Over the Hill

It's time to regulate tobacco retailers

Phil Dirkx
Phil Dirkx

Last week the American Lung Association gave my hometown, Paso Robles, an overall score of zero. It was for Paso’s tobacco regulations, or lack thereof.

The association graded the current tobacco regulations of cities and counties throughout America. In San Luis Obispo County, Paso Robles got the only overall zero.

Tobacco is one of the few things I’m 100 percent against. In our house we have an inhalation nebulizer and an oxygen machine. Unfortunately it was much tougher for my wife, Mamie, to quit smoking than it was for me. She finally beat it, but damage had been done.

Tobacco can entangle people in its powerful addiction, sicken them and kill many. How can tobacco merchants sleep nights?

I read about the Lung Association’s grading program in Wednesday’s Tribune and then learned more from the association’s website. It said Paso Robles received two points for regulating some smoking in outdoor recreation areas. Paso also got another point because the Paso Robles Housing Authority has nonsmoking units. But those three points weren’t enough to lift Paso Robles out of an overall score of zero.

The city of San Luis Obispo had the highest score in the county — 10. It got points for prohibiting smoking in outdoor dining areas, in entryways, at public events, in recreation areas, in service areas, on sidewalks and at worksites.

San Luis Obispo also got credit for nonsmoking housing-authority units and for nonsmoking common areas in housing. It also got points for licensing tobacco retailers, as did Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach and the county.

I think all tobacco retailers everywhere should have to get licenses. The fear of losing the license and with it the business might keep the occasional shady one from selling to underage customers.

When I was a kid in the 1930s almost everybody smoked. The danger wasn’t yet scientifically established. I was in the seventh grade and was riding my bike home when I smoked my first cigarette. I got dizzy and lay in the grass beside the road.

I never became a confirmed smoker; I never smoked before breakfast. When reports started coming out in 1962 blaming smoking for lung cancer and heart disease I quit. I scare easily.

And I must say today’s kids may be getting smarter. I live a block from the high school and don’t notice as many teenagers walking by smoking as I used to. I also don’t see as many cigarette butts.

Maybe the school’s anti-tobacco programs are working? But there’s always the chance a new smoking fad will come out of nowhere. Let’s still regulate the sellers.