January 25, 2011

Don’t Take My Last Cig Away

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On my way to buying a brand new bong, um, water pipe, at one of the abundant headshops on the Ithaca Commons, I lit up a fresh Marlboro Gold cigarette on my walk through the entrance of the Commons and was promptly asked by an officer of the law to put it out. In an exchange of words that mirrored what is normally seen and heard on Cops, a member of Ithaca’s finest asked me to put down my cigarette.“Why? I’m outside after all, officer,” I retorted.“I repeat, put the cigarette down,” he said.I complied, not wanting to end up having my first Facebook profile picture taken of me at Cornell to be a mugshot. With the officer temporarily off my ass, I politely asked him what the hell I had done wrong. Apparently Ithaca has passed an anti-outdoor smoking initiative a few weeks before I stepped foot here last August. It was my luck that I lit up in one of a select group of places where smoking is prohibited, with the other places being some parks I had never heard of and will never visit and also day cares, which I pray to God I will never have to visit during my tenure here in Ithaca. I was also informed of the penalties I oh-so narrowly avoided. A smoker who refuses to put out his or her cigarette gets a $75 fine. And you thought a pack of cigarettes was expensive! Second and third-time offenders get fines of $150 and $250, respectively. After three offenses, I hope you have figured out what you’re doing wrong. After my session in the D.A.R.E. classroom with the officer, I put my new shiny cigarette case away in my jacket pocket for the time being.I’m originally from New York, so I’ve been used to the non-indoors smoking policies for as long as I can remember, but what has happened to the smoker’s last refuge, the great outdoors? In the day and age when lighting up a tab in public is akin to urinating on the foot of the bus rider next to you (not that they’d notice, some TCAT regulars are a little “out of it”), smokers are losing ground on the last place they can legally get a buzz. Even so, going outside alone to smoke a cig –– with the world watching you –– is like being a rebellious puppy sent outdoors. You might as well be masturbating; it would garner the same reaction.Those who partake in the smoking culture now have routines and procedures that are akin to freemasons. We have secret taps, like that of disgraced Idaho Senator Larry Craig, though instead of asking a stranger for a tugjob in an airport bathroom, we’re asking for company while we enjoy the sedative properties of tobacco. Outside.However, since coming to Cornell, I did notice a new phenomenon: smoking privately indoors. This would be unheard of in my hometown. No one would ever fill his or her bedroom with smoke. However, at fraternities and house parties in Collegetown, there is no overbearing mother to yell at you for making your sheets smell like a cigar shop. It’s good news for frat guys and sorority girls who want to have a smoke, but not put on their brand new North Face to have to go out into the cold. There are other ways of enjoying tobacco indoors, like through chewing tobacco, but that’s gross. There are also E-cigs, but those are only smoked in shopping malls by the losers who unsuccessfully peddle them.So here are my last few words to smokers and non-smokers alike. Don’t ask me for my last cigarette. Yeah, I’d be up and running if someone asked me to donate a pint of blood or my other kidney. But my last smoke? I don’t think so. David Patterson needed more cash, so he raised taxes up through the roof on tobacco. There’s only two ways we can put an end to my complaining. Tell the people you need the money to fund the massive debt the state has incurred, so that we feel like we’re providing for a better tomorrow through our habits. Or ban smoking completely.

Original Author: Tom Wasko