Smoke ’em if you got ’em….cigarettes that is (Opinion)
When the legislature oversteps their boundaries and talks about imposing additional mandates on towns, I get agitated and ready for the fight. When they use a health scare to drum up support for their actions, it makes my blood boil.
The latest proposed ban on smoking on Jersey shore boardwalks had me missing cigarettes this morning. I smoked for a number of years, mainly while I was serving in the U.S. Marine reserves. We'd smoke, then go for a run. When you're young and healthy it seems you can do anything. That said, I quit after Jodi and I had children. Yes, I'm lucky. I was able to quit cold turkey. Gotta be honest, one of the drivers was the enormous savings on life insurance for a non-smoker.
That said, plenty of people still smoke and they make an adult decision to balance the health risks with the enjoyment and relaxation from a good smoke. I enjoyed the morning cigarette over a cup of coffee the most. Many will point to the addictive quality of nicotine and say that it's not even the smokers fault. OK, if that's true for all smokers then why is the product legal? Beyond that, why is the NJ Legislature tolerating the carcinogen in Atlantic City casinos? Easy, follow the money.
Do-gooder legislators, like Senator Shirley Turner, just want an easy target for a good headline. The target? Small towns and small businesses in New Jersey.
While the elite politicians in Trenton are lecturing us on the health hazards of smoking and getting set to ban the practice on boardwalks, they have no issue exempting big money Atlantic City casinos. What about the health of casino workers? Non-smoking patrons? Put simply.... They. Don't. Care. They care only about sound bites for re-election or to curry favor with powerful lobbyists and contributors. Banning smoking on the boardwalk gives the politicians a sound bite that they stood up for health. They stood up to big tobacco. They protected non-smokers. All nonsense.
If Shirley Turner and her cohorts in the Senate were serious, the government would simply ban smoking outright. Why not just make it illegal in New Jersey? That would sure solve the health issue right? At the very least they would choose the lives of casino workers and non-smoking gamblers over the revenue from AC, right?
There is a limit to what government can and should do when it comes to individual behavior. The sad thing here is that the average smoking patron on the boardwalk doesn't have a lobbyist to speak for him. The small shops who rely on the daily foot traffic in the summer don't have influence even with their own elected officials in many cases.
The disconnect in New Jersey between constituents and politicians is increasing. The communication gap is widening. So they'll go ahead and ban smoking. They'll pay no mind to the guy who decides to eat at home and enjoy his cigarette in his yard instead of buying a slice from the local pizza shop and dropping a few bucks on a midway game. Not a big deal right? Not if you are an elite insider like Shirley Turner for sure.
So two choices: be consistent and stop the smoking in AC casinos or back off and let the local towns decide for themselves. Mandates from Trenton don't save lives and they certainly do nothing to make New Jersey affordable.
Bill Spadea is on the air weekdays from 6 to 10 a.m., talkin’ Jersey, taking your calls at 1-800-283-1015. Tweet him @NJ1015 or @BillSpadea. The opinions expressed here are solely those of Bill Spadea.
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