As a sensitive, new age guy, I recognize that the smoker has become an oppressed minority, a marginalized and ostricized member of society, treated like a leper, forced to smoke 10 feet from building entrances in the middle of winter while engaging in a legal behavior.
I don’t care. I feel no pity.
When I was a kid, I used to go to O’Leary’s market at the corner and buy cigarettes for my father. (You used to be able to do such things, back in the bad old days.) Winstons, they were.
Some point after the Surgeon General’s warning about the risks of lung disease from cigarettes, my father developed emphysema. He quit, but when the symptoms went away, he went back to smoking. I thought this was the dumbest thing he had ever done, and I (gingerly) made that known to him. Eventually, I started stealing his cigarettes, first a few at a time, and then whole packs. (He bought them by the carton.) I figured if they became expensive enough, he’d have to quit. Packs were already up to 35 or 40 cents. Soon, my father tired of my behavior and said, “Roger, give me back my cigarettes,” and I did.
Eventually, my father quit smoking. He’d argue otherwise, though. He’d say that he never quit, he just stopped for a day, then another day, until it became over 25 years of another day without tobacco.
Back in 1972, I was in an elevator at college when a guy was coming onto the elevator and about to light up. I pleaded with him not to. He said, “Why? Do you have asthma?” I lied, “Yes!” and he didn’t light up. I have a very good nose, and I’ve sussed out a smoker at 30 feet. I don’t know if I’m peculiarly sensitive to smoke, but I do know that physically it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to be around smoking, or heavy smokers, or even where smoking has taken place recently and/or heavily.
I’m not as nice about this issue as I used to be, especially since I’ve had a child. I suppose I can live with people offing themselves, but I draw the line when they’re slowly killing me and those I love. I really suffer when smokers smoke in open air stadia. It may be pouring rain, but I’ll leave a bus kiosk before standing next to smoking.
Tomorrow is the Great American Smoke-Out where people are supposed to try to quit tobacco. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths both among men and among women. One cannot nag someone to quit: see Steve Gerber on August 10. (Mark Evanier had some interesting observations about this back on August 9.) Good luck to those who desire to quit.
My bottom line on smoking: my right to life and my liberty from smoke is more important than someone else’s pursuit of happiness from tobacco.