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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 old tobacco pipe. It is a Kirsten pipe that was invented right here in Washington state by a man who used to work for Boeing, and it has a meerschaum bowl that smokes cool and slowly. Needless to say, I was pretty excited, and though I had never smoked at all until then, 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 the Kirsten pipe shop in Ballard, right at Fisherman’s Terminal. The shop is family run, and I was 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 following thirty minutes sniffing humidors to find the perfect blend. When I asked if I could smoke a few to sample, she sighed and told me that, due to the indoor smoking ban that passed in late 2005, I couldn’t smoke in her shop. Now that surprised me. I was vaguely familiar with the smoking ban, but I thought it only affected places like restaurants and hotels. I was wrong. The ban forbids smoking 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 to attend 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 made our way to the Rainier Club in downtown Seattle for the monthly meeting. When I asked the 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 the smoking 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 mixed feelings about it. On one hand, I believe the public should not be subject to smoke in
Brandon M. Dennis
restaurants, 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 is a shame. A happy medium needs to be found. Defendants of the smoking ban argue that second-hand smoke can harm employees and guests as much as if they were smoking themselves, but it has become clear 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. The findings of the study may surprise many. “In a large study of Californians followed for 40 years,” 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 New York State University, “environmental tobacco smoke was not associated with coronary heart disease or lung cancer mortality at any level of exposure. These findings suggest that the effects of environmental tobacco smoke, particularly for coronary heart disease, are considerably smaller than generally believed.”1 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 to smoking 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 form of 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 get addicted to pipe tobacco, unless you smoke incessantly. Even so, pipes are not completely harmless and shouldn’t be smoked on a daily basis. Do the unsubstantiated health risks of second-hand smoke justify an outright ban on smoking in public places? Second-hand smoke is surely unpleasant to some people due to its smell and tendency to aggravate allergies and asthma. I think these are reasons enough to regulate smoking in public without pumping the populous full of false fears of
Brandon M. Dennis
getting cancer from second-hand smoke, but shopkeepers should also be free to have places open to the public that are set aside specifically for smokers. The point is that most things—even tobacco—are harmless when used in moderation. Just as alcohol and sugary-sweets are not dangerous if consumed sparingly as a treat, so are some tobacco products when not used habitually. Seattle’s Initiative 901 which banned smoking in all public and work places had the best of intentions, I’m sure, but in striving to protect the sensitive noses of those who hate tobacco smoke, the ban has effectively transformed even the most casual of smokers into lepers, and this needs to change. There should be places where smokers can smoke—such as at pipe shops and pipe clubs—without fear of persecution or being fined. This is America, after all.