It is just about impossible to make a case that defends smoking for most, and even harder for me. I have had to deal with second-hand smoke, and I know well the consequences. When I was a child, I had asthma that recurred frequently. Part of the problem was smoke from old steam engines that passed just a short distance from where I lived. Also, the ships that would sail up the Mississippi River were just past the trains, and they would belch black smoke as they went. But possibly the real culprit was smoke indoors. I lived with a smoker who went through three packs of cigarettes a day.
Can We Regulate Smoking?
Long before regulations for the pandemic there has been a health issue with smoking, and since we all breathe the air it is imperative to some of us to not have it pose a danger.
Is There Evidence?
I have heard smokers say that it has not been proven that second-hand smoke causes problems. This is convenient self-justification. To anyone allergic to smoke there is a real problem. If it is illegal to randomly punch people in the nose, it should be illegal to make a cloud of toxin that can envelop them.
I have heard the expression smokers also have rights. Smokers are not impacted by my need for clean air, but I am impacted by the smoke they produce. One has a right to play music, but if it disturbs the peacefulness of a place the rights of those not wishing to have loud music supersedes the right to blast a large amplifier in a neighborhood.
I have often reflected on the number of cigarettes burned per day worldwide. If we are working against global warming, how can we ignore the cumulative effects? Oh, one cigarette does not produce much pollution. But added together the amount is enormous.
I will liken this to the response to ozone depletion. People use propellants in spray cans of hairspray, deodorant, and other items. When the propellants were shown to destroy ozone, the response was to eliminate them, replacing them with other propellants. As a result, the ozone layer is improving. This would not have happened if we had taken the position a person would use very little of the contents of a spray can per day. Little amounts can add to enormous quantities.
Smokers Can also Harm Themselves
My father died of emphysema. When I visited him in a hospital, I found him on oxygen. He proudly told me he had quit smoking. I asked how long ago had he quit, and he counted on this fingers to three, then said three days ago. I then asked how long had he been in the hospital using oxygen, and again he counted to three. The fact is he only temporarily quit smoking.
Last year one of my younger sisters was given a week to live. She had smoked when she was younger. COPD had her lungs at seven percent. Well, she lived a few months, but died just shout of her seventy-first birthday. Her last months were connected to oxygen, and she was confined to a house.
Why Is It so Difficult to Regulate Smoking?
First, too many people are addicted to smoking, and stopping is not an option for them. We have all been warned and probably they should have heeded the warnings as many of us did, but so many did not. Now they must be dealt with. We must find a way to be considerate, but not at the expense of our health nor the health of the environment.
Second, there is a strong lobby which works with a high budget to promote smoking to politicians. They defend the cigarette industry, but also the tobacco farmers, who make up a large part of the income in certain states.
If one thinks "I can quit smoking and all will be well," think again. And if one does not believe it impacts others it is not so, and not just because we do not like the smell of the smoke. Then, think about everyone’s responsibility for the planet, and its atmosphere.
As we focus on the pandemic and go to greatly restricting people and their activities, I wonder why we are so passive about regulating such a real threat. Yes, buildings are going smoke free, and some restrictions are there, but outdoor smoking is not harmless to those who must pass a person smoking.
I did not get into igniting fires, both homes and in forests, nor the litter people leave when they empty trays from a car window.
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