclubs and pubs.

Picking on a smoky-bar owner is easy work, if not comical in a region that routinely chokes on vehicular-induced exhaust fumes.

Dying, of course, is one of the drawbacks of living, this news perhaps coming as a bulletin to those who decorate their homes with duct tape and plastic sheeting and release white doves at the start of each day.

Yet despite the uncertainties about them, complete with roads burgeoning with the harried, cell-phone addicts and quick-application makeup artists, the touchy-feely types persist in their smoke-free endeavor, mostly out of humanitarian interests, and never mind the roaches, rats, gangs and garbage that exist in the shadows of the city.

There is a greater good in all this, as these intrusive things are inevitably portrayed, not unlike the move to place life-saving, red-light cameras on every street corner.

As the health scare of secondhand smoke increases, it should be noted the human body is a miraculous machine, not unlike the human brain, both sometimes filled with all kinds of pollutants.

Reports of this or that miscreant’s impending demise is sometimes greatly exaggerated, judging by the ever-increasing band of veteran urchins roaming the city’s downtown arteries. Some appear cold, while a few appear to have at least a vitamin E deficiency, and yet they push ahead, their health unchanged by a smoking ban or not.

The marketplace is fairly unforgiving; no laws are necessary to sort out nonsmokers from smokers. The two sides are apt to congregate where they feel most accepted. A business owner is apt to count the till first before choosing a side.

This kind of efficiency often eludes government, and it certainly eludes the dysfunctional body politic that passes as government in the city.

This is the city that pays the dead and incompetent, hires the fraudulent, and once insisted it had resurrected Dudley Moore from his grave. This also is the city ready to pass out condoms to the masses, just in case anyone is running short around HIV-positive blood.

The city probably would offer to wipe everyone’s noses, so long as a handling fee could be attached to the runny nose. Alas, the runny-nose bill only could be passed if members of the D.C. Council commissioned a poll, a study and paid a six-figure salary to an outside consultant.

Giving everyone a big, fat hug is good politics these days, even if the action is transparent. Hugs Across America is a movement waiting to happen, possibly taken up by one of the warm, cuddly, hate-Bush hypocrites from Hollywood.

Like it or not, one way or another, the city is destined to go the way of smoke-free New York City and add one more encroachment on a citizenry too eager to head down the slippery slope to fewer freedoms.

A smoke-free environment was a good idea at the outset, limited as it was to sections, rooms and zones. Now the idea has gone mad, as one behavioral admonishment from government made to fit all.

As hard it may be for some council members to believe, at least one-free thinking native of the area has shown a remarkable capacity to find those places that agree with his acutely sensitive olfactory sense.

This old-fashioned reaction to foreign substances, no doubt, comes as a shock to many politicians, more and more of whom are being conditioned to take their constituents by the hand and lead them through life.

That should not be part of the deal.

Here’s the deal: Fix the roads, the budget and schools and take back the streets from the gangs and dollar-seeking car watchers.

Eliminate those problems and then maybe we can discuss the dangers of secondhand smoke, or contemplate the passing of a law that fines anyone who sneezes a petri-dish load of germs in your breathing space.


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