Thank you for Not Smoking. Cigarette smoke is the residue of your pleasure. It contaminates the air, pollutes my hair and clothes, not to mention my lungs. This takes place without my consent. I have a pleasure, also. I like a beer now and then. The residue of my pleasure is urine. Would you be annoyed if I stood on a chair and pissed on your head and your clothes without your consent?
- Sign from Ken’s Magic Shop
New York has just banned smoking in all city parks. Remember when smokers felt they had the absolute right to smoke whenever and wherever the mood struck them? Remember when the right of non-smokers to breathe clean, non-tobaccofied air was deemed a quaint but ultimately indefensible notion? Having been the son of a father who force-fed his children second-hand smoke, I tend to be rather militant and intolerant on this issue. It could be considered a shortcoming, and I should (and could) be nicer about it…but I really can’t. Nothing gets me from zero to asshole faster than someone lighting up a cigarette around me. A childhood full of secondhand smoke has left me pretty insufferable when it comes to smoking, and while I don’t like being an asshole, this just happens to be my line in the sand. Many of my readers have disagreed with me on this point over the years, but it hasn’t changed my mind; my right to breathe clean, unpolluted air trumps your right to smoke. Period. End of story. I’m not saying that you can’t smoke (though if I was King of the World, smoking would be illegal). I AM saying that you simply don’t have the right to pollute the air I have to breathe in order to live.
Don’t try to disabuse me of this notion by force of logic or reason. At this point, I’m impervious to both….
If we see you smoking we will assume you are on fire and take appropriate action.
- Douglas Adams
I realize that my position may well be borderline irrational and unfair…but my experiences have created in me an abiding hatred for smoking (NOT smokers). This is my particular blind spot…and it’s not something I really feel the need to apologize for. I may well be unreasonable, unfair, and completely incorrigible…but at least I can be honest about it without feeling the need to apologize- because I’m not about to.
Like most of my generation, I grew up in a time when smoking was just what adults did. I just got used to my clothes always reeking of tobacco, because there was no getting away from it. My father used to smoke in our car as I sat in the front passenger seat…and in the dead of a Minnesota winter, you just can’t roll down the window for some fresh air. When my father smoked, I was forced to smoke. I know it wasn’t anything malicious on his part, but the end result was the same.
Thankfully, as I’ve gotten older, smoking has become progressively more marginalized as knowledge and the law have addressed the public health risks of secondhand smoke. During the ’60s, there was an anti-war poster that said, “It will be a great day when the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber.” My hope, and my dream, is that something similar will happen to those who smoke. On a personal level, I have nothing against smokers- love the sinner, hate the sin- but public health should not be subjected to the tyranny of a shrinking minority who feel they have an absolute right to smoke. Yes, I understand the constitutional and personal liberty arguments against my position, but this isn’t an issue I’m particularly dispassionate about- so a reasoned, rational debate is pretty much out of the question.
Inconsistent, unfair, irrational, prejudicial, indefensible- yes, my attitude towards smoking is all of those things and more. I could offer a half-hearted, meaningless apology, but I’d rather just own up to the truth. I’d carry a fire extinguisher with me if they weren’t so unwieldy. That may make me an asshole (and get my ass kicked on a regular basis), but in this respect I’m OK with that.
It really WILL be a great day when a smoker has to travel to Saskatchewan to have a cigarette…. ;-)