My op/ed yesterday generated nearly 200 comments on the Free Press website and brought a lot of email my way. Reading over the feedback, I’m struck by how many people fail to grasp a simple point: the fact that long-term exposure to secondhand smoke is risky does not lead automatically to the conclusion that we ought to ban smoking. Instead we could let the market take its course or we could provide other incentives such as tax breaks to increase the number of smokefree businesses. Unfortunately, even suggesting moderate measures that respect the rights of smokers brings in hate mail like this:
It is unfortunate that you and your fellow “butt” heads find tobacco “aromatic and enjoyable.” You represent the selfish and smelly “ash” holes that pollute the air that we all inhale. We non-smokers are tired of self centered, miscreant pigs blowing carcinogens in our faces. You better get accustomed to having your habit extinguished in more and more states, as science, and civilization advances forward. Through the rule of law, and attrition from cancer, rude and foul smelling puffers, such as your self are gradually becoming extinct. Why don’t you move to where smoking is on the increase, like to a third world country, and smoke your black and nasty lungs out. Since you cannot support your position with any solid research, may I suggest you keep your biased and antiquated opinions to yourself. By the way, you are a poor writer, you might wish to take a remedial writing course or two.
Enjoy your bouts with emphysema, heart disease, and eventually cancer.
Not all of the opposing writers have been that hateful in tone, but they almost all miss this simple point. Thankfully, a few people get it:
Dear Mr. Grier,
Not long ago, Holland, which is where we live, appeared at the top of a list of Michigan cities in the number of smoke-free dining and entertainment options available. We’ve been here for all the sorting-out involved and it’s been handled admirably without the force of law. In virtually every case, bars and restaurants have come down in a place that makes sense for their function, clientele, owners, and location. No anti-smoking legislation could have made it work better.
Then there’s this: tobacco use is still legal. And we are still adults! Thanks so much for your column, and for writing it so well that it actually got into print.