21st century leper

Jeff Weissman

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The other day a friend of mine dragged me to a coffee shop. I say dragged, because I have done time, worked at both Starbucks and Coffee Bean so the idea of willingly spending time at a cafe is like journeying back to hell. We ended up at a local coffee shop enjoying our bourgy beverages, relaxing and talking when I decided I was going to have a cigarette.

At this point any smoker reading this story knows exactly what is going to happen next. For those of you who are still in the dark allow me to explain what transpired. I lit the cigarette, took a couple drags and then all of a sudden a middle-aged woman, whose level of disgust was so intense you would of thought I had just defiled a member of her family said I was not allowed to smoke because it wasn’t a designated area.

Instantly a voice inside of me, the one that has watched “Goodfellas” one too many times wanted to say “Hey lady, why don’t you mind your business.” But I didn’t.

When I looked up at the woman, I chuckled and like a coward simply mumbled something under my breath, pretended to put out my smoke and when Mrs. Patio Patrol left I went back to smoking my cigarette.

I sat back in my shame and bitterness wondering, “Where can a person even smoke anymore?” If you live in Calabasas or Burbank you might as well forget about it. In those towns, smoking a cigarette is like committing first-degree murder. In L.A. county smoking at a beach or park, is out of the question. Slowly but surely, day after day, city after city have established outdoor smoking bans.

First smokers got pushed out of restaurants and bars, which I still think should be the owner’s decision and now they are trying to kick us out of outside, if that makes any sense. Eventually smokers will have to ask where they are supposed to smoke.

Maybe if we are lucky and keep our fingers crossed the city will install underground smoking dungeons for us degenerate smokers to use. If you are a smoker, I hate to break it to you but you have become a leper of the 21st century. The scourge of society, a modern day leper held in disdain and contempt by the community. Designated smoking sections when translated correctly actually means, leper colonies.

Smokers have become the victims of an anti-smoking culture created by overly obsessive health conscious maniacs who have nothing better to do with themselves then force personal ideals and beliefs onto others.

Health vampires are on the loose ladies and gentlemen, feeding their insatiable appetite by sucking every vice out of the society. One of the vampires’ main goals is smoking extermination. Their methods and tactics are varied: outdoor smoking bans, increased taxes, so-called Truth ads intended to make a smoker feel as if they are the anti-Christ and television and movie censorship, just to name a view.

Though you may not believe it I understand the health risks of smoking, I would have to be beyond ignorant not to know it. The risks have been ingrained in my brain throughout my life, however this is not the point of my rant. The point is that our society has become soft.

The other day I was watching a movie at home, when a disclaimer appeared. It read, “this movie contains sexual content, violence and excessive tobacco use,” hold on excessive tobacco use, you have to be kidding me. What happened to the days when it was acceptable for characters to smoke? For all the children of the 1980s, remember “Ghostbusters”, every Ghostbuster smoked except Egon and that was a movie children loved. Look at the Simpsons, do you think if that cartoon were created today the network would allow Patty and Selma to be chain-smokers, child please. People would be outraged and the complaints would be endless. It seems the only people allowed to smoke in television or film these days are villains and Russians.

Regardless of what your opinion is of me all I am asking you to do is think about what our society is becoming. Not just concerning the issue of smoking, but in general. There was a time when people were allowed to make their own decisions. If something bothered a person they found a way around it, they didn’t rely on government laws and censorship.


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