Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

September 25, 2013

An urgent appeal to undesirables: Repent!

As a smoker, I could not resist responding to Lisa Taylor’s letter (“Smoking downtown’s most undesirable problem,” Sept. 18 Times-News).

I agree with many points she makes in her courageous declaration of confronting “problems” in the downtown area. She is a strong, pro-active lady.

However, the contradictions in her reasoning astound my rather meager intelligence. She writes that the so-called “undesirables” are not a big problem, nor are the planters nor the “restrictive nature of new fences.”

Downtown is beautiful except for “poorly thought out trees” that drop berries on the mall. Thus, “dining is unpleasant.”

I’ve eaten at various restaurants scores of times and never had one berry drop in my salad or hot dog. Should we cut down the “poorly thought out trees” because of the berries? Would doing so make downtown less beautiful?

She complains about the “volumes of smokers” polluting the air she is breathing. Where is this “volume of smokers”?

I visit downtown several times a day; I see no “volume” of anybody, let alone smokers. I might see one or two people huddled in a doorway puffing away, but no “volume” of anything except pigeons! (Let’s ban them, too!)

Nevertheless, I take her at her word, and shall continue my search for this elusive “volume” of demonic smokers. She also complains of cigarette butts on the bricked mall. True, but hardly enough to count.

I’m too busy to notice butts “sandwiched between the bricks.” Is the general public offended by this grievous assault on the bricks? Heaven help the street sweepers “paid by our tax” dollars!

Well, ask any smoker about the taxes we pay on cigarettes. Small wonder West Virginia smiles at Marylanders — laughing all the way to the bank as Marylanders stream across the state line as  Taylor would have us do — so much for local businesses.

Taylor complains about the “second-hand smoke” in the open air of the mall — a public space. Ban smoking on the mall? Well, it wouldn’t be much of a public mall, would it?

How would this ban be enforced? What would the penalty be? She offers no advice. Perhaps, a scarlet “C” on the forehead would be appropriate for the offender.

How does someone smoking a block away affect her breathing? What pseudo-science proves that? How does smoking in my parked car on North Centre Street offend anyone except a person who doesn’t have a life?

Her myopic obsession with banning “undesirables” leads obviously to the infamous “slippery slope”dilemma. She should take a cursory course in American history.

The Volstead Act (Prohibition) backfired when “clean living” citizens of Taylor’s ilk banned liquor, making Al Capone a rich man. During Prohibition, the problem of alcohol consumption was exacerbated, not resolved.

If smoking is banned, shouldn’t we ban any business that sells tobacco? A rhetorical question!

Of course. Logic dictates — goodbye, several more businesses in Cumberland. Why not ban everything that offends — trees that shed, berries, undesirables, pool rooms, casinos, medical marijuana, soldiers smoking in trenches, big cars that consume too much gas, coal trucks, school buses? Where will the madness end?

The only time I see “volumes” of people downtown is Friday after Five. The few smokers I see keep a respectful distance from the crowd, including me.

Taylor says taking action will have an immediate impact. As a former businessman, I disagree. The action she proposes is impractical and commercially foolish. Why drive potential customers away? It’s financial suicides.

She urges community leaders to take a first step. I say it’s a false step. The first step is to revitalize downtown business. The real “undesirable problem” is not berry-bearing trees or “volumes” of non-existent smokers; it’s the number of empty buildings, not a few cigarette butts.

James Zamagias

Cumberland

 

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