Living among the ashes

Alissa Wisniewski

VIEWPOINT
Alissa Wisniewski

Smokers are people too.

This thought was floating through my mind as I finished the three-minute trek to the smoking area where I work.

Three minutes you say? Doesn’t sound so bad.

It’s three minutes there and three minutes back, which takes six minutes off my ten-minute break, giving me four minutes to inhale a cigarette at lightning speed before I’m late and have to rake out the drains as punishment.

I work at an organic health food store that recently moved the smoking area from its former, convenient location at the corner flower shop to directly behind my store, six doors down.

Smoking seems to be the new leprosy, a socially unacceptable affliction that’s gradually being pushed into the shadows. This ostracism of smokers extends beyond my place of employment and to the streets of El Cajon where a new smoking policy has been passed, basically forbidding smokers from tainting the fresh air of busy streets or restaurant patios.

If that isn’t bad enough, now City College is going to implement the campus smoking ban, passed last semester.

One of the most enticing aspects of collegiate life is that as adults, we, the students, are able to smoke on campus; had we been able to do so in high school, I probably would’ve gone more.

Another form of discrimination towards smokers is the outrageous taxes placed on a pack of cigarettes in some states. In New York City, a single pack costs around $7.50. Thank God the initiative proposing similar tax increases in California didn’t pass because I might have had to pick up a second job.

As another way to appease the non-smokers, NYC forces manufacturers to use the more expensive, quick-burning cigarette paper on products being shipped there. While this can be irritating for a smoker on a windy day in the city, it’s not intolerable. It’s a perfect compromise! California should consider a method like this one, instead of banning it outright. It’s better for the environment, decreases second-hand smoke and blah blah blah … whatever makes those non-smokers happy.

The truth is that this war on smoking is the result of a few bad apples in the smoking community who lit up around the wrong people. Personally, if there are soccer moms with their children around, I keep the Marlboros in their holster. I feel like these are the people with the power to destroy my favorite vice.

One thing that’s certain, these bans sure are invoking the rebellious spirit of my youth, when I started smoking as a way to revolt against authority.

For all you non-smokers praising the increase in smoking bans and the harsher penalties for violating them, just wait until Big Brother tramples on one of your favorite pastimes. Drinking on the beach or driving ridiculous SUVs may be next, since these could be harmful to others’ health.

The silver lining for all of this has been a more serious look at jumping on the wagon and kicking the habit. All of this, and a stern lecture from my disapproving grandmother who sniffed right through my perfume at last summer’s family reunion.

**********
Alissa Wisniewski is City Times’ news editor