(Editor's Note: Art Cullen of The Storm Lakes has a great piece this week on the smoking debate in Iowa. His point: smokers die earlier and save the government money as a result.)
BY ART CULLEN
The Iowa Senate today is set to endorse a statewide ban on smoking in public places, including hole-in-the-wall bars where 95% of the clientele smoke like fiends. Those people are the new lepers of society — do not go near them because their rancid clothes might give you a case of the Big C.
Of course you haven’t. Now you can drive by that bar with the smug satisfaction that those mopes are standing in the alley shivering while their beer warms inside. Thank goodness you are not huddled among the unsaved and unshaved. Listen to public radio’s book club and it will take your mind off them.
You should realize that that addicted rat is actually saving you money — along with the fatty you look down your slender nose at.
The smokers, the obese, the drinkers and the nymphomaniacs are bound to die young for their depravities. They will not burden you with Alzheimers. They will not collect Medicare. They will not embarrass you at family dinners in the future. They will not tell you how to rear your children. They will be dead.
Kurt Vonnegut recently died of the Big C after smoking many years. The University of Iowa graduate called smoking “an elegant form of suicide.” It worked for him.
I don’t know if Vonnegut was a good Christian. He might have been a Jew, or worse, an agnostic. But if those good Christians are right and he was a man of faith, the author of Slaughterhouse Five is in a better place than sitting outdoors at a Paris café not smoking.
Companies are already discriminating against people with vices. “Have you smoked?” the drone in human resources may ask. You had better lie under threat of federal penalty. “Have you eaten pie made from lard?” Never, wouldn’t touch the stuff. Bad for the ticker, you know. “Have you ever drunk more than six beers in one sitting?” My liver is fresh as the fallen snow.
Soon enough people who know what is good for you will tell you that you are endangering your neighbor by grilling hamburgers in the back yard. You are guilty of global warming, hardening of the arteries and cruelty to mad cows. And you might have added to the global problem my burning a fag in the bargain.
No one will give you credit for saving on the nursing home bill because you did not live to be 115.
Nobody will say attaboy for not driving that gas-guzzler another 100,000 miles because you are six feet under.
Nobody will give you posthumous Social Security benefits. The vice-ridden are firming up the accounts for those who lived righteously and too long after you.
The lesser among us are not welfare bums after all. They are saving precious public expenditures and carbon credits for the clean livers to enjoy.
Note that the legislature did not ban tobacco for all its dangers. The state still wants you to be addicted to cigarettes, alcohol and gambling because it amounts to a fair chunk-o-change flowing into the state treasury. No, those who are know what’s good for us have figured out that only 20% of the electorate smokes — and they’re dying by the minute — so what the heck. Ban smoking in bars just to show you can, without so much as a thank-you note to the addicted for sending so much in revenue while saving so much in long-term care expenses. Democracy is a great thing, if you’re in the majority.