Smokers are increasingly becoming Public Enemy No. 1.
Pity the poor smokers. Not only do they have an expensive, smelly and unhealthy habit, but they increasingly are social pariahs.
The latest evidence of this undeniable social trend is the decision by Danville Area Community College to declare its entire campus tobacco-free. Not only is the use of all tobacco products off limits, but the ban extends even to unlit cigars, cigarettes and pipes.
DACC is, of course, free to declare itself tobacco-free for whatever reasons it feels appropriate, including the health danger posed by secondhand smoke and the unsightly appearance of discarded cigarette butts.
But the length and breadth of these bans goes beyond those explanations. Increasingly, this is looking like nonsmokers bullying smokers simply because they do not approve of their habit. That argument — called "setting a good example" — also is offered as a partial justification for these sweeping smoking bans.
It would not be the first time that some people have joined together to try to discourage or eliminate the vices of other people. There's a long tradition of that sort of thing, perhaps the most prominent example being Prohibition.
Indeed, hell has no fury like zealous nannies trying to improve the moral reprobates among us.
But this persecution by the majority of the minority is highly selective.
Obesity is a public health problem. Why allow soda and candy machines on campus or in hospitals?
Alcohol poses a huge threat to public health. Why do the streets of Champaign-Urbana overflow with beer on football weekends?
The obvious reason is that a lot more people like to overeat and consume alcoholic beverages than like to smoke cigarettes.
Cigarette or cigar smoke, obviously, can be obnoxious to nonsmokers, and some limits are certainly appropriate. But banning unlit cigarettes or asserting that someone smoking a cigarette in the middle of a campus quad poses a health threat to passers-by is a stretch.
Indeed, it's exactly the kind of overreach embraced by nannies intent on improving other people's behavior. Beware: It's the smokers today; it could be you tomorrow.