The war against tobacco escalates

I know why tobacco became popular. The "high" makes you feel wired and relaxed, all at once. Many smokers are rail-thin. Not being able to smell or taste is a good thing if you live around rotten food. But your freedom ends, in my mind, where my nose begins.

Robin Blankenhorn close upWhen my daughter traveled to Italy for her summer semester abroad last month, one of the first things she noticed was all the cigarette smoke in the air.

It drove her crazy.

It drives Bill Gates crazy, too. He has more money than my daughter and has put $125 million of it into ending smoking around the world. It drives Michael Bloomberg crazier. He gave twice that much.

At the same time there are new moves to limit tobacco in this country, where tobacco was born and where the fight against it has gone on the longest.

In particular San Francisco is looking to ban tobacco from drug stores and stores with health clinics. This would, if extended nationwide, ban tobacco from Wal-Mart. And Costco. As well as Walgreens and CVS and my local pharmacy, too.

In addition to business interests, there are ideological interests opposed to more limits on tobacco.

But on Monday I'm going to pick up my daughter from the Airport. It may take days for her to go through "tobacco withdrawal," and get back to normal. I know, because it happens to me every time I go abroad.

I know why tobacco became popular. The "high" makes you feel wired and relaxed, all at once. Many smokers are rail-thin. Not being able to smell or taste is a good thing if you live around rotten food.

But your freedom ends, in my mind, where my nose begins. And where hers does, too.

POSTCRIPT: New York State now bans smoking at its addiction recovery centers.  A 2004 study showed dropping tobacco increased the chances of kicking other drugs by 25%.

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