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Guess what, smokers? The end is nigh

We're all fighting many wars. The culture war. The political war. The war over whether to go to new wars. The war over whether to leave old wars. And then there are those poor bastards fighting on the front lines of the real wars.

What's frustrating about most of these wars is that nobody's winning. Everyone appears to be locked in a permanent stalemate.

But there's nothing staler than French-kissing your mate, if your mate is a smoker. And that's why the good news is that the good guys are winning at least one war: the war on smoking. I am an insufferable reformed smoker. I don't know why I was ever able to inhale cancer sticks as if they were good things. And I don't know why my body reacts with disgust to secondhand smoke now. But it does. I immediately get a sore throat, watery eyes and nausea.

Why do I react this way? I think I've figured it out. Because cigarette smoke is poison gas. It contains carcinogens. Why wouldn't my body react that way?

That's why I'm as happy as Myron Cope with a pitcher of toddies that Allegheny County is pondering a ban on smoking in bars and restaurants.

I mention Myron because he has recently appeared as a spokesman for the old guard. In an hysterical, if pathetic, defense of smokers' rights in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Myron writes of one medical doctor from Western Pennsylvania who says there's no evidence that secondhand smoke causes health problems. Then he denigrates the U.S. Surgeon General, who says there's plenty of definitive evidence it does.

Myron says the "smoke Nazis" are after us. I'm not crazy about using the "Nazi" label, but if there were any Nazis in this debate, they'd have to be the smokers. They're the ones who want to kill us with poison gas.

Statistics show that only about 20 percent of people smoke these days. That's why it's absurd to argue that a ban on restaurant smoking will kill business. A smoke-free bar will probably attract more of the non-smoking majority. A recently completed study in New York City shows that businesses are thriving since a smoking ban went into effect in the Big Apple.

But I understand the denial on the part of smoking-in-public advocates. After all, they're addicted to a drug. That'll lead to all kinds of rationalizations — like the canard about the government reaching into our private lives.

Hey, smokers: The government already requires us to wear seatbelts. The government requires restaurants to be rat-feces free. The government imposes standards to help keep us safe. The precedent is there.

Allegheny County's Board of Health and the County Council are working on a ban of smoking in bars and restaurants. Apparently, County Executive Dan Onorato is still concerned about a state law that says you can't have local anti-smoking ordinances, and says any ban has to be statewide. County councilors are prepared to go forward and be sued. That's the right approach.

C'mon, Danny O, get with the program. Do you want us to be perceived as a forward-thinking progressive community, or the Flintstone-agers we too often are? I'm here now to declare victory in the war on smoking in bars and restaurants. Because it's going to happen. Even the Health Department's Dr. Bruce Dixon, long resistant to developing this legislation, seems to be getting a clue.

So get ready, cancer-inhalers: You're going to have to smoke in your car and in your home and walking down the sidewalk. But when I'm eating my almond-crusted Chilean sea bass — or even a cheap greasy cheeseburger — I will no longer have to have a side order of your poisonous smoke.

In your defense, few things in life are more pleasurable than the mild stimulation and addiction achieved by sucking smoke from a weed and blowing it out. Except just about everything else I can think of. Dude, time to quit.

Go ahead and write a "smoke Nazi" letter to the editor. It won't matter. We've won. We have met the enemy, and it is yinz. And we have defeated yinz.

But don't despair: There are still plenty of private places you can kill yourself. You might want to take into consideration any family members or friends you may be poisoning. But if you thought about that, you wouldn't smoke.


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