Monday, August 8, 1994 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Molly Ivins

Hacked Off By Smoking? You Can Kiss Our Butts!

Creators Syndicate Inc.

AUSTIN - We in the smoking community (we prefer to be known as "tobacco co-dependents" or "the lung-impaired" rather than by the tobacconist tag "nicotine addicts") are having terrible self-esteem problems these days. I'm sure all you health fascists are happy to hear this, but I'm warning you right now, our concerns had damn well better be your concerns because we're paying for health-care reform. And don't you forget it. We want respect. We demand gratitude. And we'd also like to have a few planes we could smoke in again.

Our growing list of non-negotiable demands now includes the manufacture and prominent television advertising of a toothpaste that will yellow your teeth. All this white-teeth propaganda you see all over the networks is a threat to our self-esteem. We want affirmative action in the hiring of television characters who will popularize the attractive hacking morning cough.

We want a Smokers History Week. We demand that schoolchildren be taught the stories of our community's heroes - Bogey and Bette and Duke and FDR. We want schoolchildren (who are currently the victims of so much anti-smoking propaganda that even little ones of 5 or 7 believe they're entitled to tell grown-ups, "Oooo, yuck, that stinks") taught that politics in this country have gone to hell since the smoke-filled room was declared illegal.

We want it noted that we in the smoking community now spend more time outdoors than the most dedicated environmentalists. We care. We field-strip our butts when in the wilderness and later deposit them in appropriate containers.

The great sociologist of smoking, Susan Sharlot, has long since irrefutably (more or less) proved our positive economic impact on society. We smokers are an intense breed: We work hard, we pay incredible sums in taxes, and we die young. We are a net savings to society, particularly in Social Security and Medicaid costs. Kiss our butts.

Of course, we have our extremist fringe; I, myself, oppose the public smoking of bad cigars. But a good cigar, ah, a great cigar is one of the things that makes life worth living - even if it does help life end a little early.

The chewing-tobacco aficionados are, I grant you, an unsightly lot. Nevertheless, the National Pastime would be dead without them and the no-caps-on-salaries provision, so the greater good calls for their continued freedom. Besides, the mouth-cancer specialists need patients.

It's my belief that you health fascists are going about this in entirely the wrong way. Of course, there are people with legitimate reasons to object to smoking. But if you add together all the asthmatics and smoke-allergy sufferers and even throw in people whose nearest and dearest have recently died of a horrible, lingering illness caused by smoking, they're still only a tiny fraction of the populace compared to the Smoking Community. Why not segregate them instead of segregating us? Why not have an asthmatics, allergics and small babies' section in the restaurant?

You may not have considered the fact the national security is at stake here. I point out to you that Aldrich Ames, the CIA guy who sold out to the Soviets, reports that the reason he was able to pass such a variety of information along to the KGB, on topics far afield from the desk to which he was assigned, was because he picked up the info while standing outside CIA headquarters with other smoking CIA agents. Yes!

Consider as well the cordial exchange of opinion and information among smokers witnessed outside the recent Republican and Democratic state conventions. Democrats talking to Republicans! Liberals talking to conservatives! Fundamentalists talking to Episcopalians! All of us bound together in the bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood by our mutual oppression as smokers. Standing there, puffing in the rain, our fellowship overcoming the boundaries of such ancient and trifling differences as labor and management, Longhorns and Aggies, bikers and Bach-lovers. (Lung cancer does not discriminate on grounds of race, creed, color or sex.)

We in the smoking community, bound together by increasingly cruel forms of segregation, discrimination and tobacconism, are subject to undue stress and alarm. No wonder we need to smoke. I, myself, have been driven to seek medical counsel twice in recent years because of Smokers' Fear; in the first instance, it proved to be a case of pimples on my throat and, in the second, calluses on my vocal chords. (Shows you what a hard worker I am - calluses on my vocal chords.)

I write this to warn y'all of the increasing unrest in the Smoking Community. If you're going to saddle us with the cost of national health insurance, we, by God, want respect and gratitude. That, or we form the Smokers' Liberation Movement.

(Copyright, 1994, Creators Syndicate, Inc.)

Molly Ivins is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Her column appears Monday on editorial pages of The Times.

Copyright (c) 1994 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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