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Smoking Lepers

Smoking Lepers

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Published by Brandon M. Dennis

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Published by: Brandon M. Dennis on Nov 22, 2010
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Brandon M. Denniswww.oxhorn.com1
Smoking Lepers
Brandon M. Dennis
 Published in The Daily of the University of Washington February, 2007 
For my birthday last August, I received one of the best gifts ever—my grandfather’s oldtobacco pipe. It is a Kirsten pipe that was invented right here in Washington state by aman who used to work for Boeing, and it has a meerschaum bowl that smokes cool andslowly. Needless to say, I was pretty excited, and though I had never smoked at all untilthen, I felt obliged to follow in my grandfather’s footsteps and take up pipe smoking.I decided to find myself a nice, high-quality tobacco, and so I drove down to theKirsten pipe shop in Ballard, right at Fisherman’s Terminal. The shop is family run, and Iwas privileged to meet the granddaughter of the man who invented my inherited pipe.She had a number of different tobaccos to choose from, and I thus spent the followingthirty minutes sniffing humidors to find the perfect blend. When I asked if I could smokea few to sample, she sighed and told me that, due to the indoor smoking ban that passedin late 2005, I couldn’t smoke in her shop. Now that surprised me. I was vaguely familiar with the smoking ban, but Ithought it only affected places like restaurants and hotels. I was wrong. The ban forbidssmoking in all public places and workplaces—even pipe shops.I was not daunted in my quest to make pipe smoking a hobby, and so I decided toattend one of the monthly meetings of the Seattle Pipe Club. I got directions from their website, and then was on my way.I managed to drag an old high school buddy of mine along, and together we madeour way to the Rainier Club in downtown Seattle for the monthly meeting. When I askedthe receptionist on which floor the pipe club was holding their meeting, she stared at me blankly. As it turns out, the pipe club stopped meeting there back in late 2005, when thesmoking ban came into effect, and hadn’t bothered to update the webpage.Despite being foiled twice by that infernal smoking ban, I have some rather mixedfeelings about it. On one hand, I believe the public should not be subject to smoke in
Brandon M. Denniswww.oxhorn.com2restaurants, hotels and similar public places. On the other hand, the Draconian nature of the current law prohibits smoking in sensible smoking places like tobacco shops, which isa shame. A happy medium needs to be found.Defendants of the smoking ban argue that second-hand smoke can harmemployees and guests as much as if they were smoking themselves, but it has becomeclear to me that the dangers of second-hand smoke are greatly exaggerated.118,094 people participated in a 2003 study by the American Cancer Society. Thefindings of the study may surprise many. “In a large study of Californians followed for 40years,” wrote researchers James E. Enstrom of the University of California School of Public Health and Geoffrey C. Kabat of the Department of Preventive Medicine at NewYork State University, “environmental tobacco smoke was not associated with coronaryheart disease or lung cancer mortality at any level of exposure. These findings suggestthat the effects of environmental tobacco smoke, particularly for coronary heart disease,are considerably smaller than generally believed.”
They go on to defend the study:“None of the other cohort studies on environmental tobacco smoke has more strengths,and none has presented as many detailed results.” Now, I’m not using the results of this study to suggest that there are no dangers tosmoking tobacco. Cigarettes are especially dangerous and, due to their addictive nature,are best not to be smoked by anyone—ever. Cigars are less threatening, but even they, if smoked at all, should be used as a treat on rare occasions. Pipes are by far the safest formof tobacco use because you do not inhale pipe smoke and the pipe acts as a natural filter.From my personal experience, I am convinced that it is well-nigh impossible to getaddicted to pipe tobacco, unless you smoke incessantly. Even so, pipes are notcompletely harmless and shouldn’t be smoked on a daily basis.Do the unsubstantiated health risks of second-hand smoke justify an outright banon smoking in public places? Second-hand smoke is surely unpleasant to some peopledue to its smell and tendency to aggravate allergies and asthma. I think these are reasonsenough to regulate smoking in public without pumping the populous full of false fears of 

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