This whole banning of smoking thing has been going on for years. There was a time, in my lifetime, when smoking was allowed in movie theaters! And in grocery stores, hospitals, airplanes, and elevators. Where I grew up, in Danbury, Conn., the Danbury Fair Mall opened in 1986 and the trash cans had ashtrays in them where people could kill their butts, if and when they wanted to.
Of course, my later experience in New York City was more of the same. When my asthma-prone girlfriend and I would get hotel rooms in the late ’90s, we had to ask for non-smoking, and when we went out to eat, we’d ask for non-smoking. Even with all that, the smoke still bothered her much of the time.
So, when Mayor Mike Bloomberg took to outlawing smoking in New York City, first in restaurants, bars, and hotels, now in parks and at beaches, my lady was all on board. I agreed in principle, but just like a bottle from a baby, I thought you can’t take it away all at once.
If you do, there will be a transition period, like at first in hotels and restaurant bathrooms in the city and elsewhere where people still defied rules and smoked. At bars in New York, I still see people smoking openly along with the nic-fixed bartenders at closing time. So, it’s a step-down process.
Recent news about prolific actor Jeremy Irons mimicking my thoughts got me thinking again more seriously about the issue. Irons was quoted in New York Magazine saying he has “turned vigorously against the mayor because of the new law [banning] smoking in parks or on the beach, which I think is ludicrous and a terrible bullying of a minority that cannot speak back.”
Irons himself is a smoker and is outraged at the mayor’s actions. He has even gone as far as comparing smokers with needing the same protections as “handicapped people and children.”
Unsurprisingly, the National Organization on Disability said Irons’ comment was a “very inappropriate comparison.”
Still, the thoughts of this very thoughtful man who is himself addicted to smoking makes the non-smoker take pause. Irons must be on to something if he went as far as to say it to New York Magazine. At the very least, he was trying to make a profound point: Smokers can’t help themselves.
That’s something that even the most vigilant non-smoker should at least have some understanding of and compassion for. If not, get ready for the bottle wail for quite some time.
A child of a couple of Marine brats from Corona, Jesse Schmitt has New York City deeply rooted in his blood. Having lived in different neighborhoods in Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn and tasted every corner of the five boroughs possible, Schmitt has an informed New York voice.
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