Smoking is stupid and brings out the worst in people

jsoutherniconYou’re driving down the road when all of a sudden a shower of sparks erupts alongside the car in front of you.

Perhaps you’re walking through a public place when someone nearby blows a cloud of smoke (or vapor) out their mouth and smugly takes another drag.

Those little eruptions cause volcanic flashes of anger inside of me. Smoking is one of my biggest pet peeves. (For the record, when I talk about smoking, I’m including vaping, e-cigs, joints and any and every other form of recreational inhalant.)

I don’t know what bothers me more, the violation of having vile, smelly pollutants involuntarily forced upon me, or the arrogant, uncaring selfishness of the smoker. I’m a very character-driven person and I find smokers to be seriously lacking in that regard. I was subjected to second-hand smoke throughout my childhood and early adult years. I hate it and I hate what it did to me. I hate seeing what smoking does to people. I got into many heated arguments about smokers “rights” over the years, mostly with people in positions of authority over me. Fortunately, the laws have been on my side and supported my position and my rights.

I fear, however, that the pendulum is beginning to swing back the other way and that has me gravely concerned. From the growing trend of artificial cigarettes – e-cigs, vaping, etc. – to the state-by-state push to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, we are seeing smoking making a major comeback at a time when, ideally, it should be eradicated.

I fail to understand why anyone would even consider starting that nasty habit. There isn’t a person in this country who hasn’t been taught from an early age that all smoking and tobacco use is bad for you. The link to cancer, emphysema and many other diseases and health problems is indisputable. Children who are subjected to second-hand smoke are at greater risk of illness such as SIDS, asthma and allergies. The addictive nature of tobacco and the extreme difficulty in breaking its grasp are well documented and profound. So why anyone would even think of trying it is beyond me.

In order to start smoking, it means you are wantonly ignoring not only the health risks to yourself, but also your loved ones and others around you. That is an intensely selfish character trait. In many cases, people take their first puff because they have caved in to peer pressure. Being a weak-willed follower is just another character flaw in smokers. There are some who try it out of curiosity to know what it’s like. Curiosity is understandable, but you don’t have to pee on an electric fence to know it’s a bad idea.

When I say that smokers are selfish, I mean it. There is only one person in the room who derives any kind of pleasure out of smoking and that’s the person doing it. It is of no benefit at all to anyone, including the smoker. In fact, it’s an irritant. It subjects everyone else to the harmful effects of second-hand smoke. It stinks and the odor lingers on people and things long after the cigarette has been extinguished. It’s also rude to make everyone around you suffer with that disgusting filth just because you want to satiate a selfish desire for a nicotine fix.

Smokers are so caught up in themselves that they don’t stop to think about how their habit affects others, even beyond second-hand smoke. Their little five- and 10-minute smoke breaks affect production at work. So does the time they lose due to illness that is directly or indirectly related to smoking. When they are not doing their job, it means some else is picking up the slack or stuck waiting on the smoker. It also means family members are sacrificing their own time to aid and comfort the ailing smoker, which has its own domino affect on society and the economy.

Whenever a smoker undergoes medical treatment for cancer or other smoking-related illness, the cumulative affect is increased medical expenses for everyone. Insurance costs go up because it costs more to cover what is essentially a preventable disease.

In case you haven’t noticed, smokers are responsible for 100 percent of all cigarette butts littering the ground. Cigarette butts are one of the largest sources of litter in the country. They are further proof that smokers are self-centered because they do not care enough to clean up after themselves and leave their mess for others to deal with.

The claim that cigarette butts are biodegradable and quickly decompose doesn’t hold a drop of water with me. I have spent countless hours cleaning up roadsides, trails and waterways and know better. Cigarette butts can and will last for years. I fail to see how discarded butts benefit anyone other than the selfish litterbug.

If there is any remote upside to cigarettes, it’s the high taxes on them. That’s a voluntary tax paid by smokers and the money helps the economy. On the other hand, the money smokers spend on their habit is lost to them and can’t be used to the betterment of their lives or the lives of their families. It’s literally money gone up in smoke.

If this rant of mine seems harsh, it’s meant to be. Smoking is harsh and cruel. At this point there are probably a lot of readers who agree with me and are sharing this column with friends and family because I have put into print what they have been feeling or saying all along.

There are others who probably want to kick my teeth in and stab out a thousand cigarette butts on my carcass for calling them selfish and weak-willed because they choose to smoke. So be it. Just keep in mind that what I’ve said here mirrors reality and if there is something you’re reading here that you don’t like, it’s because I’ve reflected the light of truth on an ugly side of your personality.

There are two things that have caused me to write this at this time. The first is that we are still close to New Year’s and if you have made a resolution to quit smoking, I want you to know you have my full encouragement and support. Secondly, I am really worried about the push across the nation to approve recreational use of marijuana. Everything I have said about cigarettes applies to marijuana and more.

Not only does marijuana bring with it the same problems as cigarettes, but it also means the smoker is probably buzzed or stoned. If you think drunk driving is a problem, this is worse. Not only are we at risk from drivers who are not in complete control of their faculties, but these same people are cogs in the wheels that move society and run our economy. If you have a worker trying to operate machinery or a manager making multi-million dollar decisions under the influence, you’re only inviting disaster. It also negatively impacts your ability to parent and relate with others, including your spouse, family members and employers.

That’s why I feel that we must not only uphold our marijuana laws, but we need to add teeth to them and increase their enforcement. Anything we can do to discourage all smoking is to the benefit of society and is worth pursuing, including banning all artificial smoking in places where smoking is already prohibited. To do anything less is a moral and ethical failure.

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