May 7, 2009

Fresh Air, Green Grass and a Deep Breath Full of .... Carcinogens?

Public tobacco smoking is under the gun these days across the US, and golf courses have become another battleground for anti-smoking laws:

USA Today: Golf Course Smoking Bans Anger Golfers:

"For the cigar-smoking golfer, 18 holes and a stogie rank with peanut butter and jelly or gin and tonic among life's ideal combinations.

"That's why recent efforts across the country to ban smoking on public golf courses are being greeted by those players like a triple bogey. In the balance between individual rights and public health, weekend duffers feel authorities have become unreasonable.

"The city of Spokane just tried to ban smoking on its four public golf courses, only to be stymied by an outcry from players and smoking rights advocates.

"Golf and cigars go together like a hand in a glove," said Dale Taylor of Tacoma, president of the Cigar Association of Washington, a smokers' rights groups. "That may be the only time some people smoke."

I need not recite the dangers of smoking -- a much higher risk of heart disease, emphysema, COPD, oral, laryngeal and lung cancer, for starters -- and at the the same time I feel much empathy for personal rights and people making having the ability to make their own decisions, no matter how dangerous their choices may be. So long as it brings no harm to others, well, that's their choice and is between them and their maker. That freedom ends, however, where putting others in danger begins, and while some tobacco advocates may wish to debate the point, the science on second-hand smoke is decidedly clear: it's not a good thing, and forcing others to breathe in smoke is a hazard, not a personal choice.

The golf course, however, may be a different matter. Obviously, being outdoors, any smoke is not confined and dissipates quickly. That and one can move away from a "danger zone" with relative ease. So as the British used to say, smoking bans on courses is a 'sticky wicket.'

There are other dangers, however. Over the winter on my home course, the dormant Tifway Bermuda turns to hay for all intents and purposes, and the climate here can be relatively dry in the cooler months. On the approach to the green on our ninth hole, someone tossed a still-lit cigarette or a cigar down carelessly and set the dry grass a-light, and by the time the fire was extinguished, perhaps 3/4th of an acre was blackened and unplayable for a time. Fortunately, small fires like that doesn't kill Bermuda (in fact, it makes it healthier) and the course sprang back as soon as warm weather arrived, but at the same time, there were several homes on the edges of the course that potentially could have been set ablaze had the winds picked up or the fire somehow crept to their doorstep. It doesn't take much thinking to realize the dangers of smoking in that case.

At any rate, I expect that this debate will gather energy and will spread across America over the next couple of years. If a tobacco-producing state like North Carolina can enact public smoking bans, they can happen anywhere -- even your favorite public course.


  1. A nice cigar keeps the bugs away, so I say.

  2. I don't care for smoking but love those vintage ads that portray it as as a carefree pleasure or an elegant accutrement, because they evoke a simpler time.

    Personally, I've never smoked, but I don't like the idea of it being banned in public place that's outdoors. Anything private or indoors fine, just not a public outdoor location. That doesn't feel right to me

  3. Hubbie loves to have a cigar on the course every now and then. I get plugged up at the first whiff of smoke, but I agree with Patricia. I don't think it's right to ban smoking outdoors. Smokers should show common courtesies though and extinguish their cigars/cigarettes in the proper places.

    However, I think you are right Charles and this will become an issue. I don't like smoking, but extinguishing personal freedoms can be a slippery slope.

  4. I have to confess ambivalence on the issue of how if/where smoking is banned. It is an evil product...but it is also personal choice.

    The real question is - Does Arnie look badass or WHAT?'s like he's saying "When I finish this smoke, I'm gonna jam this 4-iron right up Nicklaus' back 9."

  5. Unfortunately, I smoked for years and loved every single puff. I haven't smoked for a long while and feel the indoor smoking bans are very justified and at entrances and exits to buildings. However, I feel smoking on a golf course is part of the game for many weekend players and the dissipated smoke does not bother me; nor do I feel it is a 'second-hand smoke' issue...


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