Every single time I talk about someone quitting smoking, or even mention the possibility that smoking might be -youknow- even slightly bad, my inbox or replies absolutely explode with advocates.

Image © Can Stock Photo / dvarg

Every single time I talk about someone quitting smoking, or even mention the possibility that smoking might be -youknow- even slightly bad, my inbox or replies absolutely explode with advocates. Lots of people are perfectly willing to tell me how it's an individual's right to choose their poison as it were and if they want to wreck their lungs with cancer, tar, or whatnot, that's their choice and I shouldn't be such a bully. There's probably. few of you firing up your keyboard for a pithy response along those lines just from the title of this blog alone.

Here's the thing, though. What about my rights to breathe unimpeded? Where are the advocates for my rights to breathe a lungful of air without encountering something that is going to send me coughing, gasping, and otherwise floundering for some actual oxygen? What about that?

Sure, it might be your personal right to breathe what you want. That's your choice. What about the people around you who didn't choose that? What about them? You might tell them to move upwind, or go somewhere else, or otherwise cease "bullying" you about your choice of toxins. I can understand that you, a smoker, might be feeling more than a little persecuted. The last thing you need is some other holier-than-thou getting on your case about how unhealthy smoking is et cetera.

You know it's unhealthy. You don't need me telling you that. You see reminders on your cigarette packaging on the daily. You get people telling you that possibly every single time you light up in public. You made a choice, and that choice is... technically okay. For you.

Let me tell you about my life as an asthmatic.

I was about seven when I contracted pertussis [whooping cough] and developed chronic bronchitis. I was in grade eight [the equivalent of Junior High in the US?] when my chronic bronchitis graduated to full on chronic bronchial asthma. Not only did I have a persistent and debilitating cough, I also had triggers for such. Like... smoke. Especially cigarette smoke.

These were the 1970's and 1980's, so there were few -if any- regulations on smoking, where to smoke, and whatnot. Food courts were HELL for me, because there was literally nowhere I could sit and enjoy a meal without some arsehole upwind deciding to light up. It got to the point where my mother and I would check the prevailing wind before picking a seat.

...and then the damn wind would change, or someone else would prop up a wall upwind of me and have their damned smoke. It never bloody failed. Day or night, rain or shine, no matter what the circumstances and even in the non-smoking zone, some absolute numpty would arrange themself and their cigarette so their smoke landed on me.

Needless to say, it has left a lasting, and very bad, impression of smokerkind.

It seems to me, as a beleaguered victim of your fumes, that you neither know, care, nor bother to pay attention to where your smoke goes. I mean, hell. I even had someone light up right next to me while I was on my nebuliser. Upwind, of fucking course.

For those not in the know - a nebuliser is a device that administers asthma medication by turning it into a fine mist which the sufferer then breathes via a mask. They are very noisy, very obvious, and likely scary to anyone who sees one in motion. This person managed to walk right by my asthmatic arse, while the machine was doing its thing, and completely ignore my presence until I, outraged, said "Excuse me?" and they realised exactly how much they had just fucked up.

Nothing like what looks scarily like an oxygen mask to put the willies up someone, I guess.

I have seen in my life:

  • Smokers light up near 'no smoking' signs
  • Smokers light up next to 'flammable materials' warnings
  • Smokers light up next to containers of explosives that were plastered with warnings
  • Smokers light up next to me and my very obvious asthma equipment
  • Smokers light up next to very pregnant women
  • Smokers light up in non-smoking zones
  • Smokers light up next to some poor sod with an actual oxygen mask and tank.

You can forgive me for thinking you tend to have all the common sense of a concussed whelk. Or, perhaps, concluding that you're the biggest pack of selfish arseholes shy of the seats of political power.

I know there's little I can do to stop you. I mean, containers of clearly-labeled explosives couldn't stop one, so this little blog will have the net effect that a balloon would on climate change.

So let's change some of the narrative. Let's make quitting smoking something you can do to be greener than you were yesterday. Yes, the tobacco industry is worth millions and it won't happen overnight, but every little bit helps.

Think about what would happen if, tomorrow, every single smoker in the world up and quit. Just... chucked the cigarettes, the cigars, the pipes and even the vapes the heck out the window and said, "no more!"

Tobacco would no longer be a cash crop. The companies responsible for it all would fall and fail, some jobs would have to change, but... all that tobacco-growing land could be used for other things. Like... food production. Or even biofuel production. Alternately, it could go back to being wilderness and thereby capture some carbon far better than the aforementioned balloon.

Not only that, but the stubs or other leftovers from smoking no longer hang around in the environment for who-knows-how-long.

So if you quit the tobacco, you're not just doing it for you. You're doing it to clean up the global climate. You become a hero.

I can guarantee that it'll have a far greater impact than not using plastic straws.