Friday, July 11, 2008

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes...

Today's rant will pertain to that most vile of demographics - smokers.

Now, don't get me wrong - I have personally known quite a few people who were otherwise very nice, but were possessed of this disgusting habit. The habit did not erase their positive characteristics, but it did lessen their worth as human beings in my eyes.

"Now, that's a bit harsh," I hear you say. This may be the case. It does not, however, make it any less true. I can see nothing, whatsoever, laudable about the habit. I do not vilify those who successfully kicked the habit - it is behind them, now, and they may have started for reasons beyond my ken. But those who "try" and yet continue to smoke, or, worse still, those who have never even tried to quit and sneer at those who do - they earn no points.

(This is principally targeted at those who smoke conventional cigarettes and cigars, but pipes and weed are certainly guilty of many of the same crimes.)

Why all this anger directed towards people enjoying a pull from some fine American-grown tobacco? Where to start?

  • Pollution - people complain of smog, and governments are legislating high-emissions vehicles off the streets. When the AQI is particularly nasty, children, the elderly, and those of an otherwise weak constitution are advised to remain indoors. Yet smokers seem to think that it's their god-given right to stand wherever they want and blow smoke into the air. Nevermind that being twenty feet upwind of a bus stop does nothing to attenuate the smoke concentration. Nevermind that you're exhaling pollutants many times more toxic than the cars whizzing by on the street. You're either such a slave to your nicotine addiction that you have to have that taste right now, or you're so bored that you can't think of anything better to do with your time. Both of these are reprehensible.
  • Littering - If someone finishes their McDonald's meal, crumples the wrapper, and tosses it on the street, most people (smokers included!) would look at them with disgust, and the bold in the crowd might even demand that they pick it up and dispose of it properly. Smokers, somehow, seem to think that their butts are exempt from this. They are not - neither legally, nor morally. A smoker who drops a butt can be charged with littering, and should accept that this is precisely what they are doing. Some smokers, should they ever read this, might say, "Oh, but it's just paper and plants. It'll biodegrade!" Bull. Anyone who walks the streets of any major city can tell where smokers hang out. The scattered butts accumulate until a street sweeper or cleaning person cleans them up, or until a rainstorm flushes them down into the city sewers. Either carry your own ashtray, or quit the damn habit!
  • Damage - There's a reason pretty much all North American businesses forbid smoking indoors. It's not the health issues (at least, not primarily), nor is it the risk of fire when cigarettes are combined with office paper supplies. It's the damage. The amount of smoke damage done to office buildings back when smoking was permitted in office buildings made most of the materials making up the buildings unrecoverable when the buildings were demolished. This same accumulation of crud (soot, tar, nicotine stains) occurs on anything a smoker smokes near. Speaking for my own area, smokers are permitted to (or, whether or not they're permitted, they do) smoke on their balconies, though not in their apartment. This is ridiculous. First, it spreads the smoke, and second, most of it will go straight back through the open door of their apartment anyway. The conditions under which you should be permitted to smoke in a building or in a vehicle ought to be: a) you must own the building/vehicle and b) the smoke has no means of escape from the vehicle/building.
  • Wasted Crop Space - with the biofuels/food crises gripping the land (though not particularly pressing in North America, it remains a concern), using over three hundred and fifty thousand acres to grow a slow poison seems an almost criminal waste of cropland.
  • Health Concerns - I live in Canada, so the concern I have is twofold. First, as with any area, people suffering from smoking-related illnesses take up space in hospitals that could otherwise be given to those with legitimate ailments that they did not induce themselves through an idiotic habit. Second, anyone who afflicts themselves with chronic bronchitis, emphysema, or other respiratory illness (or worse, Buerger's Disease) presents a massive drain on publicly-funded healthcare. This drain, and its reallocation of resources from those who need help and didn't bring their health problems on themselves, is not at all offset by any cigarette tax that could be levied. If smokers were required by law to either quit or give up their health cards, I'd be happy.
What sparked off this diatribe? Well, recently (hallelujah!) the city in which I live passed a law banning smokers (smoking ones, anyway) from bus stations, any indoor public venue, and anywhere within six metres of a door, window, or air intake of any sort to such public venues. As such, most coffee shops posted prominent notices indicating that there was no longer any smoking in their customer patios.

Did this stop the smokers? Not a whit. I saw one man lean back against the no-smoking sign as he lit up. There have been several outspoken letters in the newspaper where they declaim that their rights and freedoms are being infringed upon, and that they should be able to smoke wherever they please.

I'll tell you what, all those of you beholden to the god Nicotine - as long as I never have to see your butts lying on the sidewalk, or be forced to walk through your exhaust fumes when on my way about my day; as long as I never have to endure an interminable ride on the bus sitting next to someone whose clothes reek of cigarette smoke; as long as I never sit down to have a coffee, take a deep breath of the fresh morning air and choke on the pollutants you spew for your own entertainment and gratification; and as long as I never have to pay a cent to save your lungs from the toxins and grit you gleefully suck down... smoke wherever you want.

Tobacco is a filthy weed,
That from the devil does proceed;
It drains your purse, it burns your clothes,
And it makes a chimney of your nose.
— Benjamin Waterhouse

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