Gas Crisis | Vox Pop | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Gas Crisis

Smokers are running on fumes



Well, the PC police are at it again. Now they're trying to take away my right to fart in public. I know, I know: What the hell is this country coming to? I've been farting around others since I was a wee tyke. I never thought I'd see the day when this activity would be deemed illegal in public places.



How can this be? Farting is pleasurable. They talk about the rights of the so-called non-farters. What about farters' rights? When I can't fart for long periods of time, it only increases my incredible longing to fart, and I don't see why I should have to wait. Then I have to go to the designated farters' area, to be near other people who still haven't succumbed to the PC police, so we can fart in peace.


Funny, the farting among the farters doesn't seem to bother my fellow farters. So what's up the butts of the non-farters? Something clearly designed to prevent farting.


I'm assuming you've figured out by now that I'm just kidding here. But if you substitute the word "smoking" for the word "farting," that about sums up the argument smokers make to continue to pollute the air the rest of us breathe in public places.


After all, what's the difference? I don't want to inhale your farts any more than I want to inhale your smoke. It would be ridiculous for you to think you should be able to fart next to me, as it is for you to think you should be able to exhale noxious tobacco fumes, after recycling them through your rotting lungs ... not to mention the unfiltered dose we get straight from the cigarette.


And you think it makes it OK if you ask me, "Do you mind if I smoke?" I'm not the only one involved. Consider the other people nearby. People generally don't enjoy breathing polluted air.


Greg Hartley is the Pittsburgh-based assistant director of Smokefree Pennsylvania, which is trying to outlaw smoking in bars, restaurants and office buildings (apparently there are still some office buildings in which you can smoke). He sees the fart analogy, but points out "fart gas has not been classified as a Class A carcinogen by the Environmental Protection Agency." Touché.


Hartley does not want to outlaw smoking altogether, which is of course the argument some smokers make, a la the absurd National Rifle Association argument that their government's gonna take away everybody's guns. "People for better or worse are addicted to nicotine," Hartley says. An outright smoking ban, he says, "would immediately criminalize 25 percent of the population in Pittsburgh."


No one wants to piss off 25 percent of the potential voters, and that is why Pittsburgh's leading Democratic mayoral candidates weaseled out of any definitive answer on this issue at a recent debate. Bob O'Connor, Bill Peduto and Michael Lamb all said the issue would have to be "studied." They're just afraid of pro-smoking nuts, in the same way that national Democrats fear right-wing evangelical nuts. County Executive Dan Onorato, according to Hartley, hasn't returned recent phone calls. Each one of these guys is smart. Each one knows the smoking ban is the way to go. But none of them feels like dealing with the talk-show frenzy and big pain in the ass (no farting pun intended) that this would produce.


By the way, The New York Times reported that there's been an uptick in business at city bars and restaurants despite -- or maybe because of -- a smoking ban.


Why can't some bars be designated as smoking bars? Because employees shouldn't have to inhale your pollution. Would you say it's OK if some bars were designated bug-spray-friendly, and everyone sprayed some Black Flag around every now and again?


What about the notion that the government is being heavy-handed toward business?


"It's a health and safety issue," says Hartley. "Would you argue that the government doesn't have the right to tell me I can't have rats and cockroaches inside my restaurant?"


As with pretty much everything else in the universe, this area is going to have to be dragged on its knuckles kicking and screaming into the future. I don't want to breathe your fumes, be they noxious or obnoxious. This issue may come up at the next meeting of the Allegheny County Department of Health, on May 4. Let's stop farting around.

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