Smokers, now may be your time.
(Our time? I don’t consider myself a smoker but I do enjoy the occasional cigar. Does enjoying the every-few-months stogey qualify me as a member of one of this country’s most villified band of outcasts?)
More than two decades ago smoking was banned in California restaurants and bars. I was among the many who groused about the law.
Up until the late 90s bars and cigarette smoke were as synonomous as gin and tonic,. Smoking a cigarette—or a cigar—while enjoying an adult beverage was the stuff of pop culture and legends. From film and TV to songs on the airwaves the notion that smoking in a bar could be cool, relaxing and occasionally romantic was deeply ingrained in our culture (thanks, in part, to the tobacco lobby).
But years of research from the medical community and other scientists revealed that smoking wasn’t just bad for one’s own health, but the secondhand smoke was also bad for the non-smokers and innocent bystanders around you.
Eventually smoking in bars, and indoors in general, was banned. In consideration of the well being of neighbors and friends, the smokers among us were pushed outdoors. We may not have liked it but science, reason and concern for others prompted us to change our ways. The greater good prevailed.
But if the last two years of this pandemic has shown me anything it’s that the greater good has limits among a loud, stubborn segment of the population.
This week the state of California once again mandated masks be worn indoors to mitigate the spread of COVID-19and its latest variant. Throughout most of 2020 and into the first half of this year masks were requirements in indoor public spaces. The greater good was at stake.
But a faction of self-described freedom-loving patriots protested the mandates then and are ready to do so again. They argue their personal freedoms trump the well being of the community.
In them, smokers may find the allies they need to get them back indoors and smoking, public health be damned. If the anti-mask crowd doesn’t give a hoot about spreading a virus, then surely they can’t be bothered by a cloud of carcinogens enveloping them each time they walk into a bar or a restaurant. Something tells me the anti-mask Americans love blowng smoke.