There is yet another smoking ban under consideration in the tobacco state; but this time, it is state-wide. Bans of this type are always politically favorable–indeed, you rarely hear a politician, even one that opposes a ban, speaking openly against it. Well, and why would they? Public opinion polls almost always show a majority supports a ban. Newspaper articles and spots on news broadcasts follow the same model: details of the proposition, followed by interviews with public health experts decrying the negative effects of smoking, followed by interviews of citizens railing against those evil, evil smokers.
Yet something is missing here.
Where are the smokers? Even smokers are supposed to support smoking bans. Smokers are supposed to be quitting, and the token tobacco smoker interviewed for said articles and broadcasts are always in favor, saying that the ban will help them to quit smoking. However, those legions of not-in-the-process-of-quitting smokers are eerily absent from these conversations, despite the fact that these bans will affect them the most.
Back at Western Kentucky University, I was interviewed for such an article once, for the yearly debate of a campus smoking ban. A College Heights Herald reporter approached me as I sat on the steps of Cherry Hall, far away from the door, enjoying a cigarette after class. I smiled as he asked if I’d like to be interviewed for an article on a potential smoking ban. Finally! An anti-smoking-ban smoker will be represented in the media!
He asked me if I supported a ban. I said no. It wasn’t the answer he was expecting. He asked if I would quit smoking if smoking was banned on campus. I told him I wouldn’t. But I didn’t stop there. I told him that I lived on campus, didn’t have a car, and I would not walk off campus to smoke. I would smoke on campus, smoking ban or no. He didn’t know what to say. He quickly thanked me and left. I lifted my Camel number nine to my lips and chuckled to myself.
Three days later, I scanned my copy of the college paper for the article. My interview, not surprisingly, was nowhere to be found. My interview didn’t fit the narrative. No public discourse has room for a smoker who knows the ills of smoking, yet smokes willingly regardless. No article or broadcast has room for a smoker who dare desires to smoke in a warm bar or restaurant, rather than shivering outside in the cold. Likewise, no public opinion poll has room for smokers who refuse to be kicked to the curb.
I won’t blow smoke in your face, but I won’t freeze for you, either.