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The Belgian Parliament postpones smoking ban until 2014: Are y'all from Kentucky?Dec 10, 2009 00:10 EST
The Belgian Parliament, which acknowledges the need for a comprehensive smoking ban, has decided that they've not quite had enough death, dying, and monetary expenditures for lung cancer and heart disease. I'm not certain if they feel their physicians aren't working enough hours or if their mortuaries don't have enough business. Either way, they aren't budging until 2014. We are talking about four more years of death, dying, and suffering and the preventable expenditure of billions of healthcare dollars. We are talking about the lethal negligence of a governing body that has willfully failed to protect its citizens. It changes the indictment from the metaphorical negligent homicide of 5000 individuals and the maiming of 10 000 others, rationalized as ignorance, to now one of premeditation. It is an embarrassment to the EU just as our lack of a comprehensive smoking ban is an embarrassment to the United States of America.
I visited beautiful Belgium many years ago. I remember thinking it seemed like I had never left Kentucky when I traveled the lush green countryside. I admit I'm geographically challenged. I once flew to Sweden and spent the first few miles in the back of the car craning my head so I could watch the Alps come into view. I knew I might be in the wrong country, so I didn't dare ask the driver any questions until I could phone my brother who knows everything. "The wrong 'S' country," he smirked and hung up. When I learned the ESC meeting would be in Vienna, I rushed to purchase a book on the Italian language. As I walked out the door, I thought "wait a minute . . . that's Venice. I'm going to Vienna, and that's in Austria." I ran back in the store and bought some German tapes. I didn't know the Nile was in Egypt until I was in my twenties. To beat it all, my mom taught geography. I'm a complete embarrassment to her in that regard. I much preferred dissecting frogs than spinning a globe, though I completely love traveling it. Now, I swear it. Belgium is a lot like Kentucky and mom, I shall prove "I'm" correct.
The parallels are uncanny:
- Belgians are dying of lung cancer. (Kentucky: check.)
- Belgians are dying of heart disease. (Kentucky: check.)
- Belgians love to smoke. (Kentucky: check, check.)
- Belgian government officials are worried about the business owner's right to choose. (Kentucky: check.)
- Belgian officials are afraid to engage in aggressive education campaigns that rapidly prepare their population for a smoking ban. (Kentucky: check.)
- Belgian legislators don't believe that success begets success, and they don't understand that a ban is the gift that keeps on giving and works immediately. (Kentucky: check.)
- Belgian officials have caved to the vocal, inconsiderate and uncaring minority. (80% of EU citizens favor a smoking ban. The majority of Kentuckians favor a ban: check.)
Perhaps you Belgian officials aren't really to blame. I believe it was Columbus who threw away a mysterious Cuban gift of dried leaves but ate the fruit given to him instead. Later, a couple of his sailors saw some natives "drinking" smoke from those same leaves. One of them, Rodrigo de Xerez, tried it and was hooked immediately. When the Spanish Inquisitors saw the smoke billowing from his lips and nostrils, they imprisoned him for seven years in his native country for appearing to be satanic. A monk traveling with Columbus, Ramon Pame, wrote of how Indians inhaled the smoke from a Y-shaped pipe, and smoking spread like wild fire in Europe while poor Xerez was serving his time. Although we can blame someone else besides the Belgians for the birth of smoking in the EU, they still deserve the blame for not following the courage of some Europeans and Americans to curb it.
I was in Ireland the first week of its historic ban in 2004. No one whined, cried, or threw a fit. They simply stepped outside their pub or restaurant and quietly lit up their fags. We returned there in 2008 and were astounded at how few smokers we saw, period. Scotland and England then followed suit some years later. They stood on the shoulders of places like the city of San Luis Obispo, CA, the first city in the world to ban smoking in 1990. Bhutan, the tiny Himalayan city, is the first and only "totally tobacco-free" nation. You can't smoke it or sell it there, and they celebrated banning it in 2004 with a huge "carton" bonfire. New York, "the city that never sleeps," banned it several years ago and now enjoys the fruit of its labor; a drop in teen smoking by over 50%. Lexington, KY went smoke-free, and their asthma admission rates dropped by 27% in three months and now boast a $22-million savings in healthcare expenditures over five years.
Belgium, you disappoint me. I always brag about how progressive the Europeans are in general, especially in the areas of medication development, primary PCI, nutrition, and exercise habits. Your stalling on the smoking ban issue has completely disillusioned me. Maybe we could make this work for us, though. Perhaps we could combine our governments to cut down on salaries and do a little simultaneous tourist promotion for your country and my state of Kentucky, since we are so much alike. I'll sow a few bluegrass seeds along your countryside and bring over some ashtrays with cardinals, our state bird, on them. We can sell some of your luscious chocolate! We'll transplant a few guys smoking from their trach's from our state to Bruges and bring over a few horses.
Now, all I have to do is to teach you to say "y'all." Y'all like to smoke just like we do, and, unfortunately, y'all die just like we do and y'all harm your nonsmoking citizens at an alarming rate, just like we do . . . and y'all have the same missed opportunity to change all of that
Unfortunately, until you ban public smoking in Belgium, y'all will have the same guilty conscience that we do in Kentucky as well.