Sunday, 30 January 2011

A Room with a View

Yes, I smoke, and yes, I should quit smoking. Maybe I haven’t yet because I am disobedient by nature, because I never liked people telling me what to do and, even less, trying to force me into decisions.

You might be asking if, being like this, I have a problem with authority. Yes, I do. But not in the way you are probably thinking. I have a problem with the authorities because they are discriminating and promoting discrimination towards smokers.

This is probably no news for you. If you are not a smoker, you’ll probably even agree with these measures. But I can tell you right away that you shouldn’t, and I’ll give you a few examples on why.

I pick the phone up to make a reservation into any hotel. The receptionist asks me if I want a smoking or non-smoking room. I ask for a smoking room with a view. They invariably tell me all rooms with a view are non-smoking. Therefore, smokers are not allowed a room with a view.

Why not? Because smoking rooms are more prone to damage, more difficult to clean and their atmosphere endangers the health of the cleaning staff.

When I go out to buy a package of cigarettes, I have to pay VAT at the cashier. Like with any other product, let’s say food, for example. But the reason tobacco is so expensive is because not only it has import tax, like any other foreign product I buy, French cheese, for example, but it has also a nameless and undisclosed tax imposed on by the authorities, with the grounds that it is bad for my health.

So, contrarily to what happens with French cheese, when I’m buying a pack of cigarettes, I am purchasing one of the most expensive products there are on the market, if we consider the disparage between production and transport costs and the actual price it’s being sold for.
Sadly, there are other differences, too. When I buy a chunk of Roquefort, I am entitled to a best before date nicely stamped on the label. I am also entitled to a comprehensive list of all the ingredients contained in the afore-mentioned cheese, despite the fact that Roquefort is a small cholesterol bomb. I am not entitled to any of these in a pack of cigarettes. Just the warnings that are absent from the smelly Roquefort, smearing me with the information that cigarettes are bad for my health. So is Roquefort.

Extensive studies have been performed on the health hazards of tobacco. Many of these had been conducted by the tobacco industries, but the results were carefully kept from the public eye. Although they all seem to be pointing in one direction, to the fact that the additives used in tobacco are the culprits for all sorts of ailments, including lung cancer, authorities chose to pretend they want to ban tobacco.

Radioactive Polonium is used in the plantations, the so-called “fillers” are added for improved flavour, to preserve freshness, etc. All of these and many others have been, in fact linked to increased dependency, as they turn tobacco into a base, in the same process that turns cocaine into its much more addicting crack. Again, none of these ingredients and additives are known to the consumer that is paying a fortune for these products.

If the authorities were to be really concerned about our health, they would enforce laws forbidding the use of these chemicals that have been proved to be poisonous and health damaging. In a world that is starting to prefer “green” and “organic” products, I am still dreaming of smoking a cigarette made solely out of tobacco, no additives, no chemicals. Removing all additives would probably mean cheaper, healthier cigarettes but, above all, it would make them less palatable, less tasty. Obviously I could swap them for Habanas, but that would be a difficult to find luxury. Besides, I like to fight for my rights, and as I’m already paying so much, the more reason I have to be complaining.

Let’s return to the room with a view. I am to be discriminated because I smoke. I will be refused some work positions because I smoke. I will be forbidden to use my rightful coffee breaks to go out to the balcony or the yard to take a puff.
Will this have an effect on my productivity? No. Quite the contrary, I will be soothed. What if we started penalizing women for going to the bathroom too often, as they have smaller bladders than men? Or because they are having their menstruation? Would that feel right? Of course not.

As for the health excuse, should we start penalizing gay men because they have been proved to be the greatest carriers of the HIV? Because, statistically speaking, they pose a very significant health risk? Should hotels start asking their customers are they homossexuals, in order to have their cleaning staff take appropriate protective measures when cleaning up the rooms? Asking their customers are they intending to have sex, even?

Should the human resources start hiring solely non-smoking straight men, because they are 35% more productive than women, because they don’t have to go to the bathroom so often, retire at a later age and die younger than women, so they do not take as much retirement as their counterparts?

Should we impose a tax on sugar? On Roquefort?

I am ultimately a dissatisfied customer. Although I plan to quit smoking sometime in the future, I am smoking in the present. If doctors were forbidden to advise their overweight patients to go on a diet, why should I be forced to quit smoking? Should we start taxing overweight people, as well? Increasing fuel taxes because cars are making pedestrians into passive smokers?

It should be my decision to quit smoking, no one else’s. And I should be entitled to a better quality product. If there is no competition, if I cannot directly import this product from abroad, because of the monopoly, then I should be doing precisely this: raising awareness, complaining.

Take a look at the menu: Tobacco Additives, at least 1110 of them.

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