A long time ago, there was a letter to my campus newspaper about smoking at Alfred State. This was early 2004, before the anti-smoking craze picked up steam within New York's state university system. The letter was written by your typical anti-smoking zealot spouting off about their constitutional rights to breathe clean air, and how they were leading a great life that other students should strive to emulate.
You could smell the pure arrogance coming off this letter like it was yesterday's leftovers. I hoped at the time it was just some idiot spouting off about a non-issue in a newspaper no one took seriously. Unfortunately, as the years went on, I was proven wrong as this person appears to be part of a wider group of wackos looking to tell me and you how to live our lives.
I am not a smoker. I hate the smell of cigarette smoke, and I'm more than happy to offer support to someone who is attempting to quit. But I have severe problems with the aggression that smokers are facing from this vocal minority of non-smokers. Smokers are not on the same level as terrorists, but you wouldn't know it by watching television. Let's pretend you're a space alien that just landed on earth. You're walking around in a Charlie Chaplin-looking get up, trying to pass by unnoticed, when you see a string of anti-smoking commercials playing on a storefront TV. You see ads depicting people who have suffered horrible consequences from smoking, you see ads of young school children telling you why “tobacco is wacko”, and you see ads of people being asked to leave restaurants because they were about to smoke. Assuming your mission isn't to kill all of the humans, you might think these smokers are pretty rotten people.
Last time I checked, we weren't supposed to discriminate against people for whatever reason, especially on college campuses like New York's state universities. So what then is all of this jibber-jabber about tolerance, diversity, and acceptance when the same people who preach that line target a group of people because they do something that they don't find acceptable? Under what authority do these people make decisions that affect how we live our lives? Heck, I want to get a hate militia together and beat up people who use air fresheners because they could give me lung cancer. Isn't that the same reason we don't like smokers? And hey, while we're at it, let's go round up some of those computer nerds. When they dispose of their old computers, it will hurt the environment with its mercury. Hurting the environment is going to hurt me because it'll kill trees that provide us with oxygen and provide protection from the sun, and (very soon) the ice caps are going to melt causing me and some of my buddies to live with Aquaman for the rest of our lives.
What's that you say? The Constitution gives them the authority to tell us what to do? Oh, right, that garbage about having the constitutional right to clean air these people claim. Well you can tell them that according to the Supreme Court's ruling in Tanner Vs. Armco Steel, you don't have the constitutional right to clean air. They won't listen, they want to make the constitution fit their small-minded needs. It really doesn't matter today because we operate on the philosophy that the loudest group of idiots win, not on what is written in the Constitution.
Who cares if you're wrong? Just keep shouting, protesting and blogging! Eventually, the louder you get, the people at the top without any spines will cave to your every whim. And that's what's happening to smokers. A vocal minority, not unlike Mothers Against Drunk Driving and their push to raise the drinking age to 21, are bullying everyone into following their philosophy. Are smokers doing something some of us don't like? Sure. But what about their rights? Don't we all have the right to live without harassment as we pursue happiness? Did Will Smith's movie teach me nothing?
Consider this. Smokers are the only group of people we expect to accommodate everyone else by standing outside in the rain or cold. Can you imagine if looking at pornography was deemed harmful to people around you, and you were forced to go outside and stand in the rain or snow just to look at it? Talk about killing a fun date! Not to mention people would ultimately riot in the street over that one.
Cigarettes are bad for you, we all know that. But we are too quick to forget that smokers, because they are exercising a choice to smoke, have rights as well, and whether we like it or not, we should respect their choice. We expect the same from them, which should allow for the common courtesy of not smoking around those who choose not to, so why should non-smokers treat them any differently?