The surgeon general is hazardous to your health

JUST when a non-smoker thought he was safe in a smoking area, Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona said secondhand smoke is just as bad as firsthand smoke. I know many smokers who think nothing of blowing smoke up someone else’s nose. The irony is that the tobacco companies don’t care if they’re selling first or secondhand smoke.

By Art Buchwald

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Published: Mon 3 Jul 2006, 9:43 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 5:43 PM

I’m not a smoker, though I used to be. I smoked cigars, but at the time I didn’t think about how much damage they were doing to the people around me who didn’t smoke. What started as a social problem has now become a health issue that can’t be ignored.

Based on the surgeon general’s findings, you can now sue a smoker, even if you’re only standing on the same square of sidewalk.

I was outside the Capitol building with several tobacco lobbyists and they were arguing about how much damage secondhand cigarette smoke can do.

One lobbyist said, "Burning a cigarette is not hazardous to your health." Another lobbyist said, "What is?"

I said, "Burning the American flag. The latest studies have shown that more people can get sick from burning an American flag than from a package of Marlboros." Another lawyer representing a tobacco company said, "Homeland Security is more dangerous to your health than secondhand smoke. I have it as a fact that Katrina caused more water damage than fumes from cigarettes."

A Justice Department official said, "We’re not going to get anywhere with secondary smoke until we have a databank of all the smokers and secondhand smokers in the United States."

A lobbyist said, "The biggest risk to somebody’s health is a reformed smoker. They brag about how they smoked for 20 years and then gave it up six months ago."

A man who had double-parked and joined the discussion said, "I was sued for $10 million because I smoked a pipe at a football game 10 years ago. And the guy who sued was sitting on the other side of the stadium."

By now we had a crowd around us and I said, "We have to start taking this seriously. Nobody knows how many people were affected by inhaling the smoke of Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, Joseph Stalin and Ed Murrow."

A tobacco lobbyist said, "The only way we’re going to get people to smoke and pass on secondhand smoke is to start them when they’re young. Young people don’t care about their health. If they don’t buy cigarettes, they’ll spend their money on video games."

Several protesters showed up holding signs. One read: "Make Secondhand Smoke, Not Secondhand War." Another read: "Bring Our Smokers Home by Christmas." Another lobbyist said, "Illegal aliens cause secondhand smoke and are taking butts away from legal aliens."

A lobbyist for migrant workers said, "If my farm hands can’t blow smoke, they won’t pick lettuce."

I said, "The impact of secondhand smoke on the development of children is more severe than previously thought. Studies show that people whose homes have a smoke-free environment have a better chance of winning the elections in November." The tobacco lobbyist said, "As Ed Murrow would say every time he lit up, ‘Good night and good luck."’

Art Buchwald is a celebrated US humour columnist

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