The following letters are in response to Philip Dawdy's Jan. 18 cover story, "Big Nanny Is Watching You."
While the prevalence of paternalistic philosophies in Seattle government alarms me, I have to disagree with Philip Dawdy on which rights should prevail in the battle over smoking. When an individual's actions have a direct impact on the well-being of others, our government does have the right to regulate them.
Many disagree, myself included, with the moralistic arguments used by the health department. If an individual wants to smoke and understands the consequences, he should live it up. But is it too much to ask a smoker to take into consideration other people's well-being?
I, and nearly all of my friends, voted for the smoking ban. We are in our mid-20s, stay out until 2 a.m., go to bars, and enjoy going to shows. I remember a concert at Neumo's when I had to leave for some fresh air because the secondhand smoke made me sick. Dawdy would argue that he has a right to smoke without being inconvenienced with consideration of my well-being. But I can't help but think that I had a stronger right to see that show without being inconvenienced by other people's habits.
Philip Dawdy did an excellent job of showing how Seattleites are slowly losing their freedoms and their minds. I expect Seattle to be at the forefront in protesting silly laws and regulations that serve no greater purpose than to treat us all like children. I started smoking when I was 12, and I could purchase cigarettes anywhere. Now, at 32, I can't buy a pack without a driver's license. Now I'm being characterized as an "evil" smoker, and I'm sick of it. If it's legal to buy, it should be legal to smoke. Forcing smokers to stay 25 feet away from businesses is ridiculous, and in some areas, virtually impossible. It's time to stop putting up Band-Aids and deal with the real issues in this state. Banning cheap beer is easier than dealing with alcoholism and homelessness, but it accomplishes nothing. Vilifying smokers isn't going to stop them from smoking. I think we've all learned that you can't motivate someone with a weight issue to lose weight by calling them fat and disgusting, but it's OK to portray smokers as disgusting humans? Come on, Seattle, you know better!
Boo hoo. Smokers have to take their nasty habit out of my airspace. Boo hoo. They've lost their "right" to contaminate the air I breathe. Let's put smokers' "rights" in perspective: Secondhand smoke causes more than 3,000 nonsmokers to die of lung cancer each year. Philip Dawdy attacks the "Take It Outside" campaign as puritanical. Let's put a parent's "right" to expose their children to smoke in perspective: Children's exposure to secondhand smoke is responsible for (1) increases in the number of asthma attacks in 200,000 to 1 million children with asthma; (2) between 150,000 and 300,000 lower respiratory tract infections; and (3) respiratory tract infections resulting in 7,500 to 15,000 hospitalizations each year. And that's not to mention the association between cigarette smoke and SIDS, the leading cause of death among babies.
Banning smoking is not puritanical or judgmental. Wake up, smokers: It's not about smoke being "icky." It's not about imposing a "social preference." Your habit kills, and not just you. You can keep your smoke in your private airspace, but if it enters my space (the public arena), I'm going to get a little testy. Dawdy calls it puritanical. I call it standing up for my rights. And that's exactly what Washington voters have done.
Thanks to Philip Dawdy for having the journalistic cajones to take on the Nurse Ratcheds and Carrie Nations of this town that was originally jump-started by imported prostitutes. He could have borrowed a page from the late local columnist Emmett Watson, who loyally guarded the tattered traditions of old Seattle . . . a ramshackle sawmill town that didn't have to have all of its naked sins cloaked in the chadors of modern yuppiedom.
As a 10-year-old in the 1950s, I secretly bought bus rides from West Seattle to First Avenue to marvel at the lusty burlesque posters and buy whoopee cushions at the Trick and Puzzle Store. I survived childhood mixing with the pimps, drunks, and whores on "skid row," always busing safely home where I studied my way to an Ivy League scholarship and degree, thanks to excellent public schools that were not jerked around by the humorless nannies who run them now.
It's a town that will probably never again spawn the likes of Ray Charles, Mia Zapata, Jimi Hendrix, Frances Farmer, Ivar Haglund, Nirvana, or Stan Boreson. Greg Nickels, Roger Valdez, and the band of mullahs who have taken over a richly creative and quietly chaotic city have embarked on a campaign to homogenize it into a North American Singapore, where edgy fun is illegal. Dawdy should keep the pressure on the flabby mayor and his scolds who are foisting their cultural revolution on the resident rabble, who are more than comfortable in the presence of publicans, sinners, smokers, drinkers, and hotties.
May the Lusty Lady remain as a historical landmark . . . a poke in the eye to the pretensions across the street at SAM, and as a reminder of the fact that many of us owe our very existence to a drunken parental romp under less-than-decorous circumstances.
Jim St. John
In his article, Philip Dawdy objects to the passage of the alcohol impact area (AIA) as well as other measures, all of which simply aim to bring a little more civility to our city. I wonder if he would object to the AIA if he was directly affected by the numerous antisocial and illegal behaviors perpetrated on our neighborhoods by street alcoholics. Living one block off Broadway on Capitol Hill, I regularly have drunks passed out in my front yard, and they frequently use my private property for all their bodily fluids (vomit, feces, urine), which I have to clean up. Also, they tend to be world-class litterers of my yard and the larger neighborhood, and use my property as a storage area for junk they would like to sell. Politically correct Seattleites have been ignoring this problem for a long time, and it is about time something is being done about it. The purpose of the AIA is not to regulate poor people's ability to get drunk cheaply but to protect our neighborhoods from their intrusive and obnoxious behaviors.
Thank you for Philip Dawdy's insightful article on the "nanny" city and antismokers. I discovered quite awhile ago that it's all about control. These freaks don't even want to discuss air filtration systems. I get no response when I ask them how they get from their smoke-free homes to a smoke-free restaurant without sucking in diesel and other exhaust fumes. They have no lives, and it bothers the hell out of them that we do.
If smokers hadn't been so inconsiderate and rude—blowing their smoke proudly wherever and whenever they could, even around pregnant women, because it is their "right"—perhaps things wouldn't have had to get this far.
Philip Dawdy is a member of a minority group that has imposed their deadly addiction on the majority for far too long; he should at least have a small amount of decency and slink off to the 25-foot distance the law requires.
Exercise your rights! Write to Seattle Weekly, 1008 Western Ave., Ste. 300, Seattle, WA 98104; fax to 206-467-4377; or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters should be less than 250 words. By submission of a letter, you agree that we may edit the letter and publish and/or license the publication of it in print, electronically, and for archival purposes. Please include name, location, and phone number.