Bashing Smokers

Yep. I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna bash cigarette smokers.

Now, what brought this on is an exchange I had with someone on Twitter. I tweeted something to the effect that if the big tobacco companies were against California’s Proposition 29, then I’m for it. I’ve been seeing tons of anti-Prop. 29 ads on the teevee, all of which use rightwing buzzwords like “taxes” and “out-of-control-spending” and “doesn’t create jobs” etc. etc., but for me, just one look at the list of those groups in the fine print below the last tag is enough for me – “major funding from R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, the Chamber of Commerce” and “a coalition of small business, labor and taxpayers.”

Yeah, I’ll bet it’s a very small coalition. R.J. Reynolds, Phillip Morris and the Chamber of Commerce were enough to convince me that if they don’t like Proposition 29, it must be a good thing. These are the guys who consider the Koch Brothers to be a “small business” – just because there are only two Koch Brothers. It doesn’t matter that they’re both richer than God and they’re worth elebenty-billion dollars each, they still qualify as a “small business” because, technically, no matter how large their business empire – it only has two owners. That’s the kind of malarkey and doublespeak that got us in trouble in the first place.

My tweet evidently pissed off a right-winger (frankly, quite a few of my tweets have that effect – I do it deliberately), because he tweeted back and called me an “arrogant leftist” because I expressed an opinion that smokers ought to be taxed out of existence.

Now I don’t know how many of you are smokers, and I’m probably going to offend you, too. Smoking is a filthy and dangerous habit, and if your smoking only affected you, I’d be all for it. You’re welcome to kill yourself in the privacy of your own home, however you want to do it. I believe in that kind of liberty. However, your smoking adversely affects all of us, in many different ways.

First of all, there’s the smoke itself, which is full of nasty poisonous chemicals like formaldehyde, hydrogen cyanide, benzene, carbon monoxide and a whole host of others, wreathing around your head and spreading out to wreath around mine. There is a ton of scientific evidence that contends – if not outright proves – that there is a link between second-hand smoke and all sorts of nasty diseases, including lung cancer and asthma in children and adults. Ergo, your smoke hurts me and others by raising our risks of lung cancer and heart disease. And I don’t believe you have the right to do that – anymore than I believe that you have the right to stroll over to me and punch me in the mouth.

I used to be a smoker – of course, hasn’t everyone? I quit almost 29 years ago, cold turkey, because there were no patches or drugs or nicotine gum back then. I was chasing after a career as an actor and I wanted more than anything to be a singer. I was starring in a production of “Guys and Dolls” at that time, playing Miss Adelaide – a vocally demanding role, and my cigarette smoking hurt my throat after every performance, and made it more difficult for me to get vocally warmed up, so on the day of the Great American Smoke-Out in November 1983, I made the decision to quit. I quit because I desperately wanted to be a singer, and I also swore up and down that I was never going to pay a whole freaking DOLLAR for a pack of cigarettes.

On my drive home from the theatre that night, I ceremoniously tossed my cigarettes out my car window one by one, and I never smoked again.

That brings me to my next point. During the ten or so years in which I smoked a pack or more of cigarettes a day, whenever I was in my car, my ashes and my cigarette butts went right out the window. I was only careful to use my ashtray when I was driving through high fire danger areas. I’m ashamed to admit that I did that for so long – and now, my next beef with smokers is that they still do it. Lit cigarette butts regularly fly out car windows – I see ‘em on the 101, the 405, on city streets, in parking lots – everywhere. There’s something about being a smoker that makes you oblivious to what you’re really doing when you thoughtlessly toss that smoldering butt out your car window.

There’s also something about being a smoker that makes you similarly oblivious to simply dropping your butt on the sidewalk, the hiking trail, the path, the street, the parking lot, the yard – wherever you are – and, if you’re a conscientious smoker, you’ll ground it out. If you’re not, it simply lies there and smolders until it goes out by itself. I plead guilty – but to being the conscientious smoker; I always made sure my cigarette was snubbed out.

Then, there’s the greatest ashtray of all time:  the beach. Once again, I, as a former smoker, plead guilty to stuffing my cigarette butts into the sand.

Thinking back on all this, I’m ashamed of my behavior as a smoker. I had no consideration for others; I lit up with no regard for where I was, and I routinely tossed my butts out the car window, or ground them out wherever I was. I can take small comfort in the fact that I wised up almost 30 years ago – even though quitting caused me to put on 20 pounds that I have never been able to take off.

That’s why I’m in favor of Proposition 29. All the things they say in the anti-Prop 29 may be true; it may create jobs outside of California. It may create an “out-of-control bureaucracy.” It may raise taxes on cigarette smokers. It may not be able to be modified for fifteen years.

Guess what? I don’t care.

Smokers aren’t going to quit until it’s too damned hard for them to keep smoking, so I’m in favor of anything which makes it more difficult for smokers to continue smoking. Cigarettes costing $15 or $20 a pack? You think that’s unreasonable? I don’t. Think about it this way:  smokers cause tremendous damage to the environment – toxic cigarette butts clog up our storm drains, filthy up our streets and beaches and are being washed into the oceans, where they release all kinds of noxious pollutants into the water – and into our food chain. Smokers also cause damage to their fellow human beings with their second-hand smoke, which not only pollutes the air, but, because of the myriad of toxic chemicals it contains, can inflict real harm in the form of cancer, asthma and other diseases, which ends up costing us millions in taxpayer dollars for medical treatment and lost productivity.

Someone has got to pay for all that damage.  Why not the people who cause it?