Smokers Rally

MARTINSBURG - Pete Snow may have to breath with the assistance of an oxygen tank, but that didn’t stop the senior citizen and Berkeley County war veteran from joining scores of protesters Wednesday night in Martinsburg for a rally and march to show support for opposition to a proposed smoking ban.

The ban, proposed by the Berkeley County Health Department, would eliminate smoking at private bars, clubs and fraternal smokeorganizations.

“I just don’t believe they should take the rights away from the private clubs. I mean I’m on oxygen, but if I don’t want to go, I can go someplace else. Don’t take rights away from other people,” Snow said while standing amidst the protesters at the square in downtown Martinsburg. “I think too much of this is going on in my country today. Rights are being taken away.”

The protest was organized by local businessman and smoking-ban opponent Butch Pennington, who owns three clubs and two liquor stores. The board of health could vote on the ban at their next regular meeting, which is at 4 p.m. Monday at the old Berkeley County Courthouse across the street from the square where protesters gathered.

“We, as bar and club owners, are concerned about the economic impact that this will have on our businesses. We feel that it’s going to be negative impact,” he said. “…We’re going to march and chant down the street here so that we can let people know that we want to protect our rights. Our civil liberties are at stake here.”

Pennington presented Berkeley County Health Department officials with a petition with 6,000 signatures from citizens opposed to the ban last Thursday and said he hopes to reach a compromise with health officials on the issue.

One suggestion calls for a grandfather clause to be enacted that would enable businesses that already allow smoking to continue to do so, but mandate any new businesses that open be smoke free.

“Or we are looking for maybe an alternative, like smoking at the bar only or putting a big red ‘S’ on your club’s front door denoting smoking inside, or even smoking four days a week and three days a week no smoking,” Pennington said.

Other suggestions would be to allow businesses to continue to allow smoking so long as they installed an air filtration system.

“Any of those compromises we are after, but better yet, just leave it alone. We have a good smoking ordinance now that works,” Pennington said.

That smoking ordinance, which has been on the books since 2001, bans smoking at public places, except for private bars, clubs and fraternal organizations. Protesters opposed to the ban Wednesday night amassed at the square in Martinsburg before marching to Berkeley County’s government offices on West John Street.

Equipped with a megaphone, Pennington led protesters in boisterous chants such as “What do we want? Freedom! What do we want? Choice!” and “Smoking, smoking, it’s OK! Please don’t take my choice away!”.

Numerous motorists who drove past the line of protesters honked their horns to show their support.

“I’ve been smoking for 50 years. It’s my choice. I pay my taxes. I pay more taxes than people that don’t smoke,” protester Tammy Rosenberry, of Inwood, said. “Where are they going to get the money that I spend on taxes if they take my choice to smoke away and I don’t buy cigarettes?”

Others, like local bar owner, Brandon Widner, who owns the Limerick Irish Pub on North Queen Street in Martinsburg, said he feared what a smoking ban might mean for local small business.

“I mean this can totally destroy my business. I sunk my life savings into it two years ago when I moved here,” he said. “It just chokes me up.”

Widner lived in Montgomery County, Md., where a similar smoking ban was enacted, before moving to Martinsburg. The smoking ban there, he said, led to the demise of many businesses.

“It’s going to destroy a lot of small businesses. Myself, I’m staying afloat in this recession, but just barely. I mean I’ve got my nose up above water, but that’s about it,” he said.

Wayne Casto, of Pikeside, brought a full-sized American flag to the protest, which he carried slung over his shoulder during the march to the county government offices.

“This is my constitutional right to a choice, whether I patronize a business that allows smoking or not to patronize it. The county health department is trying to take that right away,” he said. “Therefore, I am standing up for my constitutional rights.”

Some non-smokers even joined in on the protest based on principles.

“I don’t smoke and I don’t drink, but I’m here supporting my rights,” World War II veteran George Keller said. “That’s what I’m here for - to protect our rights. If they keep on taking them away, then one day they’ll keep on going.”

Frederick Kemman, who lives in the county just outside of the Martinsburg city limits, joined in the protest along with his wife and school-aged son, who carried a sign that read “I’ll never smoke, but I’ll support your right to”.

“These people have a right. Bars and restaurants like that are privately owned. Why should the government be telling them what to do inside their own restaurant and bar?” Kemman asked. “That’s what it really boils down to.”

Jeff Becker doesn’t smoke cigarettes, but he’s been a cigar aficionado for the past 15 years. He said he joined the protest because he was afraid the ban might lead to slippery slope if passed.

“What’s next? Are they going to ban smoking in your private homes (or) private cars? Then what are they going to do? They’re going to say well, for your health, we’re going to shut down the fast food restaurants,” he said. “There’s a cat down here at the cigar shop that lives in the cigar shop and it breathes second hand smoke all day long. It’s 18-years-old.”

At the end of the protest, Pennington thanked those who gathered for their support of local bars and clubs and applauded them for demonstrating for democracy.

“Democracy is alive,” he said. “This is our county. That’s our health board. They ultimately should listen to us. I think that they’ll be able to hopefully reach a compromise with us. I feel with every confidence in the world that we are going to succeed on this issue.”

-Staff writer Edward Marshall can be reached at (304) 263-8931, ext. 182, or [email protected]

By Edward Marshall
© Copyright: September 17, 2009

2 responses to “Smokers Rally

  1. Government Will Make Smokers, Children, Families, Sick

    Government’s that foster anti-smoking policies lead the real health epidemic, government interference. They are not using science as their competent guide into the future. Instead they use the deep festering envy of politicized environmentalists (those unable to compete on a level playing field) to revisit remnants of the dark ages. The profound statement of philosopher/novelist Ayn Rand echoes the truth that smothers us, “Today, we live in the age of envy.”

    I am a life-long non-smoker, who has lost the four most precious people in my life. Cancer was the effect, a consequence, but not the cause. Yet, I will not help to propagandize health into dictatorial policy through anti-smoking. I do not wish to repeat the 1930’s, 1940’s. Do you?

    Exactly how can our government “create a healthier society for all” when they betray the smoker’s sense of trust, demoralize their self-confidence, disrupt their employer-employee relationships, upheave their family life, and undermind their efficacy by alienating them from their own human nature?

    This destructive mind/body dichotomy will subject smoker’s to long-term emotional and mental disorders, thus leading to serious physical ailments. In reality, our government is making them sick.

    A particularily foreboding feature of the mind/body dichotomy is the government’s suffocating negative influence while aggressively restricting young people from making their own decisions. Government aggression will severely jeopardize each young person’s struggle to form a necessary sense of self-confidence. This fragile process is usually a traumatic experience, especially when that negative influence is hidden under the misconception of government benevolence.

    In reality, our government lacks the knowledge of the trigger mechanism that sets off most cancers or most other major diseases to then become a critical danger for human beings. It is not smoking, nor second-hand smoke. Then why does government pathetically use smoker’s as their scapegoat, perhaps they require an example in order to intimidate other industries?

    Chicken Littleism is no longer a silly joke. It is now a snarling threat. Stamp out politicized environmentalism, not smokers.

  2. This letter, from a non-smoker, refers to all anti-smoking legislations.

    *An open letter that was emailed to all (103) Ontario, Canada government MPP’s in early May, 2008. No replies! This non-response reflects government without a sense of responsibility or a foundation for their actions!

    Betrayal, Anti-Smoking Message is Like Fascism that Preys Upon Our Children

    We must not look within ourselves. We may discover what we are becoming!

    Moral judgement is the mirror, mirror, on the wall image, always lurking in our mind, like an alter-conscience, prepared to reveal the frightening truth, in our soul, such as the undeserved vengefulness, at any cost, wielded against smokers. Even betrayal, of the next generation, becomes palatable within self-betrayal.

    This remorseless mental/emotional preying upon, our precious children, recklessly poisons their mind and spirit, under the government’s pernicious slogan “health and safety.”

    By supporting anti-smoking, we endorse and promote Fascism, an historically proven scurvy upon humanity!

    The inevitable shame, of our past actions, can still be averted, by rescinding this government agenda!

    The most”dangerous smoke” comes not from cigarettes, instead from the government smoke screen to obscure from view, that the real issue is Capitalism and science versus Fascism and politicized environmentalism, not ‘health and safety.’

    Science and politicized environmentalism are colliding worlds, science being the height of pursuing truth, politicized environmentalism the depth of distorting truth. Anti-smoking is part of politicized environmentalism and the attempted foundation of Fascism!

    Do we therefore side with Capitalism, science, Second World War troops and our allies- honour; or do we side with Fascism, politicized environmentalism, our enemies of the Second World War- disgrace? Thus far we blindly follow our enemies and disgrace!

    From the mouth of Paul Watson, co-founder of Greenpeace, “It doesn’t matter what is true; it only matters what people believe is true…..You are what the media define you to be. Greenpeace became a myth and a myth-generating machine.” We deserve truth, not half-truths and propaganda!

    For any high ranking government official that lack this critical knowledge, they are in their office under false pretenses. They are unprepared to govern. Their present course of anti-smoking legislations is the proof of that statement.

    In the words of Psychotherapist Nathaniel Branden, “I was acutely conscious of the pressure to ‘adapt’ and to absorb the values of the ‘tribe’—family, community and culture. It seemed to me that what was asked was the surrender of my judgement and also my conviction that my life and what I made of it was of the highest possible value. I saw my contemporaries surrendering and losing their fire. Why was growing up equated with giving up?”

    Philosopher/Novelist Ayn Rand wrote, “If some demagogue were to offer us, as a guiding creed, the following tenets: that statistics should be substituted for truth, vote-counting for principles, numbers for rights, and public polls for morality-that pragmatic, range-of-the-moment expediency should be the criterion of a country’s interests, and that the number of its adherents should be the criterion of an idea’s truth or falsehood-that any desire of any nature whatsoever should be accepted as a valid claim, provided it is held by a sufficient number of people-that a majority may do anything it pleases to a minority-in short, gang rule and mob rule-if a demagogue were to offer it, he would not get very far. Yet all of it is contained in-and camouflaged by-the notion of ‘Government by Consensus.”

    ‘Rule by Consensus,’ (Rule by health care pressure group) is todays’ anti-ideology in government. Appeasement of these power-lusting, health care pressure groups is of higher priority than our children and all other tax payers, voters, and citizens. The permeating emotion from ‘Rule by Consensus’ is demoralizing, debilitating fear instead of an optimistic view of the future.

    Note this recent example, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said he wouldn’t entertain a ban (smoking in cars with children) because it amounts to “too much intrusion into people’s private lives.” The logical interpretation of this statement is that the entire anti-smoking movement eliminates smoker’s individual rights, and has always been an intrusion into a smoker’s family dynamic. Now, the Ontario government is prepared, in predictable flip-flop fashion, to enact such a ban.

    In ignobility, many people have misaligned themself with politicized environmentalism, despite the fact that 1930’s, 1940’s, Germany used “politicized ecology and public health” to base its rationalizations. Are we predisposed to mistakenly mirror the historic footsteps of self-loathing mass destruction? No! Everyone has an individual mind and conscience, above party politics. Be true to them, follow your courage (truth) and dethrone your fear (fallacy). Rescind this government’s shameful anti-smoking agenda.


    Paul Watson - Environmental Overkill, (Whatever happened to common sense) - book
    Psychotherapist Nathaniel Branden, The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem - book
    Ayn Rand - Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal - book

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