About Your Smoking: A Delicate Issue
I know, a lot of people smoke. Bizarrely, a lot of radicals, who are usually aware of their impact on the planet and each other more than most people, also smoke. (People who would cut off their arm before lifting a coke bottle yet nevertheless think nothing of lifting a Camel.) I also know that nicotine is one of the most addictive substances on the planet, and it makes people nuts to think anyone might interfere with their next fix. (I've seen it happen.) But...do you have a moment?
I've been reluctant to even bring this up, because it's such a touchy issue. I mean, people take their smoking habits seriously. And I never like to tell anyone else what to do if I can avoid it. But, smokers, it's time to talk.
I can't even tell you how many situations I've been in where someone was smoking near me, and I was afraid to say anything because I did not want to offend them. On one occasion, I was with my little boy, and two radical friends came over and sat next to us, and began to smoke. My child doesn't like the smoke any more than I do, and asked them not to. Both looked at him as if he had said something ridiculous, and one blew a great smoke ring in his direction. Neither stopped or made an effort to move where the smoke wasn't blowing at us. I could not believe I was worried about not offending people who would be that unbelievably rude. I know, many people who smoke aren't so rude, and I'm thankful for that. But I never would have imagined such behavior from these people either. It's just, as I said, people act weird when you threaten to interfere with the fix.
So I know a lot of people will flame back at me for saying this. But do you know how much your cigarette habits impact the rest of us? The stink of a cigarette goes a lot farther than you think it does. Many of us get physicially sick when we smell a burning cig, even when it's a block away. Pregnant women are especially effected by second hand smoke -- I used to be constantly ill when people smoked around me when I was pregnant. And even now, it makes me ill. The smell of your cigarette gets in my clothes, in my hair, and in my furniture, and I can't get it out. I no longer allow anyone to smoke in my house, but I still come home with clothes stinking of other people's cigarettes, even when I was nowhere near them. It makes my eyes water. It makes my throat hurt. It makes my stomach upset. More than that, your smoke is actually killing people.
There is no longer even any debate. Study after study has shown that second hand smoke kills people. It's as clear as global warming: The corporations who profit from the poison would like to obscure that fact, but it's still a fact. So I don't want you to smoke around me or my family any more. And I'm going to start getting more assertive about that. Please, if you must light up, look around first. Are you alone, or in the company of only other smokers? If so, do what you wish. But if there are people who are not smoking around, please go somewhere else, far away -- farther than you think necessary. Second hand smoke travels a long way. I know, this sounds really bossy to anyone who smokes, but it's what the rest of us are all thinking: "Please, my lungs are important to me even if yours are not important to you."
Lots of smokers have ready responses to this request, about their "right to smoke." But really, that's bullshit. They have been duped by cigarette companies, who spent millions to churn out inflammatory propaganda aimed at smokers, counseling them to demand their "right to smoke." This way, the pushers can get their junkies to do their dirty work for them. But in fact, you have no right to poison others. You just don't. Might sound harsh, but there it is. Smoking hurts peoples' lungs, their hearts, their skin, raises blood pressure, and causes cancer. You don't have the right to do that to others any more than Union Carbide should have the right to do it.
Then there's the pollution aspect of smoking. Why do people imagine a cigarette butt is somehow not garbage? Why do people think it's anything but outrageously rude to just throw them down and stomp on them, and then leave them there? Walk down any street in Portland, and there they are. Butt after butt after butt. If you don't see any, it's because the clean and safe people just went by and scooped them up for you. But why should they have to? Do you know what those filters do to the environment? They take millennia to break down. In the meantime, they can clog the intestines of creatures who accidentally eat them, and they fill up landfills, and they leak toxins. And they're gross.
Oh, and fire. More fires are caused by cigarettes than any other cause. Forests are burned down due to smoking, and people smoking in beds burn down apartment buildings. It's dangerous and unwise to wander around tossing burning matter here and there without thinking about it.
Finally, it's always worth examining our consumption habits for their wider impact. I know some smokers grow and roll their own cigarettes, and that's very cool. But anyone who is still feeding dollars to multinational corporations that willingly kill people for money should really examine the connection between their habit and the killer capitalists. Are you aware that cigarette corporations knowingly tampered with the nicotine content of their "product" for the sole purpose of addicting people to it? It's a fact. Do you know that they knowingly tampered with laboratory studies to make the results seem equivocal about whether or not smoking was dangerous, even when they knew it was killing people? Another fact. Do you know how much money cigarette corporations have put into lobbying congress to support their agendas and their profits? Do you know they intentionally market their product to children, in order to hook them on cigarettes when they're too young to make good decisions about their health and well being? Or that they are now aggressively pedaling their product in third world nations, still marketing to children, still manipulating nicotine content, still lying about their dangers, because they can get away with it there? How about the history of oppression of poor and working class people, share croppers and slaves, on tobacco plantations? Yes, there is a lot to think about in every cigarette.
Again, I know it seems rude for me to be trying to tell others what to do with their own lives. But this is precisely the point: If it was only impacting you, I would not be saying this. If you want to poison your body, stink like an ashtray, and give your money to assholes, that is your business. But when your actions impact the well being of others, including me, then I do have the right to say something about it, and so I am. Just as you can probably understand why I might ask people not to go fight in Bush's war, not to torture animals, or not to drive SUVs because they're bad for the planet, perhaps you can understand why I am asking that you please think twice about your cigarette habit. Do you really want to support a bloodthirsty multinational corporation? How is Marlboro any better than Coke? And even if you do want to support them, I do not want to smell your habit. I do not want to come home with your habit in my hair. I do not want to have to breathe through a tube for your habit. Many of us are thinking this, have been thinking this for a long time. I'm just saying it. At last.
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