The Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, is expected to sign into law a new bill that will ban smoking in all public parks, beaches, boardwalks and plazas, like the newly implemented outdoor-seating areas in Times Square and Herald Square.
Banning smoking is nothing new to New York or the rest of the country, but the prohibition has generally stopped at the door of a bar, restaurant, office building, or stadium. However, the new extension of this ban has set an increasingly dangerous precedent for politicians who hold the power to make citizens’ decisions for them.
As a former smoker, I chose to quit a number of years ago because the absurd quantity of cigarettes I smoked made me feel rather disgusting; however, I am my own individual and have friends who continue to smoke as much — if not more — than I ever did without that same disgusting feeling. That said, what goes into our bodies is often quantified so that varying amounts can be seen as harmless, unhealthy, potentially dangerous or addictive.
It’s understandable that non-smokers may want to avoid inhaling someone else’s exhaust because of its unpleasant aroma or taste, but what prevents the non-smoker from moving ten feet away or avoiding the person smoking on the bench to begin with?
If perchance a smoker plops him or herself down next to an unassuming non-smoker who is reading a book and then lights up, the issue is not health so much as rudeness. However, the ostracism of smokers from public buildings — and at times from the front of doorways to those same public buildings — has trained many smokers to be very circumspect before lighting up lest they offend someone or face further prejudice.
If health really is the issue behind this ban, then perhaps fast food should also be banned. While New York City was one of the first to implement the required calorie count on all franchise-restaurant food menus, the city hasn’t prevented people from purchasing it, eating greasy overly wrapped imitation meat on the subway, or clogging their arteries in front of bystanders. Granted, second-hand smoke is suspected of afflicting others besides the smoker, but fast food also has an effect on those who choose not to consume it.
Given that obesity in this country is ever-growing (no pun intended), and fast food certainly contributes to this epidemic, then those who need treatment for greasy, fast-food related procedures are driving up the costs of insurance premiums, even for those who remain healthy and out of the Ronald McDonald playhouses.
In “What You Eat Is Your Business,” Radley Balko asserts, “states are preventing private health insurers from charging overweight and obese clients higher premiums, which effectively removes any financial incentive for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.” In other words, if people choose to live an unhealthy lifestyle and the healthy insured are responsible for footing the bill, then why shouldn’t New York City and other concerned cities also take the initiative to ban fast food consumption?
Fast food and tobacco are both huge industries and both are indicted in causing various diseases, ailments and, in the case of fast food, epidemics throughout the United States; therefore, are the golden arches destined to crumble and make way for a rogue wave of Starbucks?
Or will that franchise ultimately succumb to a rash of high-blood pressure and hypertension?