Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Smoking Bans & Windmills

Well, I'm quite disappointed with myself. I spent the last few months writing, speaking, and acting passionately to help stop the Smoking-Ban in New Hope, PA. In fact, I have been fighting these Bans since before 2000 when they tried to pass one in Princeton, NJ. I have spent thousands of dollars and hours fighting Smoking-Bans on the local and state level, to no avail. Sure, the New Hope Ban is not the worst one that I have seen: it is limited to eating and drinking establishments, for now. But, in my mind, that does not justify the erosion of business owner, customer, and individual rights. I have always felt compelled to fight these restrictive laws. Ironically, Smoking-Bans have never adversely impacted my business, but I contest them on principle.

On this occasion, I prepared no less than 3 different speeches. One of them kept me up till 5am a week ago: they were beautiful, I swear. Yet tonight, when I arrived at the New Hope Borough Council public hearing, there was no wind left in my sails. None of the effected parties were there to voice their discontent; yet they have been complaining and lamenting in private for months. The Borough Council President made a point to say that the only letter in disagreement with the proposed ban came from an "unaffected" party (that is me). Based on the lack of turnout, he must not be kidding. I guess bar and restaurant owners are too busy, apathetic, or resigned to the "feel-good" momentum of these Smoking-Bans.

I quickly, and off the top of my head, delivered the most monotone and dispassionate speech imaginable. Something about liberty, blah, blah, blah, personal choice, blah, blah. It was brutal. I just wanted to leave there and go back to work. I'm sorry. What did I expect? I expected more business owners, customers, and people with opinions as well as support from trade organizations and maybe a libertarian or two. There was no such support. But as usual the "clean air" people and attorneys were there: illustrating the effectiveness of being a well funded health crusading organization.

I must give credit to our local ice cream vendor who has never smoked, yet delivered an eloquent and intelligent argument against all of the so-called "health statistics". He clearly understood the consequences of legislating health and restricting freedoms. I knew there was a reason I love ice cream!

I was miserable all day, but couldn't quite figure out why. Subconsciously, I dreaded going to this meeting. I guess in my heart I know it is like jousting windmills. An uphill, thankless, fruitless endeavor. I feel like there is a moral imperative to fight these restrictive laws: no different than protecting an old lady from a mugger or calling 911 after you see an accident happen. Am I angry? I keep asking myself. Maybe. I'm angry at all of the individuals, companies, and organizations with the resources to fight these things that have chosen not to. It is easy to be short-sighted, stay out of the fray, and simply concern yourself with your profit and loss statement. Or maybe I'm angry at myself for not focusing on my profit and loss enough; and jousting windmills because it seems like the right thing to do.

Tomorrow I will go back to work, focus on my customers, sponsors, students, and leave all of this angst behind me. I will not be angry tomorrow, I will go back to being passionate. I will focus on my little part of the world and try to make that bit better. Fortunately for me, being a Tobacconist is a THANKFUL job.

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