Last March, my missus called to say she was quitting smoking. I told her that was great to hear, but I privately doubted it was actually going to happen. She’d made such claims in the past and never lasted more than a few days. Well, this week marked one year of her being a non-smoker and I couldn’t be more proud of her for kicking an addiction she’d had since 17 years old.
Addiction is the key word in the above sentence. For some people, having one or two cigarettes a week with a glass of wine may be a habit of theirs. But for millions of others it is an expensive, unhealthy and smelly thing they have to do to get through their day. With all due respect, making them feel like crap because of this makes you an ass.
The self-righteous just love to hate a smoker. Sitting outside at a Starbucks the other day a middle-aged lady asked myself and another table of 30-somethings if we minded if she lit up. Before I could answer, “Of course not”, she was met with, “Yes, we’d prefer you didn’t- it’s gross,” from the other table. I gave her a look of sympathy as she got up and trudged off to the parking lot. It would have been polite to have let her have one cigarette in peace since she’d had the manners to ask in the first place, but in 2012 it’s apparently in vogue to be all up in other people’s business.
This is just one example of people’s willful humiliation of smokers. I’ve lost count of the amount of passive-aggressive looks or overly-dramatic coughs I’ve seen dished out by the self-appointed behavior police. Perhaps such intolerance and disrespect is bolstered by the loathsome TobaccoFreeCA commercials, which generalize all smokers to be a bunch of littering baby-killers.
Look, nobody is denying smoking is bad for those who do it. In 2005, my mother had a heart attack thanks to her twenty-a-day habit. Anyone considering starting should realize that it’s a terrible idea that will cost them money and shorten their life. I also agree that smoking in the presence of young children or pregnant women should be avoided.
Working in a pub during college, my shirt would stink like an ashtray after each shift. It was pretty foul. Banning smoking inside bars, restaurants, offices and airplanes was a great idea. Not only do we now need to do less laundry, we no longer have to sit in smoke-filled rooms. Health awareness has seen smoking rates in the US cut by half since the 1960s and, gladly, this percentage will continue to decline.
With such strides, it seems only fair to draw the line at directly haranguing those who do smoke. Whilst I don’t like the smell or taste of cigarettes at all, I do respect other people enough to let them have an open-air cigarette in peace where it’s perfectly legal to do so. The problem, though, is that enough is never enough for the anti-brigade. They become emboldened by every law passed in their favor. TobaccoFreeCA describes smoking as “irritating” to others. Well I find people who don’t indicate when changing lanes irritating. I find people who talk loudly on cell phones irritating. I find people who don’t say “please” or “thank-you” irritating. Nevertheless, I don’t make it my mission to ruin their day because of these things.
Before you say, “Well, those things don’t kill people”, first consider that not indicating while driving most certainly does, cell phones apparently emit cancer-causing radiation and rudeness raises my blood pressure. Secondly, ask yourself if you really believe the miniscule amount of smoke inhaled by someone lighting up outside a Starbucks really makes a difference to a healthy adult’s lungs? TobaccoFreeCA says it does, proudly quoting the US Surgeon General while asserting, “Even brief exposure to secondhand smoke is dangerous.” Not even they can say whether “brief” means one second, one hour or one week, and what exactly do they mean by dangerous? Dangerous like living in a country where the air we breathe is thick with smog? I sure hope everyone in support of their campaign has double-glazed windows, never barbeques and drives a Prius.
Were fleeting whiffs of second-hand smoke the devil it is made out to be, then tourism in countries like France, Italy, Spain and Israel would literally be a dying business. I’d never leave the house if I thought about all the things that may pose a risk to my health. To reaffirm, smoking does cost lives and it does raise healthcare costs. Additionally, unlike hereditary conditions, it is a self-induced state. Stopping all smoking inside public places is a good thing (for the third time). Regardless, if I’m stuck in traffic at 8am and I see someone with their window open, smoke plumes billowing, I don’t think they are contemptible. I think they are likely someone who wishes they didn’t smoke. Think about it – if you’re anything like me, then 90% of people you know who smoke wished they didn’t and have tried numerous times to quit.
For those with loved ones who suffer at the hands of cigarettes, you have my deepest sympathy. Encouraging them to quit, when and how you see fit, is your choice and responsibility – they’re your people. But this ends at the general public, where it’s selfish and disrespectful to make people feel bad for something they have little control over. Sensationalist shock ads encouraging us to tell total strangers they shouldn’t smoke are irresponsible avenues leading towards an even more anti-social way of living.
If you’re one of the people who prides yourself on speaking up against smokers (that’s smokers, not smoking) then you’ll probably hate this article and hate me. I’m totally fine with that. Just bear in mind it’s absolutely not my intention to try and change entrenched opinions on this matter, it’s more of a nod to let smokers know that not every non-smoker thinks they suck.
Image courtesy of tobaccofreeca.org