Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Carlton: Not a smoker's world anymore

Now and again someone comes out with a list that ranks who is least popular in America. Politicians, lawyers, people who sell us cars —and, yes, journalists — usually make the cut.

Related News/Archive

But we may have a new champion in smokers.

Kicked outdoors by laws to protect those of us who don't care to inhale what they exhale, they gather outside in designated areas as if they were under quarantine. In the rain they huddle under office awnings to puff away as nonsmokers pass by holding their collective breath. At restaurants where ashtrays once shared table space with the salt and pepper, they are sent outside like disobedient dogs.

And their world keeps shrinking.

Hospitals, colleges and schools are, one by one, banning butts even outside their buildings. The University of Tampa's recent decree that its picturesque campus would henceforth be smoke-free is just the latest.

This was not always so.

Years ago I talked to employees taking their cigarette breaks in a designated smoking area outside the most ironic of settings: Tampa's H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center.

And these were people witnessing the grim link between smoking and cancer on a daily basis.

Sometimes you would see Moffitt patients smoking outside, too, and pulling their IV poles along with them. The addiction is that fierce.

In 2008, Moffitt declared the hospital and surrounding campus smoke-free — a move with which you could hardly argue given its mission. Other hospitals have done the same. When the ban was coming into place at Tampa General, employees asked if they could maybe just lean over the sidewalk and smoke over the waters that surround the hospital. (No.)

When I was in public school in Miami, the teachers lounge was a mysterious place into which our instructors disappeared. (What actually went on in there was the subject of great speculation among the fifth grade.) We watched blue smoke curl from beneath the closed door and, when a teacher came or went, inhaled the escaping nicotine cloud from their hastily smoked Virginia Slims and Kools.

Fast forward, and now even a tarp-covered shack is no longer a smoker's haven.

Teachers and staffers at Pasco's Ridgewood High for years took cigarette breaks in what was called the "smoking shack" at the edge of the school property. (The indignity even that implies.) But as of July 1, smoking was banned and the shack both figuratively and literally was knocked down. Pinellas and Hillsborough had already banned smoking at school facilities.

I remember after the Clean Indoor Air Act passed way back when that a brilliant, chain-smoking judge I covered put a great deal of legal research into getting his private office exempted. It worked, but only for a little while.

Some smokers argue this brave new world smacks of Big Brother and big government, that personal freedoms are what we are supposed to be all about around here. Except your right to, say, drink as supersized and sugary a soda as you can heft in your two hands does not affect the health of the people around you. As everyone knows by now, secondhand smoke does.

Which put smokers on that list.

Sue Carlton can be reached at

Carlton: Not a smoker's world anymore 08/12/16 [Last modified: Friday, August 12, 2016 8:42pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays Tales: The stories behind Corey Dickerson's ascension

    The Heater

    The 25 pounds DH/LF Corey Dickerson lost during the winter through diet and exercise are considered the primary reason for his ascension to one of the American League's most productive hitters, going into the weekend leading in hits, multi-hit games and total bases, and ranked in the top five in average, runs and …

    Tampa Bay Rays designated hitter Corey Dickerson (10) connects for a sac fly, scores Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Steve Pearce (28) in the fourth inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, June 15, 2016.
  2. Gregg Allman of The Allman Brothers Band dies at age 69

    Music & Concerts

    SAVANNAH, Ga. — Music legend Gregg Allman, whose bluesy vocals and soulful touch on the Hammond B-3 organ helped propel the Allman Brothers Band to superstardom and spawn Southern rock, died Saturday, a publicist said. He was 69.

    This Oct. 13, 2011 file photo shows Gregg Allman performs at the Americana Music Association awards show in Nashville, Tenn. On Saturday, May 27, 2017, a publicist said the musician, the singer for The Allman Brothers Band, has died. (AP Photo/Joe Howell, File)
  3. Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning, a former senator, dies at 85


    LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Jim Bunning, a former Hall of Fame pitcher who went on to serve in Congress, has died. He was 85.

    In this June 21, 1964 file photo, Jim Bunning of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches a perfect game against the New York Mets at Shea Stadium in New York.  The Phillies beat the Mets, 6-0.  Bunning retired all 27 batters who faced him in the first game of a doubleheader to become the first pitcher in 42 years with a perfect game in regular season play.   (AP Photo/File)
  4. Trump to decide next week whether to quit Paris climate agreement


    TAORMINA, Italy —President Donald Trump declined to endorse the Paris climate accords on Saturday, saying he would decide in the coming days whether the United States would pull out of the 195-nation agreement.

    President Donald Trump, right, arrives to a G7 session with outreach countries in Taormina, Italy, on Saturday. Climate and trade were sticking points at the two-day summit in Taormina, Sicily. (AP Photo/Salvatore Cavalli)
  5. Gregg Allman, iconic Southern rocker from Florida's Allman Brothers Band, dies at 69


    The end can come quickly for those who live fast and live hard, who create worlds with their talent and sometimes come close to throwing them away.