He caused a sensation when he appeared the first time, but “Smoking Man” is back.
Actually, the message is one which makes sense given the theme. But my thoughts on this aren’t about the theme, but why the smoker as a messenger is such a big deal. It also relates to another issue I think is important.
Think about it: smokers comprise a minority of the population – about 1 in 5 according to most generally accepted estimates. Yet their behavior is discouraged in nearly all public places and their right to conduct this activity in their own private space is coming more and more into question. Last year, for the second time in two years, Maryland legislators introduced a bill to ban smoking in private automobiles if children are present.
But smokers grin and bear the consequences of their actions as they huddle outside public places to get their fix, put their health at risk from a wide variety of diseases – at least according to medical research – and pay steep taxes of several dollars per pack in order to satisfy their nicotine craving. Moreover, thousands of state tax dollars are spent in an effort to shame smokers into giving up their habit, which is hypocritical at best when the state makes millions of dollars from smokers alone. (No one pays a specific tax on sugary pop, Big Macs or Cheetos – well, at least not yet.)
On the other hand, look at what we are doing to cater to an even tinier minority of the population – studies like this recent one have established this segment as somewhere between 3% and 5%. Among this minority, there are a subset who partake in much riskier behavior which can lead to health problems down the road as well.
Yet many of their activists are claiming this as a civil rights issue comparable to the struggles the black population went through a half-century ago. Of course, it was obvious in most cases who was being discriminated against, just as it is fairly obvious who among us smokes. (Many just have that tobacco smell which hangs on their clothes and belongings.) It’s not always as obvious who’s in this other tiny minority, but they seem to have an oversized voice when it comes to the cultural and political arenas. And while the percentage of smokers long-term is declining, the percentage of those who self-identify as LGBT is increasing as we teach their certain brand of “tolerance” and “acceptance” in schools and media.
Most of us don’t hound the LGBT population back into the closet, and I’m not advocating such an action. But there is something wrong with this overall picture. Just look at the history of smoking bans: first we banned smoking on airplanes, then we segregated smokers into smaller and smaller areas in other public venues (“smoking or non-smoking?”) before eliminating most entirely, and now we’re trying to encroach these prohibitions into private spaces. It’s been a breakdown in the right of someone to enjoy a substance which is still legal.
Similarly, the legalization of same-sex marriage begins a further breakdown of the family unit. Since biologically speaking it takes a male and female to create offspring, there is no way a committed same-sex couple can have children naturally. There either has to be a surrogate mother or a sperm donor involved, and that person shouldn’t forfeit their rights just for the convenience of a same-sex couple.
And then there is the probable next step: plural marriage and polyamory. A Brazilian trio (one man, two women) recently made headlines when their civil union was announced. At this point it remains a civil union but Brazilian law allows for the conversion of a civil union to a marriage with a judge’s approval, according to the Telegraph article. At some point we here in America will further break down the traditional family and remove those guideposts which have served us well for centuries.
As we have seen with the jihad against smokers, the assault against tradition and values may accelerate once the step is taken and voters in some state approve same-sex marriage. When we give an inch, the next mile is placed in jeopardy.