SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Smoke Gets In My Eyes


March 26, 2009

Ketchikan, Alaska - I saw something unusual the other day.

jpg Dave Kiffer

Dave Kiffer

A guy was standing at the airport ferry ramp - Nowhere side - smoking.

No, that wasn't what was unusual. Even with packs of cigarettes hovering around $6, plenty of people in Ketchikan still smoke.

But when he was done, he walked over to the gutter, reached down, and doused his burning "butt" in the water and then stuffed it into his shirt pocket. Presumably to throw away later.

What he didn't do was flick it into the gutter for someone else to deal with, which is pretty much how everyone else in Ketchikan seems to handle their dead "cancer sticks."

I'm not sure when it became okay to litter puff butts around but folks generally show no indication that they see anything wrong about that. These are frequently the same people who complain about McDonald's wrappers and dog poop on the sidewalks. Go figure.

In fact, there are days when it is hard to walk on the sidewalk downtown in the summer and not get hit by the still flaming torches being jettisoned by the store clerks.

And with Ketchikan's large number of wooden docks and buildings, you would think folks would be a little more careful about something like that.

That of course is different than having to dodge the flying flaming "fags" like the one that splattered a bunch of sparks on my windshield recently.

I can only assume that it was the driver of the BDT (big dumb truck) ahead of me who launched it, although to be honest I was too busy "texting" with one hand and checking my GPS with the other see where the cigarette actually came from.

All I can say is thank goodness you can still smoke inside most of Ketchikan's buildings, otherwise you'd probably have one horrible conflagration after another in our fair Salmon City.

I compare that to our big neighbor to the south, Seattle. The Emerald City apparently has not only banned indoor aerosol tobacco consumption, but has also - the horror - made it illegal to smoke in doorways.

Imagine that. Not only do you have to "take it outside" but you also have to keep it there.

I personally can't imagine what it would be like to go into a Ketchikan public building without the thrill of having to walk through a thick haze (and step over the mound of butts) to do so.

Anyway, the last time I was in Seattle folks were engaged in a mild protest. They were standing in the middle of the streets to have their smoke (the centerline apparently being the required distance away from the doorways). I think the idea was to garner attention by bringing traffic to a screeching halt.

Unfortunately, traffic has been at a screeching halt in Seattle since May of 1996, so no one noticed that the centerline cancer chuggers were even there. Still, as they stood having to light and relight their gaspers in the rain, I'm sure they felt they were making an important point about personal freedom and choice.

At the same time, just to the north of us, the good Burghers of Juneau are caught up in the swirling fog of their own smoking debate.

They recently made it illegal to light up indoors in the Capital City.

And the unintended consequence is that is something like downtown Ketchikan in the summer.

You have to stagger down the narrow sidewalks from one smoke cloud to another and hope that you don't either (a) step off blindly into traffic or (b) die of second hand smoke.

For me there is a ( c ) as well. If I come home smelling of cigarette smoke, my wife assumes that I have been doing "research" in one of the local bars again. For me that leads to a worse fate than either (a) or (b) but as usual I digress.

I noticed that one of the elected officials in Juneau has suggested that the solution is to make it illegal to smoke in doorways like they do in Seattle.

Unfortunately, the streets in Juneau are so narrow that any distance more than 10 feet would pretty much put you in range of another doorway, even one across the street.

Maybe, the answer is to just do nothing. Cancer eventually kills. And if it doesn't, $10 a pack cigarettes does.

"Butt" in the meantime, take a queue from the guy at the airport. Don't just toss the reefer away. Stuff it in your pocket.

After extinguishing it, of course.



Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Contact Dave at

Dave Kiffer ©2009

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