Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Smoke and Punishment

Conversation I overheard today: A man says he hates the smell of cigarette smoke. The woman he's talking to (I couldn't see either of them) launches into a series of complaints. First she says she can't stand the smell of "dead meat" to such an extent that when she walks by the deli counter downstairs she faints at the smell. Then she complains that when she lights a cigarette at the bus stop in the morning people move away from her "even when they're upwind" - and says she finds that terribly rude.

My first reaction was along the lines of "What an idiot", but then I started to think that the woman has a point. (Other than claiming that she faints when she passes a deli counter.)

For example, I have heard two people in two separate conversations complain about driving past a bus stop and being bothered by smoke from people standing at the stop. When told that their car is spewing a lot more harmful fumes than come from a cigarette they're like, Everyone drives - what's the problem with that?

Or this one: Residents in my condo building complain about smelling smoke from people standing outside - even when the smokers are far enough away that no smoke gets in their units, just a faint smell - and so we've enacted a property by-law to keep people from smoking anywhere near the building. But residents can still control what they do in their own units, so they've just started smoking indoors - and the whole building shares air so we're brething in more smoke now.

The by-law is shooting ourselves in the foot, but the anti-smoking contingent doesn't care because, let's face it, the anti-smoking movement is partly about punishing people for doing something we don't like.

I don't like smoking either, and I hate the smell. I even dislike being on an elevator after a stinky smoker has been on. But there has to be a limit on how much we clamp down on smokers. Make it illegal to smoke in cars with kids, sure, but can't we let people smoke on the street?



Anonymous said...

I agree it's riduculous that people whose cars belch all manner of fumes into the environment get upset over people smoking outside. Smokers are an easy target as a minority group. Obese people will be next. I say, vive la difference!

Anonymous said...

I actually want to agree with you from a basic fairness perspective.

But I'm stuck with one issue - they really are not the same.

I can walk by streaming cars all day, and I DO NOT smell like car fumes. But if I stand in an elevator for two minutes where someone has recently smoked (which does still happen sometimes), I can smell the smoke on my clothes for several hours.

So they really aren't the same, no matter how bad car fumes may be for our health.

Just pointing out that there is something particularly invasive about cigarette smoke that other fumes don't possess.

But I get your point about the public mood going to far in regulating smoker behaviour.

Anonymous said...

Smokers a minority group? Oh, how oppressed! It makes me sad. Sad that you're such an idiot. Whatever. If you don't want to be oppressed, then don't smoke. It was your choice to begin, and now it is your choice to quit. I would not pass laws regulating smoking in the street, but I will give you dirty looks, I will move away from you at the bus stop, and I will make an example of you to my daughter within your earshot that smoking is a filthy habit picked up by the uneducated or the pretentious that too often ends in painful death.