I need to tell you up front, there are really only three types of people that I usually take an instant dislike to. The first are bigots. If you think that certain people have less value, or are less worthy than you of living the American dream just because you were born with certain characteristics and they were born with different ones, you and I are not going to get along. I was having a conversation with a guy who lives near me one day and he started dropping the “N” word into his conversation. I instinctively decided he had an I.Q. somewhere below that of a lump of coal, and have gone out of my way to avoid him ever since.
The second group I tend to dislike are the people who think that the only thing that matters in life is how much money you make. I see money as a necessary evil, and I do mean evil – the love of money drives people to act in a very inhumane manner toward their fellow human beings. I realize we are stuck in a world where money is a necessary evil (which is why I sometimes think we actually live in a reality as close to hell as most of us will ever see), but the type of person that really turns me off is the excessively greedy; the one that measures the worth of people solely by how much money they make, and of things by how much they cost. One reason I don’t like large corporations is because by design, they are solely focused on making money, and therefore tend to have all the bad characteristics of the greediest people you’ll meet.
There are other people that I tend to dislike, but am willing to cut them a break to some degree. For example, fundamentalist religious types — I think they are seriously deluded, but as they are, I once was (at least to some degree), so I can’t judge them too harshly. I may avoid them, but only because I realize they are not yet at a point where they are willing to explore the problems in their beliefs, and until they reach that point, any debate on the subject would result in a lot of heat being generated, but not much light. Such people have a path to walk, and sometimes they just really need to see the logical outcomes of their beliefs (turning into a really mean, hateful, ugly person with a very black soul) before they begin to seek the true light.
But the people that I most immediately take an instant dislike to are smokers. With a bigot, they usually won’t let you know they are a bigot right up front (there are exceptions, of course, but I haven’t run into too many of those). It’s the same with the money-grubbers — even clues such as how they dress or talk don’t always tell you what’s really in their heart; so it takes a while to figure them out. But with a smoker, you know the moment they pull out that cigarette and light it up. What do you know about them?
Well, you know they don’t care about their own health, and you know they don’t care that those they love might have to watch them get sick and die from a totally preventative disease. You know they don’t care that the medical bills associated with keeping them comfortable during the last days of said disease might drain their family’s savings, leaving them nearly destitute. You know that they don’t care that the money they spend on cigarettes could be used in far better ways, for the care of themselves and/or their families. You know they don’t care that those they live with have to at very least smell the stench of nicotine on their clothes, and that anyone that kisses them will be kissing an ashtray. You also know that at least some of those folks are spending money on cigarettes even though their children are living below the poverty level (sorry, kids, you aren’t getting Christmas presents because mom and dad need their smokes) and you know that some of them smoke inside the house while their kids or pets are present, damaging their own kids’ lungs.
You know they don’t care about their own appearance – nothing can make a person start to look ugly like a few years of smoking. And if they smoke at home, you know they don’t care about their home’s appearance either – maybe they don’t notice the yellowed ceilings and walls, or that all their furniture stinks to high heaven, but non-smokers sure notice.
You know that most of them smoke inside of their vehicles, not caring that this lowers the resale value of the vehicle, and that at least some of them do that when their kids, or their non-smoking family or friends are inside the vehicle. I have often said, and I firmly believe, that if a police officer sees an adult smoking in a car where children are present, they should have the authority to call child protective services and make sure those kids will never be put in that situation again, and the adult should be prosecuted for child abuse to the fullest extent of the law. Okay, if you think that’s too harsh (and I really don’t, given what we now know about the dangers of secondhand smoke), then give the adult one shot at rehabilitation – mandatory smoking-cessation classes under a doctor’s supervision, for which they have to pay (if they can afford the smokes, they can afford the classes). But if, after going through that program they are again caught smoking with a minor child in the car, they get mandatory prison time.
And when someone lights up in my presence, to me that is as personally offensive as if they’d walked up and urinated on my food. It means they don’t give a damn about me as a person, that they don’t care that they are damaging my lungs, making my clothing smell bad, and generally making me nauseous. I’d rather smell a skunk at moderately close range than a smoker (in fact, if there were such a thing as street justice, a fitting punishment for an unrepentant smoker might be to lock them in a room with an angry skunk, until the skunk does his thing. Then make sure he know that this is exactly how some non-smokers feel when he smokes around them).
Now, I do realize that not all smokers are inconsiderate. Some realize they are fighting a filthy habit. They don’t smoke inside their home (unless they live alone, and are prepared to pay the cost of having a professional company try to clean up after their habit when they are ready to move), and they don’t smoke in their car if kids or non-smokers are riding along. If they smoke at work, they do it outside (even if it is -30 degrees) and move far away from the doorways, so that others who need to enter and exit don’t have to breathe their smoke. They try to be aware of which way the wind is blowing, and stand so that their smoke doesn’t drift toward others. If they are with a non-smoker, they don’t even ask if it’s okay to smoke (would you ask someone else if it’s okay to spit on them, or urinate on them?), they just don’t, unless they can get far away from (and downwind of) the non-smoker(s). They don’t go into a public bathroom to sneak a smoke and then leave it reeking of smoke for the next user. That kind of unselfish smoker is unfortunately all too rare, in my experience, but to the extent they exist, I sincerely hope they can find effective help in kicking the habit. I realize that such folks are the victims of the big tobacco marketing campaigns (and in some cases, cigarettes “spiked” with added nicotine to make them even more addictive), so for those folks I have some sympathy. For the selfish smokers that (at least in my experience) seem to comprise the majority, I have little sympathy — once you start inflicting your nasty habit on others, you are no better than a common thug that goes out and assaults people at random.
There’s one other point that needs to be made. Some people, even some non-smokers, have somehow come to believe that this is a matter of personal freedom. Well, as the old saying goes, your freedom ends where my nose begins (and not just my nose, but my clothes, and the interior of my car or my home as well). However, the argument is sometimes made that if the government gets away with restricting the “freedom” to smoke, they will feel emboldened to attempt to regulate other “unhealthy” activities. Of course, if you think about it for a couple of seconds, that ship has already sailed and is now ancient history. Our government has deemed that many drugs, including those that are nothing more than the natural byproducts of plants that have been around for centuries, need to be regulated. Viewed that way, tobacco is just one more dangerous and addictive drug that should have been banned long ago, if there were any consistency in the law.
Still, I could have some sympathy for that argument — I happen to think that the government in the United States is very overbearing on the personal freedoms of Americans (and regularly treats our Constitution as something akin to toilet tissue in the process). You know something’s wrong when wealthy Americans are, in increasing numbers (and especially when nearing retirement age), choosing to leave the United States and move to other parts of the world, where their freedoms are not so put upon — and many of those destination countries have anti-smoking laws as well, so that’s not the issue. I don’t want my government to keep me absolutely safe — that should be my responsibility. If, for example, I want to ride a motorcycle without wearing a helmet (something I personally think would be a very stupid thing to do), that should be my choice, since I have long since passed the age of 21 and am past the years where peer pressure by my stupid teenage friends might unduly influence me to do stupid things. And I don’t like automobile seat belt laws for the same reason.
But the major difference is this: If I choose to sit and gulp down spoonfuls of white sugar instead of eating healthy food, or eat nothing but artery-busting hamburgers with enough grease to saturate the bun, or do anything else that adversely affects my health, it mostly affects just ME. Smoking is one of the few things I could do — deliberately exposing myself to an airborne disease and then coughing right in your face would be another — where my lack of care for my own health could directly affect your health negatively. In that case, you have every right to hope and expect that the law will protect you from my attempts to ruin your health (and more so if I were a minor child in your care). Otherwise, it’s none of your business (or the government’s) what I choose to eat, or how I choose to protect myself.
I know someone’s going to bring up the argument about “yes, but if you get sick or hurt, others have to help pay.” Well, please remember that the next time YOU choose to engage in an activity that’s even the slightest bit hazardous. If you can restrict others from eating “junk food”, maybe they will restrict you from swimming (people drown and nearly drown), boating (people fall overboard), fishing (people fall off piers, and there’s mercury in fish), any form of winter recreation (people fall and break bones on the ice, and while skiing, snowboarding, etc.), paragliding, parasailing, skydiving, mountain climbing (people fall from heights and get killed, or in the mountains they die of exposure), hiking in the woods (people get lost, run into bears and other dangerous wildlife), surfing (people drown, or get bitten by sharks and other nasty sea creatures), or even golfing (people get hit by golf balls and even falling tree limbs!). I’m sure that some insurance companies would prefer you live in a rubber-lined room and eat nothing but bland, organic vegetables. My point is that part of the human experience is doing things that aren’t completely safe — otherwise roller coasters wouldn’t exist — and that adults need the freedom to choose how much they wish to live life on the edge in order to gain experiences, whether that means occasionally eating unhealthy but tasty food, or engaging in an extreme sport such as auto racing.
So, I am definitely NOT for restricting personal freedoms as a general rule. But smoking is the exception, precisely because when a smoker smokes, he pollutes the air (and sometimes the living space) of others. Viewed that way, smoking (as practiced by most smokers) is one of the ultimate acts of selfishness. In my opinion, a nicotine addict should be viewed in much the same way as a sex addict – yes, it’s an addiction that needs treatment, but first and foremost, the addict needs to be stopped from hurting others. And that is what this new Michigan law (along with similar laws in several other states) is intended to do – stop the nicotine addict from hurting others because of his addiction.
This new law could be better – I totally disagree with the exemption for the casinos, and I also think that a companion law should be passed that protects minor children from having to breathe secondhand smoke in all circumstances, but especially in vehicles (where the secondhand smoke is concentrated in a very small space). I’d like to see a vehicular smoking law, that states the following:
- It’s a misdemeanor (first offense) or felony (subsequent offenses) to smoke in a vehicle where anyone under the age of 21 is present. First offense requires either jail time or completion of smoking cessation program. Second offense requires reporting to Child Protective Services to assess whether children’s health is being endangered by being confined in vehicle with smoking adults.
- Assault charges can be brought against a driver or passenger who smokes in a vehicle after being requested not to by a non-smoker. Also the non-smoking passenger could sue the smoker in small claims court and receive $300 in statutory damages per incident ($5,000 per incident if required to ride in the vehicle as a condition of employment, and the employer could be held jointly responsible if there is no policy against smoking in vehicles during work-related trips).
- Employers would be forbidden from firing or otherwise penalizing an employee who refuses to ride in a vehicle with smokers (it would be a criminal offense if the employee is under age 21).
- Smokers would not be allowed to participate in publicly funded carpooling or ride-share programs, unless such programs do not place smokers and non-smokers in the same vehicle under any circumstances.
- It would be an offense to use a carpooling lane while smoking (if we even have any of those in Michigan).
- Smoking while driving would be considered a separate chargeable offense if it can be proved that smoking, or an activity related to smoking (such as searching for a lighter or matches) is a proximate or contributory cause of a traffic accident.
- Any business that sells gasoline may not sell tobacco products (nor may a store that primarily sells tobacco products, such as a “smoke shop”, be opened within 250 feet of a gasoline pump, though existing businesses would be grandfathered in as long as they are not owned by the same company that owns the gas station). (And yes, I know what the chances are of getting that one passed, but it would remove a lot of temptation).
- Used vehicles offered for sale by a dealer must be tested for nicotine buildup in the headliners and other fabric parts of the vehicle (such as seats). If nicotine residue above a certain concentration is detected, that must be clearly disclosed at the time of the sale (it would be permissible to attempt to clean the residue and retest, or to replace contaminated surfaces, but prospective buyers must still be informed of the before- and after-cleaning test results). Cars more than 15 years old would be exempt from this required testing, as would private vehicle sales or auto auction sales.
Note that nothing above would stop a person from smoking in their own car when there aren’t any children or non-smokers riding along. In an ideal world, tobacco would be treated as it really is, a far more addictive drug that other drugs that are now totally illegal to possess. For example, tobacco is more addictive than marijuana (especially when the tobacco companies “spike” the nicotine level), yet unless you have the clearance to smoke marijuana for medical reasons, they’ll throw you in jail for even possessing a little pot. That, to me, seems totally ridiculous – at least marijuana arguably has some medical uses (and I did vote to legalize it for medical purposes, in case you were wondering) but tobacco is only still legal because the big tobacco companies have had so much influence in government, even though we know how dangerous it is to both smokers and those that have been forced to inhale second-hand smoke, and has virtually no medical benefits (certainly none that outweigh the damage it does to the lungs and to other parts of the body).
Now, I know that some smokers that read this will think I am the world’s biggest ass for even daring to write this (even though I’m probably saying something a lot of your non-smoking associates would like to say), and if that’s how you really feel, then I assure you that if I ever met you the feeling would likely be mutual (I know this because I’ve run into your kind before). On the other hand, many people who read this, smokers and non-smokers alike, will know exactly the type of smoker that causes non-smokers to react this way – the inconsiderate moron that doesn’t care how many non-smokers he offends with his habit, even if they are members of his own family. It’s similar to the guy who gets drunk and then says all sorts of nasty and offensive things to the people around him – even if he’s a nice guy when he’s sober, he’s still a jerk when he drinks. The same is true of smokers – I don’t mean to categorize them all as evil people, but when they smoke, many of them seem to forget all about others and think only of themselves. I truly do have sympathy for those who are trying to quit and having a hard time, but if you have any love at all for those around you, don’t let the fact that quitting is hard stand in the way of doing it. Talk to your doctor, or to a hypnotherapist, or to the American Lung Association, or to someone else you think can help, but just do whatever it takes to quit.
And if you have kids, and if you love them, don’t let them ever start! Check them for tobacco use the way you’d monitor them for illegal drug use. Smell their clothes and the inside of their vehicle, if they have one. If you find out that one of their friends smoke, react the same way you’d react if you found out that friend was using a dangerous drug. Make it very clear from the time they are about five years old that you have zero tolerance for smoking. Of course, if you smoke you’ll have no moral authority in the matter, so that’s another great reason to quit!
EDIT: It’s been less than 24 hours since I posted this and even though it’s a Sunday, it appears that someone who’s acting as a sock puppet for the tobacco industry found this post and attempted to leave a comment (which I rejected primarily because it had almost no original content, but included three links to pro-smoking propaganda sites!) . So let me make it clear – if you want to attempt to refute anything in this post, please do not send links to propaganda pages (you will note all of the above is my original writing; there are no links to any other page in this article). Instead, respond to the points I made in this post (not points that some “straw man” anti-smoking group supposedly made somewhere else – I didn’t quote them, and I’m on to that trick). I’m willing to discuss anything I’ve written, but I’m not willing to try to refute some ridiculous argument that some (possibly non-existent) anti-smoking group supposedly made – if you have an issue with someone else, take it up with them.
And just so you know, in order to refute this post, you’re going to have to prove that secondhand smoke isn’t harmful to others (and especially children, and especially when they’re riding in a vehicle with a smoker) — good luck with that — and you’re also going to have to prove that the stench of tobacco smoke isn’t repugnant to the majority of non-smokers, and the only way you could make that argument is if you’re totally oblivious to the reactions of non-smokers when you light up in their vicinity (particularly those that don’t have to try to get along with you for one reason or another) — or if you’re a shill for the tobacco industry!