Wednesday Dec. 5, 2012
Smoke cigarettes? Think the government is meddling too much in your life?
David Baker may be your guy. The Indianapolis retiree has formed a group inspired by the conservative tea party movement — the Smokers Coalition Tea Party — that’s aiming to revoke the varied public anti-smoking ordinances around the state.
Taking a page out of the tea party playbook, he says the laws trample on individual rights, for one thing, and are unconstitutional. “They’re taking (rights) away one at a time, sir, and smokers have got to do something,” Baker said.
Perhaps more sinister, he sees the laws, at least the ones that ban smoking in bars, as nefarious measures that stifle public discourse.
“That’s where the common people get together, smoke a cigarette, drink a beer and talk politics,” he said by phone. He continued: “I call it stifling the working, common people and most of the working, common people agree with me.”
I learned of Baker’s group from an e-mail blast he sent out months ago to the media, apparently statewide. It doesn’t seem to have gained much traction. His Facebook page has 10 likes and he’s garnered just 1,000 signatures of the 300,000 or 400,000 he’d like on petitions aimed at bolstering his cause.
Baker, himself, is a smoker, has been since he’s 12. He’s now 70, retired from a career managing restaurants, and never really got involved in political things. But the increasing number of smoking bans, including one in Indianapolis and a limited statewide measure, riled him and moved him to action. He took a computer class, got a computer and now is pushing the cause, gathering signatures on his petition at bars, among other things.
“I don’t like to say I’m a radical. I like to say I’m just fighting for my rights,” he said.
Aside from philosophical differences with smoking bans, he says they take a financial toll — people stop going to bars (a charge smoking ban proponents reject). In his case, he’ll buy 30-packs of beer to drink at home at $16.99 a pop and spends less time in bars since he can’t light up.
He also questions the health toll smoking can take. In his case, he got a good report when he went to the doctor for a check up.
“Believe this or not, sir, my oxygen level was 100 percent,” he said.
Baker certainly isn’t the first person to grumble about anti-smoking laws. I spoke to some smoking ban critics in Elkhart a couple years back. Here’s the link to a profile I did of Carl Thurston, a local critic, in 2007.
Baker, though, seems to be taking his opposition to a new level, at least he’s trying to.