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A Debate Up In Smoke

Posted by on February 19, 2009

You see them everywhere; at times huddled in a corner right outside your office building, behind your neighbourhood restaurant, or even suffering inside their own vehicles.   They used to be large in numbers, but as their popularity -as well as their members- are dying in record numbers we tend to show them less attention than we used to.  But the facts remain unchanged; these people are still clogging our medical system with their avoidable ailments, polluting our street corners, and contaminating the air we all have to breathe.

They are, Smokers.

Now, if you haven’t been able to tell by now, I’m not a fan.

Smoking has to be one of the most ridiculously absurd human habits we have.  If a traveler from another world was looking for signs of intelligent life here, smokers would be a cut and dry indicator that earth is still a few millennia from being in that category.

While living in Barcelona in 2008, one of the biggest culture shocks for me is that unlike most of Europe, Spain is still yet to implement any anti-smoking legislation. Going out  for dinner or to a bar, I would have to quiet the rage bubbling within me as I sucked in the exhaust from my fellow patrons.

“Oh excuse me sir, I’m so sorry, is my dinner bothering your sixth cigarette? Feel free to ash into my salad if you wish. No, not a problem.”

With smoking still being the cool thing to do in Spain, I would often have to suffer through conversations with co-workers and friends about how radical and imposing anti-smoking laws are to their personal rights and freedoms; which I can only assume they believe to also include giving me lung cancer.

Canadians, unfortunately, have had similar arguments over the years.  When smoking was initially banned from indoor establishments almost a decade ago, bar and restaurant owners were up in arms about how this law would run them out of business.  Their logic, I assume, is their smoking patrons would now opt to stay at home lying in a pile of their own filth.  Not surprisingly the sky never fell, but what changed, was non-smokers now had a large selection of watering holes, and this new business far outnumbered those smokers that might have stayed home.


Recently in Ontario there have been two new anti-smoking laws.  One of which bans convenience stores and gas stations from displaying cigarette cartons in their stores, and the second bans smokers from lighting up in their cars while accompanied by a minor.  Boy oh boy, did this ever fuel conversation for smoke breaks around the province.

“What? Now we’re not responsible enough to even look at cigarettes in this country? I’m sick of this government treating us like children, this is ridiculous, I hate the government. *cough* *cough* *half-vomit* *weeez* *cough* I’ll take the usually, extra large Players King Size. *cough*cough* Stupid government”

The worst part is that scenario is only slightly exaggerated, and I’ve heard the rant on more than one occasion.  Each time I have witnessed one of these gems of humanity I couldn’t help but openly laugh.

I have long resented any conversation I’ve had to endure with a smoker on this subject as it’s anything but a worthwhile debate.

On more than one occasion I’ve been victim to conversations that have included the following arguments,

1. Alcohol is bad for you, and it affects other people. People beat up their wives and they drive drunk, you don’t see the government doing anything about alcohol.

After hearing this, I sat, blank faced, waiting for the punch line which never arrived. The human smoke stack in front of me leaned back in apparent victory, check and mate. Incredulously I responded with an outburst of “THOSE ACTIVITIES ARE BOTH ILLEGAL YOU IDIOT!”

It was at this juncture I realized when discussing smoking with a smoker, you’re always a moment away from, “Well, I’m rubber and you’re glue”, which granted, is an insurmountable defence.

2. Smoking calms me down man. If I’ve had a stressful day or things aren’t going great at work or at home there’s nothing better than a couple smokes. It relaxes me.

Deep breaths Mike, it’s not their fault, it’s the nicotine.

No, really, it’s the nicotine.  Cigarette smoking is not like exercise. Nicotine does not release any useful endorphins into your blood stream improving your mood. Your body is likely going into nicotine withdrawal, in essence making every day more stressful for you, regardless of anything else. So when you take your 15th smoke break of the day, what you’re doing is just feeding your own addiction which calms you downs… until twenty minutes later when you’re back out on the curb in January blocking the wind with your back trying to get your lighter to work.

I could go on forever as there are few things that bother me more than smoking.  I might think you’re a great person, good at what you do, nice, friendly, and I may even consider you a close personal friend. But from the moment you take a pack from your pocket until the moment you step on the butt, I’m looking at you, thinking you’re an idiot.

From the toll smokers take on the Canadian health care system, to their impact on OUR environment, OUR air and on each child that sees their parent or sibling light up while they play in the park I beg you to quit for the rest of us.

From your yellow teeth and fingers, to your hellish breath, and the lingering smell on your clothes (which is now proven to damage the brain of infants), which usually smells like an ominous mixture of disease and death, I beg you to quit for your own future.

Now please don’t misunderstand me, I don’t believe I’m superior because I don’t smoke. I realize that many Canadians may not have been as lucky as me to be surrounded with non-smokers growing up, as early influences and peer pressure are typically huge factors for first time smokers.  However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be held accountable for your actions, and grateful to your government for passing laws that save you from yourself and your past.

For example, if the day ever comes when using a cell phone while intoxicated is criminalized I will be the first person to write a letter of thanks to my local MP.

So in this rant of all rants, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Canadian government.  I would like to thank them for improving the air I breathe, considering my health, and saving all of us, from our neighbours who just can’t seem to butt out.


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