Friday, December 19, 2008

Is good health a right or a privilege?!

Very occasionally, there's a cast-iron reason for having a rant ... and this is one of them.

Personally, I don't smoke. I've never smoked. I watched my father take 18 years to die of lung and brain cancer caused by smoking, so I count myself a specialist in the consequences, while not suffering them myself. Who was it said, 'Only an idiot has to learn by his own mistakes.'

So far, so good: at least I'm qualified to indulge myself in a rant! So, here we go:
It's a bloody outrage when you can't have your cup of tea (or coffee) in your own backyard, without being subjected to the secondhand smoke of the (bleep)ing chainsmokers who live on the other side of the fence, and who smoke like (bleep)ing chimneys all morning. Secondhand smoke is a lot more dangerous than the garbage these morons are dragging into their own lungs, because at least they have benefit of the (bleep)ing filter. So, there's Keegan, sitting in a patch of shade on a glorious summer morning, cup of ooling in the hand, thinking about the day's work to be done, and --

Suddenly I'm coughing on someone else's (bleep)ing smoke. I'm inhaling carcinogenic compounds. My eyes are watering on the toxic fallout that's been EXHALED from the diseased lungs of the geriatric pea-brains who live over the fence. They rent. The rules are clear -- they're central to the Residential Tenancies Act: you do NOT smoke in a rental house. So what do these octogenarian cretins do? They go stand on the back step and force-feed the neighbors with the 4,000 artificial substances which are added to the tobacco to make it smolder for a long time rather than burning straight out.

I have no desire to have 4,000 chemicals force-fed into my lungs, and follow my father down an 18-year path that led to places you don't even want to know about. But apparently I don't have any rights to assert. It's their right to smoke on their doorstep and gas me with their toxic fallout. I have no right to ask them (much less tell them) to bugger off and poison themselves somewhere else, where they're not poisoning me too.

The worst part of all this is that when lifelong smokers get into middle age and older, the vaster majority of them get sick. My dad was one. There are hundreds of thousands like him, and they suck the Medicare system dry ... after having shot themselves deliberately in both feet. It's getting on towards half a century since the Surgeon General's report was published. Everyone has known for that long, that smoking causes cancers all over your body, plus peripheral circulation failure, heart disease, arterial disease --

In fact, the only thing it doesn't seem to cause is broken noses ... because if someone like myself, a non-smoker, were to ask these people to stop or go away, they'd get nasty ... it could turn into a big fight ... the fight could get physically violent ... someone's nose gets punched in the furore ... and it's the non-smoker who started it, by trying to save his own life from cancers and cardiac diseases that will eventually kill him! We call it self-bloody-preservation -- and it'll get us hauled up in front of a magistrate, with a huge fine to pay, or we'll go to jail, thirty or sixty days for aggravated assault. And when the non-smoker gets out of jail, what's to say the situation won't happen again? Because apparently smokers have every right to pollute the airspace of non-smokers with the rancid fallout from their diseased lungs.

There. I feel much better now. So, you want to look at ways to get people to quit?

Frankly, I don't think it's every likely to happen. I'm so certain than a majority of people will always smoke that even the characters in some of my novels -- Jarrat and Stone, Marin and Travers -- smoke the occasional cigarette. But, what are they smoking?! It sure as hell ain't the vile kind of crap people are smoking today. I called it kipgrass: a naturally occuring plant that only smolders, won't burn properly -- like the fibers of the Tasmanian white pine -- is then enhanced with mild euphorics, given a pleasant aroma by being scented with citrus, roses, whatever, and then rolled into a cigarette and sold by the 25 pack.

In other words, the smoke is harmless, smells okay, and isn't addictive. Fat chance of this happening outside a science fiction novel!

In the real world, people will always smoke and the tobacco companies control everything that isn't controlled by the oil companies, the drug companies, and the cosmetics industry.

So what can be done to alleviate the problem? Try this:

Recognize that smoking is a harmful, often lethal activity, that also stinks to high heaven. Make people -- and especially kids just starting -- hyper-aware of this, by making it illegal to buy cigarettes unless you are a licensed smoker. Issue smoker's licences, the same way driver's licenses are issued. You have to be 18 to get one, and it costs $100 per year to keep it current. You produce your license every time you buy a packet of smokes. The license is barcoded ... the machine reads the barcode, tracks you as you puff ... and updates your account. The tax on cigarettes is raised to 100% (ie., a $10 pack is now $20), and this amount is stashed in your account, accruing all the time -- to pay for your hospitalization, surgery, chemo and radiotherapy when you get sick. Because the illness you're giving yourself is self-inflicted, and you acknowledge that when you're 50 or 60 or whatever, you're going to be sucking Medicare dry. You pay in advance for your medical care.

It's not a bad idea, surely. A license, and a medicare levy. What's wrong with that? The added expense of puffing away might even cause some of the more intelligent people to quit. For the rest of us, the so-called "fresh air fascists," the fewer smokers there are in the community, the better we like it. Also, since these cretins are now paying for their own medical treatment in advance, the hospital systems will improve vastly for the rest of us.

It's a win-win situation. Licensed, legal smokers who are determined get to keep on puffing, the hospital system benefits, the government gets extra revenue, underage kids find it harder to get supply, more people quit to save money so the air quality improves, and in our old age, the rest of us non-smokers get better medical care, because the people who're inflicting their own terminal disease have prepaid for their care, rather than being utterly self-indulgent for decades and then hogging the lion's share of Medicare as well. The government would have to love this: it's political manna. The technology is easily available to manage this system. And it'd be difficult for the tobacco companies to find an argument...

Uh ... just a thought, guys.

Ciao for now,
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1 comment:

Brian M Logan said...

I'm on holiday, right. Europe first, US second. Asia third. And right about now I'm typing this in a smoke filled internet cafe in some Vienna suburb with a name way to long to type. And I have to say: what the hell's with all the smoking here?!

Been in Vienna two days and I've not been able to find a SINGLE cafe or coffee shop, or shopping centre, or food court, or restaurant, or internet cafe, that doesn't have dozens and dozens of people smoking!!!

Smoking killed both my parents, so to say I'm not exactly a fan of it is an understatement. But here in Vienna, Austria, I feel like I'm the odd one out. Like I'm the leper, just because I want to - SHOCK - breathe clean air that isn't going to kill me.

It'a like I'm back in a time machine to the 1970s when smoking was allowed everywhere.


Anyway, there endeth mz rant. Must get out of this internet cafe before my lungs cease up!

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