Letter at length, May 18

Smoking tobacco is socially useful

When he was 16, my son returned from a Greyhound bus trip to Seattle with the following observation: He noticed that at every bus stop where passengers disembarked, the smokers would stand outside together in a group and smoke and talk and share. But the nonsmokers went off by themselves into the station and didn't talk to anybody.

I think his observation was very profound. Doubtless, it'd be handy to what-powers-that-be if total strangers just went from one arena to the next without communicating. (Except for, maybe, a pristine breeze of QVC or HSN type hyper-amicability.) Obviously, pot-smoker groups don't qualify, and associations, clubs and survivor groups are focalized; whereas tobacco smokers are instant friends — often starting with "Got a light?" — who talk of any sundry subject that comes up. Tobacco smoking has, since the Peace Pipe, always been a social mechanism. Here, it developed in tandem with industrialization and its tremendous influence on our culture and society and advances borne by intercommunication.

Thus, anti-smoking legislations could be viewed as attacks on the communication network of our society and our right to gather, as subtle as they may appear. None can argue but that with all the more population, there is far less real live social interaction than there used to be in the "good old days." Those good old days, free of socially alienating technological advances like a T.V. in every home, a car in every driveway, the computer's "virtual reality," were also — coincidentally or not — the days before anti-tobacco legislation.

Now, of all times — hideously abstract with economic disaster, climate change, wildlife extinction, food and water shortage, satellite surveillance of our individual persons, camera surveillance everywhere we go, and "Star Wars" military weaponry pointed at us from orbit by God knows what countries — it seems not unreasonable to wish to smoke. It might be one's last cigarette at any time. What's unreasonable, in my opinion, is how lone fervent anti-tobacconists can walk, jog, bicycle and stroll their babies on busy exhaustive roadways without the slightest trepidation whatsoever.

Alzheimer's tends to be a nonsmokers' disease. We might well wonder about our legislators. Maybe, a nicotine patch might help, but that's a private affair. In the long run, it's communication that keeps us on board. Thus, tobacco smoking is socially useful.

Patti Morey


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