This is the third and final post in a series by Bill from California, a Blisstree reader, former smoker, and active member of our passionate community of commenters. Read Bill’s previous post and first post here, where you’ll also find Blisstree’s original smoking post by Liz Lewis.
Am I a Former Smoker? Part 3
Is secondhand smoke really as dangerous as they say?
The jury is still out, but I expect that the answer is no. At least, I have seen nothing that causes me to think that this particular kind of hand-wringing has merit. I am the first to agree that smoking cigarettes is dangerous to your health. On the other hand, while I cannot say with certainty, I strongly suspect that much of the hand-wringing about secondhand smoke is manipulative B.S. promoted by activists. It is aimed at exploiting our fears by frightening us into accepting mean-spirited and even draconian ordinances that make smokers’ lives a little more unpleasant, but do nothing for public health per se. It’s designed to get rid of smoking by pushing smokers into uncomfortable and even humiliating situations, battering down their absolute right to engage in an unhealthy but somehow very human activity that many find comforting.
What’s more, the ordinances that result from these efforts can themselves be dangerous to smokers’ health. For example, requiring individuals to smoke 20 feet away from a public building in downtown Berkeley during a rainstorm borders on the sadistic, and the same mean-spirited ordinance will put you into the path of oncoming vehicular traffic even on sunny days?
The activists are gaining ground. Hostility toward smokers and secondhand smoke is growing. I’ve seen duly-indoctrinated non-smoking pedestrians become agitated when they smell someone smoking on sidewalks, even to the point of waving their arms and issuing hateful drop-dead looks to the smoker. A few years ago I was having lunch at an outdoor restaurant, and after eating I stepped well outside the dining area and lit a cigarette. A woman seated at a table fifteen feet away complained indignantly to me that my smoke was getting into “her air.”So I moved away and said: “Sorry, I was unclear on where your air ends and mine begins.” Surely I can understand that non-smokers may not want to put up with my smoke wafting across their crème brûlée. But her ostentatious tone was unnecessary and rude. It showed that, as a smoker, my right to expect polite treatment has been compromised, and I should have to endure her hostility because I am a pariah.
This is the result of the anti-smoking zealots’ mean-spirited effort to make the lives of smokers as miserable as possible.
Why are smokers such easy targets?
You know the answer to this one. They have no organization to speak of, they feel like pariahs because they are treated like pariahs, and finally, they have grown willing to silently accept the abuse that is leveled on them. As a former smoker, I think it’s a shame that smokers have been so beaten down that now they run, rather than stand up and fight for their rights.
Why do the zealots bully smokers?
This, too, is an easy one. Many in the public health community want to get rid of smoking because it has been determined that it is a (perhaps the) primary cause of lung cancer – a nasty disease that is very expensive to treat. One can argue that this is a legitimate and even righteous goal. But is it possible to achieve it? My answer is no. What we have instead is a conflict in which the zealots, having largely won their battles with tobacco companies, have now turned their attention to individual smokers. They do this because they can do it (after wrapping themselves in motherhood and flag), because smokers don’t fight back, and because the activists are getting something from it. I leave it for you to speculate on exactly what the subconscious payout is for these bullies.
Finally, I find this indifference to the health of smokers like me to be shocking: What’s important to the zealots is their anti-smoking agenda, not my health or your health. Once I understood that, I found their lack of compassion in advancing their agenda to be chilling.