Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Death On Every Corner

by Tim Maleeny

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors announced they will make it illegal to sell cigarettes in drugstores. Smoking is already banned in public places, as it is in many cities including New York, but this new bill bans even the sale of cigarettes by certain types of stores.

Having made this decision to save us from ourselves, the board got sufficiently fired up to target another threat to our health and happiness: the deadly can of soda. If the politicians have their way then any corner store will have to pay a surcharge or fine for every can of "sugary soda" they sell.

And here in San Francisco and also New York, politicians are talking seriously about banning trans fats from restaurants.

What if I want to eat trans fat? What if I want the Trans Fat Special from the Arteriosclerosis Cafe, located at the intersection of Constitution Drive and Kiss-My-Ass Avenue?

I get the smoking thing. There is second-hand smoke, and whether or not smoke works its way into your neighbor's lungs, it makes their clothes smell like an ashtray. OK, I'll go with a limit on where and when you can smoke. But telling me I can't sell or buy a legal product is a big leap from telling me where and when I can use it, or am I over-reacting?

Is there second-hand trans fat leaping invisibly through the air from your cheeseburger to my open mouth, filling my arteries with soft plaque?

You want to label the menu, tell me clearly which delicious meal is going to kill me faster, go right ahead. I'll even put on my reading glasses and pour over the fine print. But don't tell me what I can or can't serve, let alone what I can order.

Bear in mind that in many parts of this great city, on the same block where you won't be able to buy cigarettes or soda, it will be eminently possible to buy crack, barter for sex, or procure weapons for your neighborhood turf war, which is probably taking place only blocks away from the public school with metal detectors at every door. So while you might die from an overdose, an STD, or a drive-by shooting, you can sleep at night knowing the board of supervisors are protecting you from...well, yourself.

Because while apparently you can't be trusted, we all know how much we can trust politicians.

As a side note, I'm neither a Democrat nor Republican, and I haven't much liked a standing president since Teddy Roosevelt. (And I'm not even sure about that since I wasn't around during his term.) Politicians seem more concerned with patting your back with one hand while they pick your pocket with the other, but at least most of them have the decency to pretend to care about the same things you do.

Now I'll admit that people I know generally do what they can to stay healthy, and most exercise or watch their diet more than they did a few years ago. Good for them, that's their choice, the operative word being choice. But I can assure you that none of my neighbors are looking to the folks who brought you the lines at the DMV to tell them how to live.

It all makes me think of Al Capone, and I cannot help but wonder if this is how prohibition started.

And I've already decided the villain in my next novel isn't going to be a terrorist or thief, a serial killer or con artist. He's going to be a master criminal who refuses to exercise, won't eat his broccoli, drinks soda by the gallon, and runs an underground burger joint out of his basement.

Or will he be the hero? I just can't decide. Maybe I should ask my local supervisor what he thinks I should do...


Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Great post, Tim! Very entertaining and thought provoking. And I'm with you. The government can let me know what's bad for me, but don't take away my expectation of choice. The only time I think soda should be limited is in schools.

Hey, wait, isn't this the same government that said saccharine was okay to use? And the same government that used Agent Orange on its own military?

On second thought, I'll be the judge of what's good and not good for my personal consumption.

Anyone can get anything they want if they know how. If burgers and sodas, etc. are banned, it will only make them more desireable and expensive and they will go underground and line the pockets of undesirable characters. It's a well-known fact that if you want to make something attractive, take it away and limit its availability.

I can see it now, your guy's underground burger joint right next to my character's underground donut shop.

Mark Combes said...

I heard on the news that your fair city is thinking of instituting a "garbage police" policy. You don't recycle correctly and you get a fine.

The patients are running the asylum....

G.M. Malliet said...

This day's Washington Post has an article about, among other things, how it is impossible to buy raw milk in many states, although in some states like Virginia you can buy "cow shares," a wonderful phrase I will certainly be adding to my list.

There seems to be evidence that a lot of our health problems as a nation are related to processed foods, AND to our avoidance of foods like liver and pate because we've been told they are bad for us.

I am sure these advocates are onto something. We don't have real food here. For that you have to go to France.

One woman is quoted in the article as saying something like, "I'm nine months pregnant and I can walk into any store and buy cigarettes and a case of beer, but I can't buy raw milk."

Joe Moore said...

Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.
-- Mark Twain

Keith Raffel said...

Tim, I like your idea for a new character with as a purveyor of retro foods, but don't you already have a hero named after a certain variety of poultry?

Felicia Donovan said...

Tim, I read your blog and it was like listening to Andy Rooney. I could even hear the nasally tone and downward lilt at the end of each sentence. Mind you, I find Andy Rooney quite entertaining, but in this case I would welcome an entire ban on cigarettes, their sale, their availability and if that can't be done, let's triple the taxes on them. Maybe that could be put to help offset the cost of health insurance...

JVick said...

When you decide that things should be taxed based on your personal dislike, punishing citizens for making legal choices, then you open the door to the government taxing/controlling other things that you may like, such as soda and trans fat and greasy french fries. I'm betting insurance costs for obesity and diebetese are way up there. Next there will be enforced excersize periods and brats will be banned at Octoberfest. I blame Jerry Springer for bringing about the belief that civility isn't necessary and that each person should aspire to live in a hermetically-sealed bubble excluding everything that doesn't please them. It was a much nicer world when people tolerated their neighbor's differences.

Anonymous said...

I think all who smokes know that smoking decreases their life span? If you want to live long life with your loved ones then quit smoking with the help of chantix . Your health problems or immature death due to smoking can put your family and loved ones in endless suffering which few of the smokers thinks over it.