American journalist Edward R. Murrow (1908 - 1965) lights a cigarette for American actress Marilyn Monroe (1926 - 1962) during an interview for the TV series 'Person to Person,' April 1, 1955. (Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)
Back in the 1970’s, my father would send me to the store with 75 cents
to get cigarettes with a note, “Please sell Danny Starling a package of
Winston 100’s”. I’d happily skip down to the corner store in Shawnee,
Kan., hand over my handwritten pass to purchase underage smokes to the
guy at the counter, who would slide a fresh pack over the counter to an
eight year old. I didn’t smoke them, but I got to spend the nickel
change on bubble gum or baseball cards or whatever candy I could get.
did I know that was sowing seeds of one of the greatest sorrows of my
life; my father would die a few years later of complications from lung cancer.
He had grown up in a time when cigarettes were cheap and plentiful.
When doctors said they were good for you and the Army used to put
cartons of smokes in the rations of soldiers going off to war. Smoking
was glamorized and was acceptable in all public places becoming a
symbol of independence and sophistication around the world.
tried my first cigarette when I was around 12 years old and had become
a pack-and-a half-a-day smoker by the time I was 24 years old. I’m
still smoking tobacco, but a lot less—a couple a day. This change in
behavior was brought on two things: the soaring cost of smokes, and the
fact that I now find myself hardly able to finish one cigarette before
I toss it in the gutter.
Pretty much everyone in my immediate
family smokes, all my four brothers, my sister, several of my nieces
and nephews. My mother has emphysema from years of smoking and can’t seem to kick the habit. She has tried everything. The patch, the gum, hypnosis, cold turkey,
tons of candy, nothing seems to keep her from getting up at 5 a.m. and
smoking the cheapest smoke she can find before going back to sleep for
a few hours.
I used to battle with her constantly about quitting
and, to her credit, she has made efforts to stop. She would get annoyed
and tell me that my nagging actually caused here to smoke more. I just
stopped harping on her about it. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks
as they say, and you can’t stop anybody from doing anything if they are
hell bent on it.
I got a call the other day from my second
oldest brother, who is the battle of his life against advanced lung
cancer. He hadn’t smoked since he was in the Army in Vietnam but told
me that a few years back he began to smoke again recreationally.
Although he didn’t believe that was the main factor--he worked as an
aircraft machinist for years before becoming white collar--it’s hard to
stare down the facts without a shudder.
Recently, a Kansas City
friend said she went into a well-known midtown establishment for a few
drinks. She was speaking with the owner, who she’d gotten to be
friendly with during infrequent visits to the bar, and noticed everyone
around her smoking. A casual smoker herself, she asked the owner—who
was also smoking behind the bar--if it was okay to smoke, knowing about
the smoking ban.
“No. It’s illegal to smoke in here,” the owner replied stoically with a lit cigarette dangling from his mouth.
Perplexed she looked around at the happy patrons smoking away, with ashtrays about and the air filled with second hand smoke. When asked what she did, she replied, “Well I figured it must be okay and I enjoyed a cigarette at the bar.”
explained to her the vagaries of the ban’s enforcement—proven to be
laughable--and the continued battle by long-time smoking establishments
in Kansas City, MO., to continue to allow their customers to light up.
Those days might be coming to end with a Missouri Court of Appeals ruling upholding Kansas City’s recently adopted smoking ban that covers bars, restaurants, taverns and billiards halls seating less than 50 people.
is a defeat for business owners who want to cater to adults wanting to
smoke while they drink and a victory for the pro-family, health nut
crowd that are deathly afraid of second-hand smoke.
lawyers for the pro-choice smoking lobby plan to appeal the current law
as being incompatible with previously existing state law that they
believe holds jurisdiction over the regulation of smoking in these
small local establishments. They hope the Missouri State Supreme Court will hear the case and overturn the smoking ban in favor of the less restrictive Missouri State Law.
personally would like to see people have a choice. Cigarettes are
legal. People who smoke should not be relegated to second-class
citizenship and not permitted to have establishments where smoking is
allowed. Kansas City has always had a do-gooder streak that has been
preaching and moralizing since the days of Prohibition about the evils
of drinking, smoking and gambling—all legal—and has so many petty
offenses that very few are every really enforced.
As I mentioned
before, smoking has obvious health risks and has a great impact on my
family and me personally. This having been said, I also know that when
smoking is outlawed, only outlaws will smoke. Making laws has never
stopped any American from doing what he or she thought was a God given
right: The right to choose his or her own lifestyle. The smokers will
continue to smoke either inside or outside the bars and restaurants
If the current ban is struck down on appeal,
lawmakers should compromise with local business owners who want to
allow their customers to smoke inside their establishments and warn all
others who want to avoid second hand smoke beforehand.
Customers will still have a choice to stay or leave. Warning: Smoking Kills. Breathe at your own risk!