Tobacco use is a controversial subject. Our government–federal, state and local–has waged a war on smoking for decades. And yet, millions of Americans choose to keep puffing away, which in a democratic-republic founded on civil liberties and personal freedoms is their right. So why are we so eager to remind them that smoking is dangerous and wag our fingers at them?
Last week, I was perusing Pinterest when I came across this shot of Scarlett Johannson. It’s a promotional still from the 2006 movie The Black Dahlia set in 1940s Los Angeles. Unsurprisingly, as the film is a period piece with a hint of film noir, there are several scenes in the movie where the characters smoke. But several commenters were upset that the pinner would post the shot and reference it as being glamorous because Johansson was smoking a cigarette.
The discussion reminded me of a scene in the movie Thank you For Smoking where the Senator from Vermont defends his crusade to digitally alter classic films so that Bogart and Bacall’s cigarettes would be replaced with lollipops and coffee cups. (The scene is at time code 3:05.)
I was still pondering the photo comments on Sunday, when I watched a man standing outside of a restaurant approach a group of smokers and ask them to move further away from him. It was a public sidewalk. They weren’t breaking any laws. They were just standing eight feet away from him while he waited for the valet, but he felt empowered to ask them to move.
Now, I’m not a smoker. And yes, my decision not to smoke is partially influenced by decades of medical research that says that if I smoke I have a greater chance of dying from heart disease and various types of cancer. But the major reasons why I don’t smoke are the following: 1) it smells bad, 2) cigarettes are $8 a pack in D.C. and 3) nicotine use is a vice that I can do without.
But even as a non-smoker, I’m perplexed by how much vitriol and judgment is directed toward people who smoke.
According to research, one in five American adults smoke. And I’m certain that if you forced all of the “social smokers” and cigar smokers to check the box that number would be even higher.
Some of our society’s anti-smoking behavior is driven by a desire to avoid second hand smoke. We’ve banished smokers to stand in alleys and smoking zones. If they do find an establishment that allows smoking indoors, it’s in a special section, under special fans, away from all of the healthy, moral people. Our collective zeal has led some communities to ban smoking in bars, businesses, public parks and even smoking in your own home, if you live in a home that shares ventilation with other homes.
Women and men list their smoking status in their online dating profiles. Employers ask whether you smoke on job applications. Smokers are, for all intents and purposes, second class citizens. They are judged, they are ostracized and they are constantly reminded by people they know, and sometimes don’t know, that their vice/habit is unhealthy.
Smokers are not uneducated or unaware. Every smoker knows that smoking can be detrimental to your health, it’s written on the pack. You can’t turn on the TV without seeing commercials for products designed to help you quit smoking. And the public airwaves are filled with PSAs featuring former smokers with horrifying, life-altering ailments.
I guess what I’m saying is, we all have vices that are risky and unhealthy. Some of us drink too much. Some of us eat too much. Some of us get Brazilian blowouts or spend too much time in the sun.
We shame smokers for their choices, but would balk if they told us to stop drinking or tanning or eating cheeseburgers. What business of it is yours? We’d say. And yet, many people won’t hesitate to say to a smoker, “You know that thing will kill you.”
Trust me, they know.
So what do you ladies and gentlemen say? Do you smoke? Are you a dedicated non-smoker? Do you think we have a societal duty to rid the nation of smokers or do you believe in personal liberty? Leave your thoughts in the comments.
This is an interesting post, Belle, if very reminiscent of a recent hellogiggles article of people's right to choose to smoke, and I do think there is a considerable difference between choosing to be against smoking versus choosing to be against smokers.
kl: I avoid hello giggle because Zooey's twee behavior irritates me, but I'll def. look up that article. Thanks.
Ally in the City says:
“We shame smokers for their choices, but would balk if they told us to stop drinking or tanning or eating cheeseburgers.”
That's a valid point, Belle, but I think the difference (for me, at least) is that when you drink, or tan, or eat fatty foods, you're doing harm to yourself and really only yourself. When it comes to smoking, you're not just harming yourself–you're potentially harming everyone around you, too. Smoking is a personal choice, yes, but the fact that you become a human exhaust pipe when you expel the smoke means you're subjecting the public to your habit, too. I agree that it doesn't give people the right to be total jerkfaces to smokers, but smokers shouldn't be surprised when people get upset and move away from them, or ask them to move.
I recognize smokers have every right to light up, but I hate the act itself. I can't stand even the smell of it; my own personal form of daily hell is getting stuck behind a smoker on the sidewalk, and not being able to dodge around them to get a bit of fresh hair. What's more, my father passed away from lung cancer recently–not because he himself was a smoker, but because he grew up with parents who smoked and spent most of his young life inhaling the smoke secondhand.
I'm a smoker in the process of quitting (e-cigs FTW!) but it is an up and down process. And while I truly avoid smoking around non-smokers, and not in doorways, etc, every time some twit mentions its bad for me I have to take a huge drag to counteract the violent impulses that provokes 😉 Eventually, thanks to education, raising costs on cartons, and other efforts smoking will largely be a thing of the past, and I think that's great for multiple reasons. I don't agree with banning the sale of tobacco out right, any more than I favor banning the sale of junk food, alcohol, or even MJ, but I'm glad fewer and fewer people are taking up the habit in the first place, and that more are quitting. That said, moseying up to someone who's smoking and telling them its bad for them is as condescending and obnoxious as walking up to a fat person, pointing out how fat they are, and then lecturing them about their health, or walking up to a women in heels, and lecturing her about the damage she's doing to her calves, etc etc. In other words, unless they are blowing smoke right in your face, keep your mouth shut, and mind your own business.
“…or do you believe in personal liberty?” is one of the more loaded statements I've seen. Yikes. Smokers are hardly plucky rebels overturning a tyrannical regime. They're just regular people who have an icky-smelling habit that much of society frowns upon.
I don't smoke and have never been a smoker (unless you count a cigar every two or three years). I don't enjoy being around cigarette smoke, the smell makes me nauseated and headachy. My dad was a heavy smoker growing up, and I well remember family car trips where smoke blew into the backseat (and the resulting roadside projectile vomiting, yay). Overall, I think smoking is gross and skeevy. But I choose to be gracious, and not a self-righteous pill about it.
I do not allow smoking in my apartment, but I have no problem with keeping an ashtray on the balcony for guests. And if I am outdoors around smokers, I attempt to move out of the way of the smoke instead of asking them to move to suit me. And most smokers are polite enough to ask if smoking is okay, and then position themselves so the wind isn't blowing smoke into anyone's face.
Truthfully, if I could find a nonsmoking apartment building, I would be immensely pleased to live there. Having smoke come in through the vents, ruining my furniture and giving me a headache? Not my idea of fun.
Ultimately, I don't care what people do so long as it doesn't affect me. If you want to smoke, then don't do it in a confined environment where I have to breathe it. It's less about “liberty” and more about manners.
Why do people talk as if nonsmokers are not going to die too?
I am a dedicated non-smoker. I don't like to be around smoke, and it makes me feel sick. I will admit that I was more than happy when my city passed a no-smoking law in bars and restaurants, but people on Pinterest annoyed ab something a pinner pinned? Asking someone in public to move farther away from me? Those things are ridic in my opinion. I don't know when we, as a society, started getting so affected by EVERYTHING. Since when did it become a personal right to not ever see, hear or experience something we don't like and correspondingly, to expect an apology or change or retraction when we do experience such things distasteful to us? So, I guess you could say I believe in personal liberty. With a strong dose of sometimes-you-just-need-to-suck-it-up.
Sally Nonsmoker says:
Well said, Belle.
Shannon: Personal liberties aren't just limited to things we find wonderful and moral and hold in esteem. Personal liberty protects many things I find distasteful (hate speech, for example). You have a right to choose whether you choose what I, or society likes, or not.
It makes me want to scream when I see someone smoking in the car with their child. As you said, everyone knows that smoking is bad for you, so if they make the choice to smoke and get lunch cancer, their choice, But we all also know that secondhand smoke is bad and affects those who choose not to smoke, and that's where I get annoyed with smokers. Smoke in your house alone, smoke in your car alone, but don't make others, especially children, join you in your deadly habit.
I believe the vitriol against smokers is not necessarily that they themselves choose harm over health but rather by harming themselves they spread harm to others through second hand smoke. I invite you to visit the CDC site for some rather unsettling stats on the effects of second hand smoke on non-smokers. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/secondhand_smoke/general_facts/index.htm
Smoker's habits are a bit more of a public concern than food addicts or shopaholics — If I eat too much or max my credit limit on Brazilian blow outs, no one else's health is put at risk.
I don't smoke and I don't care for the smell of cigarettes. I don't think I'd date a smoker and I prefer not to be around smoking. That said, I get annoyed by the virulent anti-smoking regulation and attitude. I love no smoking in restaurants and bars – it's more pleasant and it works for me, but wouldn't it be better to let the market determine whether the population wanted smoking in restaurants/bars or not? Either make it illegal, or stop with the regulation of smokers. People are making a lot of money selling cigarettes, but it's the poor (who make up the majority of smokers) who are getting all the push back. I also live in a state fueled economically by tobacco, so it smacks of hypocrisy to relegate smokers to second class status. I don't think the government needs to regulate personal preferences or unhealthy choices.
No Drama Mama says:
Smoking does have an affect on everyone, not just the smoker, and that is the difference. Maybe if smokers weren't entitled to harm the environment, especially water, with all those discarded butts, I wouldn't be so against it. It's not just an issue of second-hand smoke, because that is generally brief, and can often be avoided now that it is banned in restaurants. But why the hell are they allowed to litter? If it were not for the tons of money the tobacco industry poured into protecting the rights of smokers above the rights of everyone else to have clean air, clean water, and clean streets, those ugly little butts that cover the sidewalks would be properly disposed of and much less hazardous.
And that is why I hate the smoking industry in general. Personal liberty? Please.
Joanna F. says:
Just wanted to ::bump:: Ally City's coments. I'm fine with you smoking, but if it's affecting my health (and the smell of my hair for that matter), please go elsewhere.
Ally in the City: I don't object to having no-smoking areas, though it does get obscene when we start banning them from public outdoor spaces. I do get upset though when we don't stop with second hand smoke. We're getting to a point where we're judging smokers and treating them like they belong to a lower moral class instead of just trying to keep their habit from impacting us.
Hill Mama says:
I am a proud non-smoker. I know that people have the right to smoke given it is a legal product. However, I don't feel bad at all about judging them for making a poor life choice. And I do not feel bad about giving smokers dirty looks when the smoke around my baby. And as someone who works in public health policy, I am very glad that steps are being taken to try and curb the use of tobacco. I hope the CDC, FDA, and so on are successful in their efforts.
Oh, and since you use the tanning example, I think tanning is awful too. Why anyone would do that to their body is beyond me.
I am all for personal liberty but with freedom comes responsibility and consequences.
Thank you for posting this Belle. How is it that I as a smoker must move? If you are so worried about secondhand smoke shouldn't you move? Let's be honest as well, how MUCH second hand smoke harms. A lot. It isn't like your standing in a phone booth filled with cigarette smoke. A lot of times the people who freak out and wag their finger at smokers are over dramatizing the situation
I love how some of the comments on the photo say that she looks like she should be in Mad Men and at the same time say that the cig has to go. Have these people seen Mad Men?
I find that many people who judge smokers and feel like they have the right to tell smokers what to do also act like that in other areas, but god forbid you point out one of their habits. I had a friend who is a singer so she refused to smoke or be around smokers (logical to try to preserve her voice) but she would get ANGRY if anyone lit a cigarrette near her. It wouldn't just stop at “I would appreciate it if you didn't smoke near me” it was more like “how dare you!? I make a living off my voice I must protect it!” She would get pretty judgey with her friend's decisions in other areas also, so I would chalk it up to some people are simply more judgemental than others.
Plus, the way society portrays certain lifestyle choices makes people feel entitled to be more harsh than necessary. Somewhere along the way because of all of the health conscious PSAs we all got the message that it's ok to treat people rudely because their habits are different from our own.
I'd never randomly tell a stranger their smoking habit is bad for them, but breathing their smoke is bad for me (not to mention the dry-cleaning costs! Trying to get someone else's smoke out of a winter coat is the worst!) so sure, if a group of people is blowing carcinogens in my face on a public sidewalk and there's no way for me to move upwind, I'll definitely ask them politely to move. Usually they do, no problem. Most smokers get that non-smokers find their habit noxious, and are cool about it if you're friendly and polite. It's worse when you're waiting in a line outside (for the ATM, to get into a restaurant, whatever) and someone is smoking, and there's really no way to avoid it. One of my least favorite things about traveling in Asia and the Middle East (or Europe, for that matter) is how much you have to breathe everyone else's smoke. It smells awful, it hurts your lungs, and it leaves a grimy film on your skin and hair – coming back to the U.S. after that is always a relief!
Smokers aren't a protected class, just a group of people voluntarily engaging in behavior that annoys and sickens other people. I don't find the “second-class citizen” argument convincing – smoking is a habit, not an inherent characteristic, and it definitely affects the rest of us. So although I wouldn't want to get rid of smokers, I'd love to get rid of smoking. That said: it's certainly a personal right to choose to smoke, although I wish I didn't have to pay insurance premiums for other people's preventable smoking-related illnesses. I don't lecture smokers, and I never would.
I think it's a bit extreme to ask someone to move away on a sidewalk (why not move yourself?), but as someone who is severely allergic to cigarette smoke, smoking is not simply a personal liberty issue. I also have a right to be able to go out in public without ending up in the hospital because of an asthma attack. If smoking didn't impact everyone around you, that would be one thing. However, by its very nature smoking impacts everyone else. Both groups can be respectful (move away from the smoke if possible), but recognize that this is not just something that impacts the smoker.
Belle – I'm not saying I think personal liberty is only for good things. I'm saying that, “Do you think we have a societal duty to rid the nation of smokers or do you believe in personal liberty?” is pretty darn loaded. Basically, you make it sound like if you are against smoking, you are against America. I'm sure that wasn't your intention, but it reads as biased.
Well said Belle!! As a former smoker (who may or may not still indulge in the occasional social cig) I definitely received dirty looks and snide comments for just walking down a sidewalk or standing outside a bar while smoking. I never minded the looks or the comments. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and it is my right to have a cig. However, it is also my right to politely decline to put out my cig or move further away from you. If I light a cigarette near you, it's not because I am purposely trying to offend you. It's amazing how some people take it as a personal attack – it's not. I just felt like a have a smoke sheesh.
I'm one of the irrational smoker-haters that Belle is talking about. I fully admit that it's something more than concern for my health or irritation that my clothes get stinky around smokers – there's something more visceral about my reaction (after all, cars don't fill me with the same rage, and they are significantly more damaging to the environment and to non-smokers' health than are smokers). Maybe it comes from my own history: My parents were smokers when I was a kid, and I have strong memories of thinking I was going to die in the backseat of their Oldsmobile as they both puffed away up front (and of my mom saying “Oh well!” when I told her that I was afraid I was going to die – but my parents aren't awful, they were just addicts).
Anyway: I never behave badly toward smokers, but I also won't tolerate it anywhere around me. No smoking in my home or yard. I won't go to bars or restaurants that allow it. I'll walk away if someone lights up (even from a friend). And I'm wildly supportive of any regulatory efforts to limit smoking in public places or, hell yes, in shared private spaces.
Personal liberty exists in tension with living in community with others. We have to make adjustments on both sides, all the time, about issues big and small. We restrict personal liberty in order to function as a society. We put cracks in the social contract in order to preserve personal liberty. This will always be the case. It's not a zero-sum game; one can believe fervently in personal liberty and understand that it is not the only value that matters.
This statement: “I don't think the government needs to regulate personal preferences or unhealthy choices” is problematic. Why is the government bothering with discouraging behaviors like smoking through regulation and PSAs? Because the government spends a LOT of money on health care costs in Medicare, Medicaid, etc. and though the skyrocketing costs of healthcare are not limited to the government by any means (overall rising costs plague both public and private systems), smoking is known to contribute to many chronic diseases that cost a lot of money to treat (cancer, cardiovascular issues, etc.). Why shouldnt the government discourage behavior that leads to higher costs to taxpayers and raises insurance premiums for people who dont smoke in private markets too? I realize it's an addiction, but many private insurance companies and even Medicare are now paying to cover smoking cessation programs for people who want to quit, because it's cheaper to pay for cessation than to pay for the long-term costs of chronic disease down the line. Basically, the argument that smoking doesnt affect anyone else is naive at best.
All that said, shaming isnt the solution.
“However, I don't feel bad at all about judging them for making a poor life choice.”
We disproportionately judge smokers compared to other who exercise poor lifestyle risk factors.
This all seems to boil down to heavy marketing (and justified) against the dangers of smoking. Smoking is a poor life choice because of the increased risk of cancer to both the smoker themselves and the people surrounding them. Tanning is a poor life choice because of the increased risk of skin cancer. OBESITY similarly increases cancer rates and influences health and lifespan in a whole host of ways. Do you judge an obese parent to the same extent you'd judge a smoking parent?
I'm not advocating that we become more judging of obese or tan people, on the contrary, I'd argue that trying to see life from another person's perspective requires far more insight, creativity and intellectual power than most of us have.
I don't think I could say it better than Ally in the City and Shannon, especially the line: “It's less about “liberty” and more about manners.” That said, manners apply to both smokers and nonsmokers. Chastising people you hardly know is both rude and counterproductive. As an avid non-smoker, I don't judge smokers for their habits, only the way it directly affects me. This applies to many, many situations (e.g. I won't judge someone who drank too much at a bar, unless they were to puke on or near me).
But when it comes those near and dear to us, it's hard not to say something. My cousin (and close friend) has recently gone from an occasional smoker to a very heavy smoker during the same time our grandmother has been slowly dying from emphysema caused by a life of heavy smoking. For me, it's really, really hard not to remind her of the potential consequences when they are right in front of us in such a personal and heartbreaking way.
I quit smoking when I moved to DC for my internship. I didn't want my clothes to be smelly and spend more money on dry cleaning, I didn't want to be smelly when coming back into the office, and because my American Spirits were so expensive! Now that I'm back at school though I still do enjoy the occasional cigar with my guy friends.
During my freshman year in college my roommates would make comments like “you smell like my grandma” and sometimes mean stuff but that really didn't phase me too much.
My now live-in boyfriend has been smoking since he was 14 and we're working on getting him to quit before he's a 10 year smoker. I've been really good about not feeling the need to pick it up again – especially considering how we're always around each other and he's a ~15 cigarettes a day type of guy. But, he spends $8.25 a daily on packs!
My boyfriend and I have always operated under being conscious of where we're positioned in relation to other people/how the wind is blowing, etc. when smoking but we've never been reprimanded by strangers..
Meg: You just hit the nail on the head for me. It's about manners. Don't smoke in my space, if I have a right to control that space, and I won't chastise you about your habit.
jane sterling says:
As a Canadian, smokers put more pressure on the already stretched thin health care system. As you have already stated, it is a know fact that smoking casue lots and lots of health related problems. However, if someone chooses to smoke all I ask is that they not blow it in my face!
Speaking of faces, I also don't smoke becasue it keeps your skin looking younger!!
“Chastising people you hardly know is both rude and counterproductive. As an avid non-smoker, I don't judge smokers for their habits, only the way it directly affects me. This applies to many, many situations (e.g. I won't judge someone who drank too much at a bar, unless they were to puke on or near me). “
I couldn't put it better than Meg. Great point!
Healthwonk, I was not in any way making the argument that doesn't affect anyone else – it obviously, scientifically does impact others, so perhaps I should alter my statement a bit: I don't think the government needs to regulate personal preferences or unhealthy choices <i>in this way.</i> I think the micromanaging of when and where someone can smoke is the wrong way of going about solving it. The other people impacted by smoking are generally members of the household or family, not the general public, and these types of regulations won't protect those “innocent” parties. I'd prefer that efforts be targeted at helping with smoking cessation and regulations that hurt the industry, rather than regulations that hurt the individuals who buy the products. I don't think keeping people from smoking in public is likely to make people quit buying cigarettes, or even smoke less, so it isn't effective at preventing people from harming themselves, and I don't think that casual, occasional second hand smoke contact, such as the kind one might be exposed to on a public sidewalk as described, is particularly harmful, either. I'm all for the government discouraging people from harming themselves, but I don't think this is a reasonable or effective way of doing it. It's like arresting the guy with a gram of cocaine while ignoring the guy who sold it to him.
Completly agree with Ally in the City.
I'm a non-smoker, and hate the smell of cigarette smoke. I never tell smokers that smoking is bad for them – that's their business, and dosen't affect me. What does affect me is the smell of cigarette smoke, and I get espeically annoyed when smokers use the “oh, it's outside so it doesn't affect anyone else argument” – unfortunitly, in a crowded city environment, chances are that someone else is going to have to walk through your smoke cloud, or that your smoke cloud is going into someone elses window or apartment – and affecting their personal freedom to not smell that crap.
With the arrivial of warm weather, I've had this delma with our new neighbors. I like to keep my windows open in the summer, and they (a group of 4 guys) regularly smoke on their deck right next to my window – as a result, my apartment is starting to smell like cigarette smoke. What to do? Does their right to smoke trump my right to have my windows open? They do have a yard that they could smoke in and is far enough away that it wouldn't affect me – do I have a right to ask them to smoke in their yard and not their deck? I don't want to be that neighbor, and I do want to respect their property rights, but at the same time, it seems that they are not respecting mine. I've lately been jumping up and closing the window whenever I start to smell the smoke wafting through, but that's not an ideal situation. Thoughts welcome!
Hill Mama says:
FYI: A lot of the recent efforts are geared toward getting people to quit (Quitlines) and regulating the tobacco industry and their products (FDA's tobacco center).
It isn't about it being a smelly or icky habit. It is about human health. Your* rights end where my begin. Your right to smoke shouldn't impede my right to breathe normally and freely. Since we know that second hand smoke is a killer why should those that choose to not harm their bodies be the ones that have to go out of the way to avoid smokers. Those people who are choosing a dangerous activity should be the ones to expend effort to avoid harming the bulk of the population that doesn't choose to engage in these activities. While I am a very strong advocate for personal liberties, I believe smoking in public areas should be banned. If the area is public, then the public should be able to enjoy it without the harm of second hand smoke.
Rights and freedom aside, cigarette butts are the #1 most common form of litter and marine debris. Childhood asthma and allergies are also on the rise and studies correlate these conditions to second hand smoke.
*Using the universal “you”.
As a former smoker, I was perfectly aware of its impact on my health and eventually quit. I agree that, when it comes to interactions between people in public, so long as a smoker is complying with whatever restrictions exist (for example, setbacks from doorways) and not invading your personal space, you have no right to tell them to stop. But I'm also with Healthwonk, I have no objection to the government taking measures to restrict tobacco use and sale. What's wrong with lowering the chances that people will acquire the habit in the first place?
Since you brought up personal liberty I have to go here…
I believe I have the personal liberty to do whatever I like with my body.. like the ability to have an abortion. If you are going to believe the government has no business in your personal life (like smoking) shouldn't that extend to other personal decisions?
MM, of course you have a right to ask them to smoke in their yard. I mean, they also have a right to tell you no. But I think if you already have a decent (or at least non-antagonistic) relationship with them, you could just go over there some neutral time, explain the situation, and ask them whether they might be willing to accommodate you (“…and I would never tell you what to do in your own house, but I was wondering whether it might be possible for you to smoke over there so that I can keep my windows open?”). See what they say. You don't have any real recourse and you're asking them to do you a favor, so you'll have to convince them to be considerate. Maybe bring cookies and/or beer. Good luck.
I agree that vitriol should not be directed at smokers for their habit and that they have a right to do as they please. It's true we all have vices. The difference is the way our vices affect other people. If I overeat, the smell of my overeating doesn't pollute the air in my immediate vacinity. My extra cheeseburger doesn't cause the person standing beside me at the bus stop to have an asthma flare up or increase someone else's chance of getting cancer. So, while I don't believe it's right to shame smokers, I'm absolutely fine with laws which limit the impact they can have on other people.
RVW I'm with you.
Smoking is not a dirty habit, it is a horrible addiction that has been systematically promoted by the tobacco industry for decades. Did you know that smokers had to be taught to inhale their cigarettes? When cigarettes first became popular, they were puffed into the mouth, the smoke was held there and blown out – no inhalation, and nicotine was mostly absorbed through the lips and inner cheeks. When tobacco industry scientists figured out that the lungs offered exponentially more square footage for nicotine absorption (and increased addiction), they gave seminars to smokers teaching them how to “properly” inhale their cigarettes and distributing posters advertising that “everyone else is inhaling, are you?” (seriously, google it).
My point is this. Cigarette smoking has resulted in 16 million deaths in the US alone (CDC data), and the scary thing is that the vast majority of tobacco induced fatalities have yet to occur – the 16 million are just the tip of the iceberg. Smoking is still a widespread issue because tobacco companies have succeeded in a. distributing enough nicotine into their victims' systems to keep many them from quitting because nicotine is one of the most addictive substances known to man, and b. the public still thinks of tobacco use as a “habit”, something that can be easily picked up or dropped.
The government and public health institutions need to continue to take on the tobacco industry, but because of personal liberty – the only way that we can really convince people not to smoke is to convince them that it is socially unattractive. people really give very little regard for their health in the face of beauty or 'coolness'. The fact that they are educated to the dangers of smoking and continue to smoke is proof of both the power of nicotine over a person and the power of image. If we, as a society, can paint smoking as a disgusting image – and by ugly I don't mean age appropriate or rebellious – I do mean disgusting – then less people will smoke.
A am a non-smoker and after reading this article Belle has really made me think about how much I judge people who do smoke. I've never gone up to a smoker and asked them not to smoke in front of me but I have thought about it and usually make a snide comment in my head and walk away (even from friends and family). I think my distaste for smoking stems from the death of my grandfather. He died from lung cancer and had been smoking since he was 12 years old. And my grandmother (his wife) also just recently died from lung cancer…she wasn't a smoker. Her disease was caused by secondhand smoke. So, I guess my fear is that I too will die from secondhand smoke so I quickly move away whenever a smoker is near.
Belle, I used to have the exact same attitude for decades till three things happened: one, my father died of a lung disease caused by his many years of smoking; I was diagnosed with asthma, most likely from my years of growing up in a smoking household; and three, I started working with cancer patients. Once I saw how much devastation is caused by smoking I became a strong advocate against it. Thirty percent of all cancers (not just lung!) are caused by smoking or exposure to cigarette smoke.
Now, I understand it is their body, their decision but because of the way healthcare works in the US, their decision ends up impacting more than just them. Treatments for cancer patients are very expensive and many of us do not have the coverage nor the money to pay for that treatment so in the end many patients end up using some form of government assistance. Overall, the damage smoking does to the body is just not worth it in my mind.
JW: Though there are many people who are addicted, not everyone who smokes is addicted. Just like not everyone who drinks is an alcoholic.
KM13: I'm sorry to hear about your Dad. My beloved Papa died from lung cancer when I was younger.
RVW: Who says I disagree with you?
K: A person who smokes is still a member of the tax-paying public. If he wants to smoke in a public park, I can move away from him. And do, frequently.
Like other said, the difference is that smoking harms those around you. My father passed away a few months ago at the age of 52 from lung cancer having never smoked a cigarette in his life and having hated cigarette smoke his entire life. So yes it makes me angry that there are smokers who fight for their right to damage other people's lungs. If you want to smoke in your own yard and your own house, that's your lungs and your business. But I have no problems with government banning it from public places. After all the government doesn't allow you to go around shooting your gun up in the air in public places either.
My biggest problem with smoking is something I don't think has even been mentioned. Besides secondhand smoke, there is another huge reason that smokers get flack from significant others and employers (hence the listing on online dating profiles and job applications) which is that smokers are slaves to their addiction. If I have another vice, I'm probably going to do it on my own time. I'm not going to take frequent breaks in the middle of making love or working on a big project at my office to eat cheeseburgers. If I brought my alcohol vice to the office, or often scheduled tanning sessions in the middle of the work day, I would end up being fired.
You can have a vice without addiction, but ANY vice that becomes an addiction is going to affect your personal and professional life. Drinking is a vice. Alcoholism is a problem.
I dated a smoker once and I wouldn't do it again. Besides his mouth tasting consistently of ass, no matter how much he brushed his teeth, I also had to frequently choose between sitting inside by myself on a date, or accompanying him outside in the heat/cold/rain/bugs while he smoked his cigarette. I grew to really resent the addiction aspect of smoking. I felt like I was in a love triangle with my boyfriend and his cigarettes.
Dr. Jean Grey says:
I believe everyone has a right to smoke. But, you do not have a right to invade my personal space with your smoke and pollute my air. Do it in the privacy of your own home or car. You do not have a right to make choices to be unhealthy and drive up my insurance premiums. It invades my “liberty” to subsidize someone else's vices. This is another reason why our insurance shouldn't be connected to work. I should be able to buy it on the private market, like car insurance. If you want to smoke, you can pay the extra “points” for it. It's not a pre-existing condition. It's one you volunteer ot have.
I hate smoking. But I also hate busybodies who feel the need to comment on everything on Pinterest that offends them. Leaving aside the “being in a place where people are smoking” issue entirely, if someone doesn't like a picture of Scarlett Johannson from a film that was set during an era when smoking was very common, just don't look at it. Scroll down for more waterfall braids and cupcake recipes, and leave the person who pinned it alone!
I realize this has nothing to do with smoking and everything to do with the “concerned internet citizens” who have designated themselves the Pinterest police. But it really grinds my gears.
Oh, I see that JW actually did mention addiction, and I know not everyone is addicted, but I really don't consider people that smoke occasionally in social settings to be smokers and I don't think they mostly consider themselves smokers either. Nor do I think they are normally the ones on the receiving end of negative comments.
Unfortunately, my social-only smoking friends probably DO give smokers a bad name since they only smoke when drinking, and are therefore more likely to be inconsiderate or throw their cigarette butts on the ground.
I think that these people on Pinterest are over reacting. But as someone who had severe asthma as a child, it is improving with age, I was always very affected by second hand smoke (and the perfume section in the mall). I do not expect smokers to be forced to cater to my sensitives but I do expect people to be aware of and courteous of their surroundings, but that's something I expect from everyone not just smokers. Usually I will move myself out of the way, I doubt I would ask them to move unless it was a confined space I had to be in and was causing medical issues for me.
Oh and a favorite line, not sure where I heard it:
“Having a no smoking section in a bar is like having a no peeing section in a pool”
Cigarette/Cigar smoke = Exhaust Smoke
I hate the smell of smoke & smoking in general and I am giddy that smoking is now banned at all restaurants in my city but I would never say anything to anyone about it in public because that would be extremely rude. If someone is smoking near me, I just move. I've never had any issues.
The issue I DO have with smoking, however, is the fact that my coworkers who smoke get to work less hours than I do. We are all at the office from 8-4:30 and take a half hour for lunch and multiple bathroom breaks. However, in addition to that they are allowed to disappear for 15/20 minutes at a time to smoke every other hour and it ticks me off. Management doesn't say anything because they don't want to step on their rights but it ticks me off that I have to work 8 hours and they get to only work 6 or 6.5 every day because they're addicted to cigarettes and I'm not. Then again, I'm reading Capitol Hill Style while I should be working so maybe I'm just a huge hypocrite 🙂
Fantastic discuss post per usual, Belle. I am not a smoker, but I do agree with you. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people frame smoking as a moral issue (for that matter when people frame anything unrelated to morality as a moral issue.)
I wrote a huge post that was completely inarticulate, so I deleted it and am writing this instead:
It's disgusting. It reeks. It makes me reek, even though I don't do anything at ALL to the offenders. It causes me to break into hives. It burns my eyes. This is our world, the children are our future leaders, don't smokers have any respect for anyone but themselves? It's a gross image that many businesses THANKFULLY don't want associated with them.
Sorry….I know it's sort of rude, but it's sort of rude when I have to cut the night short because someone else can't manage their nicotine addiction. I think anyone who has started smoking post-country-wide advertisements detailing the dangers is an absolute moron.
I'm with you Belle. Heaven only knows, once the smokers have been shamed and banished they'll be going after the fat people.
There are a lot of habits people have that are much more destructive than smoking and oftentimes we happily ignore them.
If you've ever been acquainted with an alcoholic and seen the unhappy consquences of their drinking you have to give smoking a second thought. Yes, secondhand smoke isn't nice, but neither are the lies and behaviors that alcohol lives with. More families have been harmed by drinking and drugs than have ever been harmed with tobacco.
Smokers are much better behaved than they were 30-40 years ago, a non-smoker rarely has to tolerate them. So leave them alone.
I am a smoker. I smoke about 2 a day (A huge cut down from a packet a day when I was working and studying abroad) I passively hide it from a lot of my family, it's not exactly that I care if they know it's just easier they don't because I feel like it would taint the image they have of me (Also, it means I avoid the constant quips of “That's gonna kill you someday” I already get from my other acquaintances. Yes, I know it might! but hell everything and anything can kill you these days, I could walk out that door and any number of disasters could finish me off so if I want to smoke I'm sure as hell gonna smoke! Anyway…).
I agree with many anti-smoking laws, such as a ban in pubs (back home anyway), but I find many people use it as an excuse to justify being plain rude such as the person who you mention asked those guys to move while waiting for his valet should his precious lungs get contaminated.
As long as smokers are courteous and do not essentially blow smoke in other peoples faces then it's no one else's business. I don't agree with people who drive cars and don't take advantage of public transport when they live in cities… I don't go around asking them to stop using their car's because in a round-a-bout way it's polluting my lungs…