Monday, November 21, 2011

Smokers' Last Drag?

I recall reading in the early 90's that twenty years on, smoking in public would be viewed with as much indignation as urinating in public.   That day couldn't come soon enough for me.  While we are today further along the path to a smoke-free utopia, we still have a long way to go in educating the ignoramuses who are arrogant about their habit in public.

I've tried cigarettes twice in my life.  Once when I was 4, I stole a puff from a smoldering cigarette in a shoe store while my mother's back was turned.   And again in my 20's at a party.  But I've probably sucked in more than my fair share of second hand smoke.  It amazes me to see old college photos from a mere twenty years ago taken at a restaurant, bar or at some house party.  Yes, the scattered beer bottles are omnipresent, but so are the cigarettes and smokers.  In many of these images a visible haze hangs over the people in the photo like a fog.  That was our world a short quarter-century ago.  I suspect that the same photo taken today would still feature the ubiquitous beer bottles, but the smokers would be gone, banished to the great outdoors, which always amuses me on a frigid February morning.  And therein lies the problem.

I'm not going to lecture smokers on the health implications, impotence, rotten breath, and yellow teeth and fingers; they've heard/read it all before, so blaze on. Most of the smokers that I know are aware that the non-smoking majority are not particularly keen on absorbing a lung full of carcinogens and are therefore respectful about smoking in public in close proximity to us. But to the others, must you crowd around the entrances of every shopping mall, hotel, arena, and restaurant forcing the nasty residue of your addiction upon children?

This weekend, our family and friends will make the annual pilgrimage to our Santa Claus parade. I'm sure this year will be no different with a disturbing number of chain smokers scattered throughout the dense crowd seemingly oblivious to the throngs of children that line the route or, more likely, too arrogant to care.

Yes, that day will come when puffing away in public will be viewed with the same scorn as smoking on an airplane or in a hospital is today.  Until then, however, municipal governments need to enact and enforce bylaws to protect our majority in outdoor public places.  Unfortunately dirty looks just aren't enough.