When They Came for the Smokers ...

by L. Neil Smith

         A friend of mine calls himself a "political smoker".
         He doesn't smoke. He never has.
         But told some time ago at a Los Angeles supper club that he and other members would henceforward be forbidden to smoke, his immediate reaction was to borrow a cigarette from somebody sitting nearby, stand, and light it up in protest. As he sees it, his interests, in terms of his individual and civil rights, run parallel with those of smokers who are being increasingly stripped of theirs.
         I am a former smoker.
         I quit cold more than a year ago, after suffering a heart attack. Even before that, I never claimed that smoking is good for anybody, just that I had always enjoyed doing it -- and that a great many lies were being told about it by individuals and groups who had gone beyond non-smoking to become anti- smokers.
         But I, too, remain a political smoker.
         Exactly like many another do-gooder-targetted group, smokers today are well along in the process of losing their human rights -- and more and more, it seems, their very humanity -- to social parasites who, as H.L. Mencken is reputed to have put it long ago, awaken in the middle of the night, sweat- drenched and trembling with the morbid fear that somewhere, someone might be happy. Until now, there hasn't been an effective way to crush these lice on the American body politic -- and their bloodsucking symbionts in media and government -- between the thumb of the Ninth Amendment and the forefinger of the First.
         Until now.
         Let me suggest a couple of ways to begin dealing with them. Of course you're free to employ one or the other, or both, or go off and think something up yourself ...
         Although I smoked two packs of Marlboros a day for 30 years, I indulged in cigars and pipes, as well. One thing I still haven't been able to do is dispose of my collection of the latter. Some I inherited from my father and an uncle. They're pretty, they were chosen to express my personality -- the same way you buy a hat -- and they still smell wonderful. I keep my ancient favorite on my desktop to this day, and although I'll never put tobacco in it again and light it, I still pick it up -- it feels comfortingly familiar in my hand -- fondle it, and hang it off my lower teeth for a contemplative moment or two.
         Drug paraphernalia.
         So far, it hasn't left the house since that night last summer when I was rushed to the emergency room with unbearable pains in my chest and left arm. But I'm thinking of taking it on a field trip to the non-smoking section of a restaurant or two. I know what will happen, and so, if you think about it, do you.
         There are non-smokers like me, and then there are anti-smokers.
         The anti-smokers all around me will begin to fidget.
         They'll mutter to themselves and each other.
         They'll glare at me.
         Because what they're all about -- what they've always been all about -- has absolutely nothing to do with the presence or absence of first- or second- or third-hand smoke and whether it harms anybody or not. That's only their excuse.
         What it has to do with is the complete unsuitability, in their twisted minds, of simple human pleasure in the lives of everyone around them. This used to be the preoccupation of Puritanical religions. Today, most of the people of this bent have abandoned religion, but they haven't abandoned the demented ecstasy they experience by shouting "Thou shalt not!" at everyone in sight -- and being able to back it up with the brute force of governmental edict.
         If I'm especially lucky, they'll complain to the management who'll be forced to confront me and my empty, tobaccoless pipe and ask me to put it back in my pocket or leave the restaurant. Either that or, at my suggestion, the management will go back to the nicotine Nazis at the next table and tell them where to put their complaints -- not in their pockets, but where the sun never shines.
         So ... My first suggestion is that you become a political smoker. Go to the nearest drugstore and pick out an inexpensive pipe, a pipe that's never had tobacco in it, a pipe that likely never will, a pipe that strikes you as attractive or expresses some aspect of your personality. They make all kinds of pretty ones, not only briar, but gold, silver, inlaid, or enameled. Think of it as a fashion accessory or an item of jewelry. Don't worry that it serves no practical purpose. What practical purpose does an earring or a necktie serve?
         Display it in your favorite restaurant, on the bus, at the theater, at a children's daycare center. What your empty pipe will accomplish is to inform beleaguered smokers that they're not alone, as media and government would have them believe. It will inform Prohibitionists that their reign of terror is coming to a long-overdue end, that they're up against a civilized solidarity that maintains the human, Constitutional, and American right to go to hell in your own way.
         There used to be a certain class of people -- people of a certain color -- who by longstanding evil custom were forbidden to sit anywhere on a bus but at the back. After a century or so of such nonsense, one of them courageously refused to abide by this evil custom, and she changed the course of American history forever.
         On another occasion, another class of people -- those who for reasons of their own enjoy nicotine in its many forms -- were also limited to the back of the bus.
         Today, even that has been taken away.
         My second suggestion to you is that we call such people "niccers" -- after their recreational drug of choice -- as loudly and as often as we can, so that the average tobacco Prohibitionist -- say, California Congressman Henry Waxman, as nasty a piece of work as I've ever seen in more than three decades of political observation -- will realize precisely who and what he has become.
         I'm a political niccer.
         Are you one, too?

L. Neil Smith is the award-winning author of 19 books including The Probability Broach, The Crystal Empire, Henry Martyn, The Lando Calrissian Adventures, Pallas, and (forthcoming) Bretta Martyn and Lever Action. An NRA Life Member and founder of the Libertarian Second Amendment Caucus, he has been active in the Libertarian movement for 34 years and is its most prolific and widely-published living novelist.

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