Secondhand snot: the nosey killer
Dear Mayor and Portland City Councilors,
First of all, kudos to you! Having sharply reduced property taxes, crime and poverty, you’re now tackling the next most vexing problem afflicting the citizens of this city: exposure to drifting wafts of tobacco smoke in the great outdoors.
This August, you’ll have the opportunity to enact two life-saving laws that will finally criminalize smoking in and around public playgrounds, beaches and athletic fields (except, of course, Hadlock Field) and within the outside dining areas of a dozen or so smoker-friendly restaurants and bars (before 10 p.m., if and when food service is available on all or some portion of a deck, patio or street-side outdoor terrace).
We urge you to pass both these enlightened pieces of legislation. As the preamble to your ordinance states, a university study published in the prestigious and widely read Journal of the Air and Waste Management Association and another study by a for-profit anti-smoking consulting firm seem to indicate that fleeting exposure to floating puffs of secondhand tobacco smoke outdoors may slightly increase the statistical possibility someone will develop health problems someday. That’s proof enough for us!
And may we add our belief that this is a wise use of our police department’s time — issuing formal warnings to first-time offenders; maintaining a database of individuals who’ve been warned; writing up citations for second, third, fourth, fifth-…time offenders; spending days in court to testify every time smoking tickets are challenged — given that the steep drop in crime we’re enjoying has made our few remaining officers prone to idleness.
We write today because we think we all agree this is just the first step in what should be a comprehensive campaign to protect the public from human-source environmental contaminants. Human beings rank fifth among the top five sources of air-borne pollution in Maine — behind only fossil-fueled vehicles, Midwestern smokestacks, the leaf blowers/lawnmowers/herbicides used to maintain public athletic fields, and Q 97.9 FM.
Secondhand smoke has been a cause célèbre of late, but a far more pernicious secondhand substance, caused by humans and entirely preventable, has gone negligently unregulated.
We’re talking about secondhand snot.
Thousands of bacteria-filled droplets are launched into our environment, at speeds clocked at over 100 m.p.h., every time some bozo sneezes without properly covering their nose and mouth with a disposable antibiotic wipe. A breath of secondhand smoke can be unpleasant, but a breath of secondhand snot can give you a raging case of typhoid fever or leprosy, not to mention a nasty cold.
It makes perfect sense when you think about it. What’s more unhealthy to inhale: a whiff of drifting tobacco smoke or a germy cloud of unchecked nasal discharge?
We’ve often wished we could call the police every time someone lit up a Camel on Amigos’ patio at happy hour. Soon, thanks to you, we’ll be able to do just that. But what legal recourse do we have if a hippie sneezes near our uncovered pint of PBR? None, unless you take action.
Please, won’t somebody think of the children! Those runny-nosed brats pick up all sorts of germs in public school classrooms and daycares, then sneeze and flick boogers all over the place. We need protection from them (though, we’ll concede, their fines should probably be less than an adult’s, given kids’ limited income-earning ability).
Many years ago, your legislative predecessors had the wisdom and foresight to require sneeze-guards on salad bars at all restaurants and cafeterias. We’re only asking you to take the next logical step. If chickpeas and bacon bits deserve legal protection from exposure to secondhand snot, why not people?
God bless you. And gesundheit!
— Chris Busby