Chicago’s Smoking Ban Blurs the Big Picture

Huddled together in little clusters, smokers are braving the cold and stepping outside of their favorite late night haunts for a smoke. Addiction is a terrible thing. However, those of you who think that having the smokers outside and away from the non smokers is for the greater good of everyone involved, think again. With a smoking ban in effect and talks of another cigarette tax increase looming, the city is leading an ignorant march against the smokers.

The smoking ban, which went into effect January 16th, 2006 for all Chicago restaurants and will eventually lead to all bars as well, is just the city’s way of keeping up with the Jones’. As Chicago watched major cities like New York and Los Angeles stomp out the cigarettes, Chicago wasn’ t about to be left out. But while the city has successfully kept second hand smoke away from the non smokers, it’s created problems for business’.

The morning shift of waitress’ are feeling the effects of working at a restaurant that will not allow their early morning commuters to come inside and have themselves a cup of coffee and a cigarette. Late shift waitresses are feeling the effects of working a shift usually dominated by the smoking population. Rather than regulate smoking hours for the 24 hour establishments like mayor Daley had originally toyed with, they have cut them out altogether. It seems as though the city forgot to ask it constituents: If you’re in a diner at 2 in the morning, do you really care about the two or three smokers at the other end of the restaurant?

So where does this leave the 24 hour diners? There are already grumblings about cutting off the graveyard shifts in many places. All this does is decrease revenue and leave many people without a job. And what comfort should those people take in this smoking ban? That the city is doing this all to promote a healthier Chicago.

In a recent issue of Men’s Health, they labeled Chicago as the fattest city in America. Does anyone think that this was caused by second hand smoke? The city, and the rest of the country needs to realize that it isn’t the second hand smoke we’re inhaling that is giving us health problems, it’s the food we eat.

We are a fat society. We believe in fast food and large portions of it. What will cause you the most harm: the second hand smoke you inhale from time to time, or the cheeseburgers and fries that are a staple of the American diet? It’s an easy answer, but no one wants to give up their bacon double cheeseburger.

So where is the city in fixing this problem? Where is the law that prohibits late night drive throughs. Where is the city law that prohibits food high in fat content from our restaurants? Where is the city to impose a ridiculously high tax on a milk shake? Answer: No where. They don’t mind punishing the smokers for their addiction, but hell will freeze over before they punish the American public for their addiction to carbs and calories.

But no one bats an eyelash when Chicago raises cigarette prices. Non-smokers don’t mind because it’s not their money. And the city wouldn’t dream of making everyone pitch in to help repair their financial woes. What the city is doing is making the smokers pay for a personal choice or an addiction, whichever way you look at it.

Now, if the city were to say, impose a tax on all those who attend church, the entire country would be up in arms. It would be unconstitutional and morally and ethically wrong. But what the city would be doing, in effect, is making people pay a tax for a personal choice. It would be severely unethical if they singled out a particular religous group, such as the Catholics, Muslims, or the those of the Jewish faith. Now even if the city could get away with doing such a thing, it wouldn’t. It would never ever do it. Because they know that people can just make a choice not to attend mass. People have a harder time making a choice to quit smoking.

They are preying on a group of addicts. Rather than raise the price of toilet paper or garbage bags by a few pennies, they would rather punish the smokers. They would rather make a smaller group of people pay for the problems of an entire city. How unhealthy is that?

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