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I Was Just Thinking: No smoking allowed! (Except in rare instances)

Bill Haglund whaglund@adelnews.com
Bill Haglund whaglund@adelnews.com

There’s been a lot of bally-hoo about the “healthiest state” initiative in Iowa.

Governor Terry Branstad has been at the forefront of a statewide effort encouraging Iowans to eat healthier foods and live healthier lives.

Under Governor Chet Culver, the state’s cigarette tax was raised $1 a pack. That dramatic price boost was aimed at two things: 1) Cause more Iowans to quit smoking because of the cost, and, 2) create extra revenue aimed at increased health care costs associated with smoking.

A law enacted by the Iowa legislature bans smoking in public places, including bars and restaurants.

I applaud both Gov. Branstad and Gov. Culver for those efforts.

Iowa’s “smoke free” law is now 5-years-old.

First, I’ll tell you that I am a former smoker. I smoked a pack, sometimes a pack and-a-half a day.

I acquired the habit when smoking was “cool.” Most of our dads in the1950s lit up, ashtrays were placed in a number of locations in virtually every household. If we were lucky, when we were 12, 13, or 14, we’d find one of those “four-packs” lying on the ground. Old timers will remember those – packs of four cigarettes that tobacco companies gave away in an effort to entice smokers to switch to their brand.

Even when we couldn’t find a four-pack lying around, we could always find someone to sell us a pack, even if we didn’t look 18 and didn’t pretend to be, or we could always find someone older who would gladly buy us a pack.

Most of those cigarette butts ended up on the ground. They still do today – it’s disgusting to see cigarette butts lying all over the ground, tossed there by some pretty inconsiderate people. I used to be one of them.

I’ve had friends die of lung cancer; my own uncle passed away a few years ago from the disease and I never could quite understand how he could live in pain, on medication, be hooked up to oxygen and light up a cigarette, right up to the end of his life.

But, smoking never killed me.

At least it hasn’t yet.

I’ve had open heart surgery to clear five heart blockages – three of them at 100 percent; I’ve had triple aneurysm surgery. My heart stopped in 2009 and it took three electric shocks to bring me back. I now have a combination defibrillator/pacemaker to regulate my heart. I’m convinced those medical occurrences were caused, in large part, by smoking.

There’s no guarantee that, someday, I won’t get lung cancer.

While smoking used to be “cool,” it’s now pretty much regarded for what it is – a filthy, disgusting habit.

There, I’ve said it. No offense to my friends who smoke, but the habit you refuse to break is really disgusting. Don’t be angry with me. I have a son and step-son, who both smoke; I have a daughter and step-daughter, both of whom abhor the habit and have never smoked in their lives.

My dad smoked and both my wife’s parents smoked. My younger brother was a heavy smoker. All died far too young. My wife’s parents, both smokers, also died before their time. My mother didn’t smoke – she lived to be almost 90.

What’s the point of all this?

Well, it’s the seemingly two-faced approach Iowa lawmakers have taken on smoking.

They’ve banned it in bars and restaurants and indoors in public places. I say, “Good on you for doing that.”

And, yet, smoking is still allowed in casinos throughout the state. Nobody has had the guts put a stop to it. Walk into a casino and a wave of smoke hits you; the stench of cigarette butts is overwhelming.

Sure, as they point out, non-smoking areas are set aside in all casinos.

But, they’re small, they offer limited games and you have to walk through smoke to reach them.

Second-hand smoke is as dangerous, if not more dangerous, to everyone and, you can always find a player or two hooked up to oxygen who’ll light up every time they hobble, gasping for air, to a new machine.

Despite the ban on smoking, people still go to bars and restaurants.

People will still go to casinos if … hopefully WHEN … Iowa lawmakers get smart and ban smoking in casinos.

Then we’ll talk about Iowa striving to be the “healthiest” state.