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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

I went to the movies on Saturday night.  Not the first time I have done that and it wont be the last. But a thought that has been bouncing around  in my mind for a while came to the surface once again, and it has nothing to do with the movie.
First, a step back though. 
On my recent trip throughout the United States, in which I visited probably 30 cities, I noticed something very obvious to me:
Americans love to smoke and you cannot avoid them just about anywhere you go.
Now, lots of Canadians smoke too, but the rules on where you can smoke are a lot stricter and narrower than in the States.
Since I have been young I have always been bothered greatly by cigarette smoke. But a lot of the activities I enjoyed the most are memories which are clouded with cigarette smokers. Almost like they were part of the memory. Two of those stand out.
Growing up we used to have seasons tickets to the Montreal Expos baseball games. In those days, people smoked anywhere and everywhere and the baseball game was one of those. I still remember when we went to get food (hot dogs, fries, drinks, peanuts, popcorn, etc.) you had to go down to the lowest level to do that. When you did, there was usually a line up and you waited. While doing that, my memory was that there was always a very large cloud of cigarette smoke above the food area, and being that it was night time by then,  you noticed it. It is part of my memory of that experience embedded within it. I don't remember the actual smoke bothering me, but I remember it being there. I was too young at that point that it didn't bother me as it does these days. My parents and all my close relatives never smoked, or at least not while in my presence ( I do have pics of both my grandparents and my Aunt and Uncle smoking, but they lived in another city and were rarely there, and I can't recall them smoking when I was present, although I am sure they must have) so I don't recall feeling sick because of it.
Growing up watching TV, I watched The Tonight Show quite a bit. I was the type of kid who stayed up late and was allowed to do so. If you go back and watch clips of the Tonight Show, you will see that Johnny Carson, and many of his guests, smoked openly on the show. The show that followed it, The Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder, was another where open cigarette smoke is noticeable in almost any clip you now watch.
Fast forward 15 or 20 years to my late teens and early twenties. I used to go to the horse races a lot. Many times in the winter,  but mostly in the summer. Horse racing patrons as a rule are smokers. In the winter, it was very cold and we would all watch and wager from  inside behind a large glass enclosure. Smoking was allowed and it was very hard to take.  After a night at the races, you could smell it on your clothes the next day and being that it very much bothered me by then, my eyes were very red and headaches also were part of that package and experience. 
In the summers, while you could watch from outside, there were still lots of smokers and it was easier to avoid, but not completely. I remember that same cloud of smoke in the night air as I watched the races. At that point,  it did bother me a lot. After a while I stopped going as much to the races. In later years they banned smoking at the track, so that made it more pleasant. 

Now, back to present day. Where I live, you pretty much cannot smoke anywhere indoors and there are restrictions as to where you can smoke outdoors. Canadians these days are not smokers like they once were, but there still is a percentage that do.
On my trip, as mentioned, we hit a lot of cities. Las Vegas was one of those. In Vegas, we walked the strip a lot and were inside many hotel lobbies. Smokers and cigarette smoke was everywhere. Being acutely sensitive to this, I noticed it. After two days and on our way to Williams, Arizona I had a bad headache and red eyes as a result. It had caught up with me. 
Three days later, in a Resort Lodge in the Wyoming mountains that we hadn't planned on staying in but were forced to, it happened again. The night we arrived, there were multiple smokers in the lounge/bar and the next morning the same thing in the restaurant where we got breakfast. By the next day I was sick again.  Same thing.
Living in Toronto, I can mostly avoid this sort of thing, and I go out of my way to do so. But I can't avoid it entirely. Saturday night at the movies, coming out of the theaters,  there were many people smoking just outside the doorway in. And I noticed it. 
The point of people not being allowed to smoke indoors was to avoid the type of exposure you get when you step just outside now. So really, there is very little benefit.
Now,  my theory is this: In any public place (and that includes the street or just outside a doorway) smoking should be banned. If you want to smoke, do it in the privacy of your own home. Period. That's it. No where else.
I don't think you have the right to smoke in public and force me to be exposed to what you are willing to expose yourself to. You do have the right to smoke, and if you set up a private place to do so, just for smokers, then I am okay with that. That place, however, in my opinion, is not the street where we all live. 
I was never the type of kid who bowed to peer pressure or would smoke just to be cool. I find it to be a vile habit and have gone out of my way to avoid it whenever possible.
I have never understood putting pure sticks of cancer in your mouth and inhaling the fumes. In spite of that, I defend the right of those who so choose to do so, as long as it doesn't in any way harm my personal health.
Banning others from smoking in doors and yet forcing them and allowing them to gather in groups just outside the door or on the street still infringes on my right to be healthy and avoid the poison they are blowing out of their mouths.
I say the time has come to ban all smoking in all public places. Period. 

1 comment:

  1. I am so in your court. I have been allergic to smoke since I was an infant, but I didn't know it until the military (long story). But I suffer so bad. I do tell everyone I am allergic, but I cannot avoid it. Sorry for the stereotype, but it is true, most smokers are arrogant and rude. Even if they know you have a problem with smoke, they will stand next to you and smoke, even if there are plenty of places to stand. They just don't care.I totally agree that smokers should just smoke in their homes. Thank you Mark!


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