March 24, 2013

Another View: Portland wrong to try to control outdoor smoking

A law against eating snow would have more impact than further restrictions on smokers.

By THOMAS GRIBBIN

The recent ordinance championed by Portland Mayor Michael Brennan and endorsed by the City Council prohibiting smoking in parks and other public spaces is part of a "political correctness" movement bred in the universities (I was there) and eagerly adopted by an assortment of public policy wonks.They know what's best for all us poor, ignorant souls. "So just trust us and do it."

I know Mayor Brennan. He is a tireless advocate, and I appreciate most of his far-sighted goals for our city. The position he holds was long needed to bring diverse groups together, and he has done this very well.

However (and I'll mention here that I am not a smoker), there is no evidence that secondhand smoke in an open space has any deleterious effects on others' health. People have the right to stay away from a smoker should it offend their sensibilities. They should be much more concerned about the "fresh air" they perceive they are breathing. Each of us daily breathes an atmosphere loaded with CO2 emissions, sulphur and any number of heavy metals.

Does anyone besides myself recall the once-simple notion that in winter, if the ambient temperature were below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, precipitation would result in snow, sleet or hail; if above 32 degrees, it would rain? Formerly, it very rarely, if ever, snowed at 40 degrees. It happens now.

A recent worldwide study by scientists of various disciplines determined, through hair samples analyzed, that virtually all human beings in industrialized nations and those anywhere near them have levels of mercury in excess of Environmental Protection Agency standards. If you eat certain fish species -- so much the worse for you.

So, barring construction of a giant dome over our lovely city pumping in purified air, I would suggest we cease these meaningless gestures.

If you truly wish for a healthy breath, cut back our automotive addictions and oppose the odious "tar-sands" developments (mining, spewing, transporting).

Lastly: Parents teach your precious children to never eat the snow, be it yellow or white. It is very likely more hazardous now than when we children of the '60s were warned not to eat it, as the powers that be were creating nuclear reactions in our atmosphere.

In fact, making a law against eating snow would have a more beneficial outcome than against someone smoking across our pastoral landscapes.

Thomas Gribbin is a resident of Portland.

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