Wednesday, January 21, 2009


In the summer of 2007, Ohio County health official Dr. Mercer banned cigarette smoking in all bars and restaurants with an important exemption for rooms with video lottery machines. This was quite the firestorm at the time. Many bar owners were hauled into court and fined for various violations. It has been over 2 years so I thought I'd take a moment to reflect on the smoking ban.
Let me first say that I smoked cigarettes (Marlboro Lights) for almost 10 years of my life - basically 1990-2000. I'd usually smoke somewhere between 10-20 cigarettes per day. During that span, I quit on a few occasions - once for 3 months the other time for 7 months. Eventually I had enough of the nonsense so I quit cold turkey. No gum, no patches, no fucking yoga meditation, nothing. If you want to quit, just do it. I agree that the shit's addictive, but c'mon, do you really need a patch affixed to your left buttock or that disgusting nicotine laden gum? I also bet someone $100 that I wouldn't smoke a cigarette for 3 years. This helped a great deal because the thought of handing said person a hundred bucks was unacceptable. I'd sooner make a $100 donation to the Rush Limbaugh congressional fund.
The last time I smoked a cigarette was the day the Ravens beat the NY Giants in the Superbowl. Incidentally, if you wish to quit smoking, I think the best day to quit is the day after the Superbowl. Here's why - there's nothing going on for the next two months. After football season ends, there's very little to do. Without the heightened enjoyment of outdoor activities, it helps squelch the allure of cigarettes. And trust me, in Wheeling, absolutely nothing happens during February and half of March. By that time, 6 weeks have passed and the urge to smoke cancer sticks has faded.
Why did I quit? I think I felt guilty lying to my mother (she was under the impression I quit in the late 1990's). In fact, I had quit at the time but then started back up. The other reason was that it finally became apparent that cigarettes are disgusting (some more than others - for example, any Camel products are substantially more gross). Also, I've really come to view it as a white trash issue and didn't want to fall into that category. For me it was never really a health issue because I was still jogging around 3 miles a day. Aside from the addiction issue, I just plain enjoyed it. Seriously though, there's something truly disgusting about people that chain smoke, one after the other after the other. The worst is when a person huffs down a cigarette as quickly as possible due to the cold weather and then breathes near you. I think people should just walk away when chain-smoked-out-fucks invade your space. Maybe there could be some kind of universal signal. Perhaps you could pretend to take a puff off a fake cigarette and then walk away. I sometimes do this when I see some dumbshit smoking a cigarette in their vehicle and they just cut me off. I also knew this girl who would smoke while she ate dinner. In between each course, she'd light up. It was unusually obnoxious and disgusting. A decade later she wanted to be friends on facebook/myspace. My only ever personal friend denial, but it was largely for other reasons. I find her contemptuous.
I'm sorry if you're currently a smoker and find this post offensive. Honestly, some of my best friends smoke. I don't think they're white trash (perhaps a few). I'm speaking strictly of the habit itself. I'm sure my scotch/beer breath is proportionately disgusting as well. It just leaves a flagrantly bad impression when some moron burns me with a lit cigarette or breathes in my face.
I thought I'd offer a little background info so you can better gauge this post. Back to the smoking ban. The smoking ban, a decree from the HEALTH Department, has to be one of the most flawed, hypocritical and ironic legislative efforts I've ever seen. First and foremost, it is NOT a ban. Far from it. It merely redirects where smoking is deemed acceptable. Obviously, the Wheeling Island Casino could not defy the elderly chain smokers from which they derive a significant percentage of their yearly revenue. These IGT machines are half video/half idiot; hence, I'll refer to them as "vidiot" machines. I've never understood the fixation with these devices. What on earth compels people to endlessly funnel their social security checks into these things? Sure, I realize it's a high, but why can't people get a high from more conventional sources (drugs, alcohol, exercise, betting on football... anything but the vidiot machines)?
As I'm sure you know, every bar would soon be awarded a smoking exemption if they had a vidiot lottery room. I guess the health dept. has deemed cigarette smoking less harmful and not as offensive if confined to a side room that encourages mindless gambling. The irony - if you ever go inside one of these rooms, you're bombarded with smoke so thick you can barely see. Your eyes dry up and every part of your body stinks. Your clothing, hair and genitalia wreak of stale smoke. If smoking wasn't bad enough already... Hey, here's an idea, let us confine all those who embrace emphysema and crowd them in a closet-sized room while the endless din of the vidiot machines clamors away.
I'd say about 75% of the local bars enforce the smoking ban. 25% could care less. It usually depends on the scope of the menu and the mindset of the owner. If the owner smokes cigarettes, it's a smoking bar. But, if the bar does a substantial amount of business via their menu, they'll enforce the ban. If it's a dive bar, where the menu consists chips and peanuts, forget about it. And Wheeling has a sufficient number of dive bars. Hell, our city is well known for two major distinctions - The greatest number of churches per capita and the greatest number of neighborhood bars per capita. We also have impressive rates of morbid obesity, adult illiteracy, rampant incest and a significant soot problem.
In a sick kind of way, maybe the smoking "ban" is a good thing. Why not put all the smokers and vidiot junkies in the same room? It's almost like an optional system of modern day Wheeling apartheid. With increased familiarity, perhaps this subset of the population will embrace each other, procreate and pass on some kind of genetic code which seals their collective destiny. Regardless of the wheezing, coughing and gasping for air, they'll continue to press the vidiot buttons unabated and with ever increasing vigilance. I think it was King Longshanks in Braveheart that said, "See, you must find the goods in any situation."

No comments: