As It Is: The decline in smoking

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By David Giuliani

I was thinking about my co-workers the other day, and I realized something about them: None of them smoke.

At least that I know of.

After asking around, I found out that one of my co-workers smokes. But she apparently keeps the habit pretty hidden.

Even three years ago, I remember that a number of my co-workers used to puff their cigarettes out the back door. But they have either quit their habit or left the Optic.

This absence of smokers is not a great coincidence. The rate of smoking among adults in the United States has dropped in half — from 42 percent in 1964 to 19 percent in 2008.

And many of those who still smoke only do so privately.

Some years ago, experts showed how secondhand smoke endangered the health of non-smokers. And that’s when the big push came to ban smoking in restaurants and bars.

At first, many smokers loudly protested. Some accused government of exceeding its authority.

But most now have quietly accepted such laws. And it’s rare you hear anybody questioning them.

My mother was a smoker to the end. But she always warned my brother and me never to light up a cigarette.

While I am certainly not free of vices, I followed my mom’s advice in this regard.

Often, people lament society’s problems without seeing where we have progressed as a people. The decline in smoking is a perfect example of how we have advanced.

• • •

The state police have arrested a number of repeat DWI offenders in recent months. And they and the city police have responded to several drunken-driving accidents.

After one of our our stories, we received an e-mail from a man who criticized our coverage of a particular DWI accident. The man was related to the DWI suspect.

The man lamented that we didn’t get the other side of the story. We reported what was in the police report. He wondered if the police told us that several people were chasing his relative when he got into the crash.

No, the police didn’t tell us. But the supposed chase is a red herring to the matter at hand, which is drinking and driving.

I asked the man if his relative had been drinking. He said he didn’t know. But he wrote that our story made it appear as if the suspect were guilty.

So I asked the man if his relative would be willing to speak with the newspaper.

He said his relative’s lawyer had advised the suspect not to give out any information about the case.

Of course, this man’s relative isn’t duty-bound to follow the attorney’s advice. But if he does, how exactly are we supposed to get the other side?

I’m sure that the recent DWI suspects are all nice people. But they may well have hit and killed others — all good people, too.

We all make mistakes, but when they’re potentially deadly, we can’t turn our heads the other way.

• • •

Bill Norton, a frequent letter-to-the-editor writer, died July 24, three days before his last letter appeared in our paper. In that letter, he criticized my column on immigration, taking a more conservative view.

I knew Bill on both personal and professional levels. We debated many times about issues over the years; I met him while camping at Villanueva State Park. He could disagree, but still be a friend.

An independent thinker, Bill was more conservative than I on most issues. But you couldn’t pigeonhole him.

He had a house on Mora Street in Las Vegas, where he hoped to retire. He lived in California most of the time, working as a tax accountant. One time, Bill helped me analyze a Mora school official’s travel expenses, which resulted in an investigative piece.

I appreciated Bill’s insights.

David Giuliani is managing editor of the Las Vegas Optic. He may be reached at 425-6796 or dgiuliani@lasvegasoptic.com.