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Smoking ,no, but free speach yes

Smoking. Free Speech.
Two separate subjects, right?

Not if you've been following the story of Gatlinburg businessman Ira Lapides. Somehow the two issues have become entangled to the point that common sense has fallen prey to indignant posturing.

Ira Lapides is a Gatlinburg businessman who owns a tobacco shop. He has been a good citizen in his home town, serving on committees, volunteering and generally taking an interest in Gatlinburg and its environs. He is, in the community sense as well as the legal sense, a public figure.

Ira is a strong proponent of smokers' rights. For years he's wanted to present his arguments at the national level, particularly on the Phil Donohue Show. He's gotten nowhere.

As a last-ditch effort to force a forum for himself, he's chosen to go on a hunger strike. He is now entering the third week of that strike, and most of the media have been ignoring him. The Mountain Press has not ignored him. If you've read about his strike anywhere, it's been in this paper.

Now we are under attack for reporting it.

I want to explain our stance.

Contrary to what some letter writers seem to think, our logo is an old fashioned printing press, not a cigarette butt. If you come to The Mountain Press offices, you will not have to endure clouds of second-hand smoke. We don't give out cigars to celebrate the birth of every new paper.

Au contraire, at the time we were printing the first stories of Ira's proposed strike, The Mountain Press buildings went smoke-free. That was the final step in a long campaign to stop workplace smoking. We have had contests and incentives here to persuade employees to quit, and many have. The few who still cling to their addiction now indulge it outside the back door.

I agree wholeheartedly with the non-smoking policy. I'm the worst type of anti-smoker, a reformed smoker. In the 15 or so years since I quit, my body has become less tolerant of second-hand smoke. I'm very happy to work in a smoke-free environment.

No amount of argument, on the Donohue Show or anywhere else, will ever persuade me that smoking isn't harmful.

However, it's my job to ensure that our readers POST the news. Ira Lapides and his hunger strike are news.

What's the last time that anyone around here went on hunger strike? I've lived here 10 years and certainly don't remember a similar incident.

The arguments for not running the story don't make sense. Here are some I've heard:

"I don't like his tactics." (This came from an editor of a Knoxville paper that had run Dr. Jack Kevorkian's briefly threatened hunger strike as its lead story). Well, I don't like murderers' tactics, either, but if somebody is murdered we'll run the story.

"It will encourage other people to go on hunger strike to POST what they want." Really?

"Smoking is lethal." I agree. But what this argument is saying is that because you don't agree with someone, he's got no right to be in the newspaper. So long, First Amendment. So long, anything controversial. No letters to the editor, columnists, editorials, stories outlining two sides of an argument.

The irony of the whole situation is that we are now receiving letters to the editor castigating us for running the story. The letter writers still, however, expect us to print their point of view. How's that for logic?

I don't think much of Ira's cause, and the national media certainly are not obliged to give him the forum he wants if they don't want to. But we do want to; we feel obliged to. And those who cannot separate the smoking issue from rights of free speech need to think very hard about what they are saying.

Most of all, I wish the whole thing was over. The bottom line is that a decent man is putting his health and perhaps his life on the line for something he believes in. His family is suffering, and so is he. There are, I hope, limits on how far he is prepared to go.

Some stories we just don't like to publish.

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95% of our orders are shipped the day they are received.

Area information for Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Sevierville and the Great Smoky Mountains.   Make it a perfect day and enjoy a meal at one of our Gatlinburg restaurants.
  • You MUST be at least 18 years of age to purchase tobacco products in Tennessee!
  • We do not sell tobacco products in Maine or Arizona.
  • All Packages are shipped US Post Office unless you specify UPS.
  • All Customers will be Charged for Shipping & Return Postage on any Refused or Returned package(s).
  • International Customers: You are to check with your local customs & duty officials to see if there are additional duties or fees required, or if there are prohibitions on tobacco or amounts of tobacco which can be shipped to your country.
  • Charge card customers may order by calling
  • To check on an order call 865-436-4412, 9am-3pm Eastern Time Monday-Friday.
  • Visit our showroom on D-Level of the Mountain Mall, on the corner of Parkway and River Road in Gatlinburg!
  • We are open 7 days a week.
  • Prices subject to change without prior notice.
  • No Cash Refunds. Merchandise credit ONLY on returns.
  • We DO NOT ship cigarettes.
The Gatlin-Burlier
603 Skyline Dr.
Gatlinburg, TN 37738
24hr Fax: 1-865-430-7476

© 2009 Gatlinburlier, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


WARNING: This product contains nicotine. Nicotine is an addictive chemical.


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