Monday, August 4, 2008

One Sarasota Smoker's Vote

Despite living just about up the block from one of the top ten beaches in the US, I can't seem to get there very often. So it is that yesterday was the first time since the Sarasota County Commission banned smoking on all our beaches that I made it out there. Of course, I didn't go to Siesta Key Beach, because the "smoking areas" the county so kindly decreed consist of the parking lot and the pavilion, both of which are so far removed from the water that having a cigarette involves a Gobisque trek across acres and acres of sand, no exagerration, or maybe not much of one.

Instead, I was reduced to circling beach accesses , the ones with four or five perenially filled parking spots, in other areas where the swath of sand is much narrower. I wound up at a beach that may be private, although the houses are across the road, much less used because of the rocks, and concrete debris. To this I have been reduced.

And frankly, I am livid at the powers that be. I am as much a citizen of this benighted county as anyone else. Okay, I can see why I can't smoke in an enclosed room in public. I can tolerate dinner out, because that is a question of an hour or so. Beach going involves hours and hours of being out on the sand. Smoking is an addictive, legal, heavily taxed activity. There are few social smokers. So don't tell me I don't have the right to smoke out in the open air, where if you don't like the smell wafting across an appreciable distance you are perfectly free to move. I often don't like the music that makes its way from other people's blankets, so do we ban music?

Smoking was banned ostensibly because cigarette butts were a major nuisance, that is to say they made up 10 percent of the litter. What about the other 90 percent? To see that the rationale is a sham, one need only look at the "decree," notable in its schoolmarmish orientation. You can read it here. The reasoning behind the ban is on page 3. I can't smoke so others can enjoy the beach, because people go to the beach for "fitness" reasons, and because it sets a bad example for youth. In short, because they don't like it. I suggest we ban drinking on the beach for the same reasons. Further, recently the beach was closed for a few days because of e. coli. Does they intend to ban pooping?

So I am feeling singled out and victimized. Well, I was born a Hispanic and female in the good old days of rampant discrimination. I am a Cuban American in these days when some minority groups are more equal than others. I am a somewhat bohemian citizen of an increasingly conformist and upscale Sarasota. So I am used to being on the outside. I am also, however, a voter. The county commissioners might want to ask themselves whether it is wise to alienate a quarter of their population. I, for one, have already helped vote out of office one of the earliest proponents of the ban. When given the opportunity, I intend to vote against each and every one of those who imposed it. I would vote for Nikita Kruschev in drag if I had to...wait, he would be right at home limiting personal freedom. Oh, anyone else. I have to wonder how many people out there feel the same way.

Remember today it is my smoking, but there is no end to it when the passing of law is the result of preference and prejudice and not principle.


Ms Calabaza said...

That is really ridiculous ... I have a good friend that smokes (she's a Barnard grad BTW) and I feel for her because it's getting to where she always ends up outside in some balcony or corner someplace looking like a refugee trying to have a smoke. For me, (and it's always about me) it used to mean sitting outside regardless of the weather just to give her a break but now it seems they're not letting her smoke even in outdoor cafes. Sheesh!

fermi said...

I consider myself a non-smoker (but if you twist my arm, and a friend is able to procure them at a reasonable rate, I do enjoy an occasional dalliance with a good cigar). But to ban smoking in an outdoor area borders on the absurd. I'd much rather put up with essence de tabac wafting under my nose than loud, offensive 'music', boorish behavior, and aluminum and plastic refuse underfoot. We already have government regulated 'trans fat free dining', and I just saw a blurb on TV in which a calorie challenged official, with much hand wringing and backed up by a room full empty suits nodding their assent, is looking to put a limit on the number of calories per serving on Kids Meals at McDonalds. What's next....."Slim Macs", "Bob's Thin Boy" and "Under Size Me"? Hey, they're my arteries! I'm drawing a line in the sand at government regulated preferential parking for drivers of hybrid energy vehicles....although I'm afraid it will probably be sand on a beach from which I am banned. Damn those cigars!