Junkiedom Will Be Served

The First Essential Scary Truth

In March of 2003, New York City instituted a ban on smoking in all public venues. Although we live in Gotham, Mayor Michael Bloombergdeclared second-hand smoke a major health risk. Smokers had to go outside to the brown tinted air to feed their habit. Although extremely unpopular, the municipal ban turned out to be a blessing when the New York State Smoking Ban went into effect three months later.

The state and city police enforce the State smoking ban. New York City relies on the Department of Health to regulate the municipal law. After a few months of the city’s health inspectors working overtime which had no place in the budget, smoking in public restaurants, bars, cafes and diners went back to the status quo. Occasionally, someone would call the 311 24 Hour Public Complaint Line to turn in an establishment for breaking the smoking law. However, 311 is most often used to rat out dishonest cabbies and garbage men leaving rotting bags on the street. It seemed like the new mayor pulled a nice con job on Albany. What no one expected was how Bloomberg intended to pay for the new bureaucracy required for 311 and smoking ban enforcement; he raised the tax on packs of cigarettes.

By his own admission, the mayor is a former smoker and he appears to dislike his former addiction to tobacco with a passion. As of this afternoon, the price of cigarettes is now over $11.00 a pack in New York City. Smokers used to willingly give a cigarette to those who asked. Now, those looking for a Marlboro are offering to pay over $2.00 for an individual smoke.

Last week, I watched a black mini van with a gold ‘Saving Pets’ logo painted on the side slowly pull up to the light at 3rd Ave and 20th Street. A young college age couple were in the cross walk, lighting their cigarettes. The dark haired woman in the black van honked at the pair. At first, I thought she knew this young couple. Then I saw her hold two fingers in a V sign to her mouth. At first, I thought she was trying to pick up the girl. A bit lewd perhaps, but maybe she subscribed to the seduction by full bore desire theory, I thought. It took me another second to realize she was trying to bum a smoke from these kids.

The small framed blonde haired boy shook his head and light his Camel Light. The woman in the van slowly pulled forward, sending the girl running to the curb in her pink flip-flops. The boy stepped back, eyes wide. His reaction was neither fight nor flight but total shock and the black van kept coming towards him. Finally, when he had to dodge unmarked police cars heading for the Police Academy twenty feet east, he nodded. Yes, he would give this dark haired woman intent on killing him one of his Camels.

Do-gooders looking for their nicotine fix are trying to kill their college constituents. Can a black market for a crate of Marlboro Reds at the local bodega be far behind? Will Bloomberg find a way to tax that as well and lower the subway fares?

Once again, junkiedom in New York will be served.

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