Pima County gets a big, fat slap on the back for finally being on the cutting edge of something. Too bad we are on the cutting edge of one of the most inane trends wafting across the globe.
No more smoking on any Pima County property. This means you. This also means outdoors.
Pima County parks remain exempt from the ban, despite at least two news stories that stated otherwise. But the ban does apply to parking lots, outdoor county-sponsored events, and those grimy little cubbyholes behind Dumpsters where smokers had been previously "allowed" to puff in a Quasimodo-type stance so no one would see them and complain.
It's not just the traditional cigarette that's banned, either. The ordinance applies to "cigars, pipes, smokeless tobacco, water pipes, hookahs, e-cigarettes, chewing tobacco, snuff and other products containing tobacco."
Tobacco-users who double as county employees "may face disciplinary action" if they are caught using tobacco-related products, according to the text of the ordinance. The text also says the ban applies to nonemployees who are visiting county facilities or attending county-sponsored functions, although the punishment for disobedience is unclear.
The idea of banning smoking outdoors on any property still reeks. Yes, we know. Smoking is stinky. Smoking is yucky. Smoking gives you bad breath, yellow teeth, wrinkly skin and smelly clothes. A Pima County Health Department flier says so. It also says smoking "may" make you cough, make it tough to keep up with your friends, make you breathe all raggedy, give you cancer or even kill you.
We got it. Got a cigarette?
The ban on smoking in enclosed workplaces that kicked in statewide on May 1, 2007, cited secondhand smoke as the reason behind the prohibition. Although the air has cleared in bars, restaurants and within 20 feet of any establishment's doorway, window or mouse hole near the corner floorboard, that is not enough. People are still smoking!
Apparently, crouching behind the Dumpster for a quick puff should also be taboo. The excuse the county is using for this new, improved ban is that it will cut health-care costs. A letter from UnitedHealthcare to Pima County's human-resource director decried how insuring smokers is so very costly, even though most of them drop dead at a much-younger age than nonsmokers.
That same letter failed to mention, however, that most health-insurance companies tack on a hefty surcharge to smokers' health-insurance premiums.
That might mar the excuse.
Everyone is also keeping very mum about why people smoke in the first place. Here's where the real whopper kicks in.
Many in Tucson and its surrounding environs tend to take pride in their compassion for people and things. We're always seeing yellow bumper stickers encouraging us to "Be Kind." We let people stream across the border willy-nilly in the name of human rights. Some would let rattlesnakes attack their kids before they dared do anything harmful to dissuade the snake.
"We have to have compassion," many wail. We have to understand that all living beings have the right to be here. We must live and let live, respect and let feed, coddle and love, except when it comes to smokers.
Smokers are evil. Smokers are bad. Smokers should be shot in the kneecaps and left to rot, without a cigarette, in the desert.
This thought process illustrates the gross hypocrisy that has come to roost in our fair land. Smokers are not evil. They are suffering from that fine concept known as addiction. Sorry, but throwing a 1-800 number at smokers so they can engage in a free smoking-cessation program is not the answer. Nor is banning all tobacco products across county-owned property.
It's not only smokers who think such draconian laws banning outdoor smoking are ridiculous.
"I think all of the controls are stupid," says nonsmoking Tucsonan Elizabeth Bjay Gardner. "Do it for alcohol, too, then. Or ban driving cars or planes flying over your house spewing out jet fuel, because I'm sure that's going to harm your lungs and health more than those smokers you pass by."
And we won't even get into the stench, rot or health problems that can come from food addictions, alcohol addictions, heroin addictions or playing around with cocaine. We don't have time for such things. We're too busy hanging the smokers.
After all, we are on the cutting edge of what is new. What is now. And what can be astoundingly asinine.