As soon as the man closed the door, Montalbano felt a violent need to smoke. But it was forbidden, and rightly so, since, as everyone knows, passive cigarette smoke kills millions, whereas smog, dioxin and lead in petrol do not.As in Vigàta, so in Philadelphia. The city where I live was in the forefront of the movement to ban smoking in public places, and the most recent former mayor may be best remembered for urging the city to lose weight.– Andrea Camilleri,
Excursion to Tindari
These are worthy goals, but I can't help suspect that they were at least in part diversions to take the city's mind off its shrinking population, constant threats of reduction in city services, and winking disregard of laws that are supposed to regulate billboards and mandate public access to sidewalks, among other things. One could make the case that Philadelphia has been in decline since the middle of the nineteenth century, but to acknowledge this would be unoptimistic – that is to say, un-American. Alternately, elected officials may have gravitated to mom-and-apple-pie issues like smoking and obesity because they felt helpless in the face of larger economic forces.
It's no stretch to suggest, as Camilleri does, that individual smokers make easier and safer political targets than do big industries.
© Peter Rozovsky 2009