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Stirring the pot on smoking

Why are anti-smoking advocates in nanny Seattle treating tobacco differently than marijuana? A smoker wants to know.

Philip Dawdy, former award-winning Seattle Weekly writer whose blog, Furious Seasons, crusades for common sense on mental health issues, is so mad he's smokin'. Or not. Dawdy is effectively being booted from his longtime Capitol Hill apartment because the property manager changed the rules on smoking: Dawdy can't light up his cigarettes in the privacy of his own apartment anymore.

From Dawdy's perspective, that's bad enough, but worse is that his landlords appear willing to accept a double standard: They won't crack down on tenants who smoke pot, Dawdy says. And there are a good many pot smokers in his building he says, as well as in other "non-smoking" buildings around town. Dawdy is a pro-pot guy, a progressive with libertarian leanings, but he's furious at the hypocrisy that pot is somehow exempt from the rules. "There's a new cigarette in town and its name is marijuana," he writes.

He's also concerned about the growing nannyism in Seattle (a topic he covered at the Weekly as well) and he is astounded that the city's so-called liberals seem unconcerned about the unfairness of smoking crackdowns in general. He notes this isn't unique to Seattle: Many of the country's most liberal cities (San Francisco, Seattle, Boston, etc.) are both pro-pot and anti-smoking. He's also ever alert for how policies impact people with mental disabilities and is sensitive to class disparities he sees. Dawdy writes:

I know of multiple cases of people with mental illnesses who smoke cigarettes and who have been forced from their housing in Seattle due to the excessive hatred for smoking in Seattle, where we have the toughest anti-smoking rules (in public) of any big city in America. In fact, last year Reason magazine ranked Seattle as the number two Nanny State city in America (behind Chicago) based upon a number of factors, but primarily due to the city's warrior stance on smoking (I wrote the piece on Seattle, but was not involved in the rankings). All of those I know who've been displaced due to smoking (so far) are low-income and disabled, usually the precise group of people whom good, diversity-embracing Seattle progressive-liberals claim to be extra concerned about. I've even seen otherwise all-loving liberals harass homeless people for smoking on a sidewalk. I'm only a click or two above these folks when it comes to income. I doubt that Seattle prog-libs give a damn about me either.

Seattle's odd double-standard culture is a frequent topic of conversation. Our style of liberalism has a strong strain of Calvinist intolerance which cuts against our history of purporting to let people do their own thing. I've likened it to Seattle's own case of schizophrenia.

Clearly second-hand smoke is an issue, but the idea of driving smokers out of their homes and having a double standard for people who choose to smoke weed is inherently unfair and intrusive on people's right to privacy. If someone wants to commit suicide, as Kurt Vonnegut once said, by smoking unfiltered Pall Malls, or salve their anxieties with BC Bud, they ought to be able to do it.

Knute Berger is Mossback, Crosscut's chief Northwest native. He also writes the monthly Grey Matters column for Seattle magazine and is a weekly Friday guest on Weekday on KUOW-FM (94.9). His newest book is Pugetopolis: A Mossback Takes On Growth Addicts, Weather Wimps, and the Myth of Seattle Nice, published by Sasquatch Books. In 2011, he was named Writer-in-Residence at the Space Needle and is author of Space Needle, The Spirit of Seattle (2012), the official 50th anniversary history of the tower. You can e-mail him at mossback@crosscut.com.


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