From The Archives – Thank you for smoking … NOT!

Kids Ferrari Show

I got a great response from my vacation ‘from the archives’ posts, and I have been talking so much about my personal blogs from before this one … so I took a look and found a bunch of old blog posts that I thought would be interesting to share and discuss (if you guys find them interesting, of course). Here is the first! It is about public smoking, and came into my mind again as we hiked the Watkins Glen Gorge a few weeks ago and again walking around New York City and being unable to enjoy ‘fresh air’ spaces like Central Park, Washington Square Park, the Statue of Libery and Ellis Island without constant smokers.

Originally published: Summer 2008 – our first summer living in New York.

We love to go outdoors and do things together as a family. So naturally on Labor Day weekend we took advantage of the excellent weather to do as much as possible. There was a variety of activities, but one common theme – wherever we went, it was impossible to engage in the activity we wanted to without walking through a wall of second-hand smoke.

These were outdoor, family activities, mind you … it isn’t like we were strolling through a bar! I believe in the rights of individuals to engage in self-directed activities, but only so far as they do not impact others. Since second hand smoke is a known and proven health threat to others, that self-regulated activity becomes a public activity and therefore disappears from individual liberty in my opinion.

I mean, if I sat around in the middle of a park breaking open mercury thermometers or playing with the regulator on a tank of fluorine gas, you would agree that I should be stopped immediately. But smoking is a different story. As I said, I have no problem with people engaging in a legal activity – or an illegal one, for that matter – so long as it doesn’t interfere with my ability to engage in an activity in public space. Private space is just that – private. Also, circumstances should dictate reasonable expectations. I don’t believe, for example, that it is my right to expect a smoke-free environment in a Cigar bar. But everything we did was outdoors, and much of it was centered around fitness-inducing or ‘fresh air’ based activities like hiking trails.

This is one thing I miss about Massachusetts. Public smoking is pretty well banned everywhere. Sure there are smoking areas, but they have to be set up in a way that isolates them from normal traffic. For example, at my old job I never ran into a wall of smoke in 15 years, yet perhaps 75% of the times I enter the research center here and 100% of the times I enter one of the manufacturing facilities I have to wade through a sea of smoke.

So there were two things this weekend that bugged me: the first was at the Ferrari festival in downtown Corning pictured above. For some reason all of the owners and many of the fans thought there was no better way to celebrate expensive cars than by puffing on cigars. It was just plain nasty, because there was no way to avoid it. When you are in an open-air event and everyone has to wash their clothes because of the stench, it is a problem.

But worse still was on Monday, when we went to the ‘Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania’. This is an absolutely gorgeous area, with overlooks and several miles of hiking trails. But to get to it all you have to go through the info center / gift shop. And in between the two is a covered hall with benches that looked like a fog bank had rolled in. It was nasty, and inexcusably rude on the part of the smokers. I had no problem with those who sat at benches outside that area or hung out by their cars to smoke … well, to an extent I did but more on that later. Those other smokers enjoyed their rights without infringing upon mine. This is an inherently outdoor, health-centric activity, and I cannot believe that there is anyone alive who would equate smoking as consistent with ‘fresh air’ or ‘healthy’ or ‘good exercise’. It is the antithesis.

OK, my other problem with smokers? Virtually all of them are poisoning the environment. It goes beyond the smoke itself to the ashes they brazenly flick to the butts they crush and toss in public places for the birds to eat and choke to death. I’m sure there are some who bring along their own ashtrays to avoid these things, but I haven’t seen ONE. Not one … ever. And before anyone starts with ‘other people litter’, yeah they do – and they are no better. But smokers are the subject here.

I think there is a certain hypocrisy in allowing smoking to be legal yet treating it like a crime. I believe that smokers should be allowed to pursue their legal right to smoke. I believe in smoking sections and smoking areas and so on. But I also believe that my right to *not* smoke should be honored, and that due to the health considerations it should be put above the right to public smoking.

What do YOU think about public smoking in nature settings? Or in general?

28 thoughts on “From The Archives – Thank you for smoking … NOT!

  1. I am so thankful that I have grown up in CT (with NY and MA nearby) where I don’t have to worry about having smokers in restaurants and bars. When I went out in PA for the first time I was horrified when I saw someone smoking inside a restaurant! Whenever I see people smoking outside though, I get conflicted. On the one hand I know that if we are going to limit where they are allowed to smoke we might as well leave them at least one spot (although I think it is the worst decision someone can make). On the other hand, I almost always think that people smoking outside are selfish, inconsiderate, and ignorant. Just because you are outside and there is a greater area for the smoke to diffuse doesn’t mean that it actually does or that it doesn’t affect the rest of us. There is nothing worse than walking behind someone who is smoking and being stuck in their giant cloud of asthma-attack-inducing smoke. It may be your choice to inhale those cancer-causing chemicals on a regular basis but I have made the decision to keep it out of my life.
    You know what’s really the worst though? When you are driving behind a car and you can tell they are smoking because suddenly your car starts smelling like cigarettes. Yuck!

    • Thanks so much for the great comment!

      I grew up in a very different world, when there was smoking in hospitals (for real!) and on airplanes and everywhere in restaurants … but since my mom smoked nonstop and so did both sides of the family (and many of my teachers and parents of friends and so on) it wasn’t a huge thing. But gradually everyone quit and we got new laws and restrictions – whew!

      I remember shopping for cars just out of college, and there was a great 2-year old Honda Accord for a great price … that smelled like an ash tray. Even took it for a test drive. No way.

  2. They have really been putting the hammer down on smoking around here and I am SO thankful for it especially since the vast majority of the time I’m out anywhere I have B in tow.

    Not in a nature environment, but on Sunday we were down in DC having some lunch and this woman was smoking as she walked down the street in front of us. Betty and I ended up in her smoke cloud and she loudly asked me what the gross smell was (hehe…I love her toddler no-filter) and then the woman just dropped the burning cigarette on the ground right where we were and kept right on going. Which was awesome because I was wearing sandals. It’s pretty horrifying how some people just don’t care.

    My best friend smokes occasionally, but she is also trying to quit and is very polite/discreet when she does it at all. I wish all smokers were like her.

    • I have to admit to a few times asking people to ‘pick up their trash’ when they drop the cigarette on the ground. One time we were right below a ‘do not litter’ sign … and only that time the person actually did it. They are never happy, and one time told me to ‘eff off’.

      And yeah, the young child no filter policy is generally a great thing … but having them tell someone ‘mommy said the sun will turn to ice before we come visit you’ leads to an interesting discussion. I corrected them – it was Daddy 🙂

      • I should have said something to her. If I hadn’t had Betty with me, I probably would have been more likely to. I definitely didn’t want to get into a confrontation with her riding on my back!

      • That is funny – we want our kids to see us be bold and strong, but not necessarily get into confrontations 🙂

  3. I’ll never forget a trip we took to Vermont many years ago. We pulled into a rest stop. While we were there I saw a guy open his car door and dump out his full ashtray onto the ground. There was a trash can with in 20 feet of his car.
    All of this natural beauty around us and some DB from “out-of-state” has to dump his garbage in the middle of it!

    • That is disgusting! I remember that dumping ashtrays in parking lots was just something people did. It is appalling … and never made sense to me, because these same people certainly wouldn’t throw trash out of their car. Ugh!

  4. At my first marathon I was in the last miles of the race when I had to cross a bridge. There were a group of women standing there jeering the runners. That was enough to make me angry but to make matter worse they were all smoking. Here I am, running a marathon, appreciating every breath I took and I had to breath their smoke. I was furious.

    • Thanks for the comment Ann – I wouldn’t even begin to know how to deal with that … totally infuriating! I am so glad that in every race I have dealt with, the people on the sides have been incredibly supportive and there FOR the runners. Wow … just wow!

  5. Ugh, less than 2 weeks ago, I had to await a hotel shuttle outside the Baton Rouge airport and it was like being in a bar. No smoking within 20 feet of an entrance, but conveniently 20 feet away seemed to be right where all the shuttle seating was. It was disgusting. But even worse was when I ran past a smoking spectator in the Marine Corps marathon — I kind of felt like I was in shock that someone would be smoking while watching people run, but I get that it’s an addiction.

    I’m torn on indoor/outdoor smoking. Part of me thinks no public indoor smoking would be best, even cigar bars, smoking sections, bars, etc., because people have to work there and they shouldn’t be subjected to that — at least outdoors, it’s diluted. And I think I’d be in favor of more regulation on indoor smoking — only in private spaces, and only if no one under the age of 8? 12? 16? 18? is within 100 feet? the same room? the same building? Not sure of the specifics, but the same way parents can be criminally charged for sunburned kids, I’d understand charging parents for kids exposed to smoke.

    • Thanks Carina – and based on recent studies the ‘outdoor dilution’ factor is supposedly pretty effective, to the point of making second hand smoke in truly open spaces purely an annoyance rather than health hazard.

      As for the indoor / outdoor … not sure, because I see what you’re saying, but also if people want to self-contain themselves in that environment, fine, whatever. Then there are the workers … which is difficult.

      As for the children, totally with you on that one.

      • Brain’s not working. I meant I’m not sure indoor smoking should be allowed in many instances where it presently is (public places with employees, and in private homes where there are children), and so the balance to that is permitting outdoor smoking, even in public spaces like parks. Disgusting for sure, but seems the better practice.

  6. There are very few things in this life I will say I truly hate, but smoking is one of them. I am SO thankful to live in MA where like you said, its pretty much banned everywhere. I am thankful for that not only for myself that has a really hard time breathing around smoke but for Ashton as well, I don’t want him affected by other people’s bad habits. I grew up with a smoking parent and hated it my entire life and always voiced my disgust of it.

    I also may be more on the extreme side, but when I see a parent smoking with young children in the car or a pregnant woman smoking, I get irate, I believe its a form of child endangerment. Okay, rant over! 🙂 Have a good day!

    • NY has gotten much better since I initially wrote that post, but still not as good (or restrictive, depending on perspective) as MA. And I really think that intentional exposure to a known major health hazard is at best ‘difficult to defend’, if not outright endangerment. 🙂

  7. I hate the smell of cigarettes. So much. On the one hand, I have no problem with people making their own decisions (no matter how stupid), but I just don’t want to ever have to smell a cigarette or see another butt. When I was in high school, I worked at the grocery store and the break room had a separate smoking room with a closed door between the two. This did not work, and my coat would always end up stinking by the end of my shift. This led to my mother wondering why I always smelled like smoke. If I wasn’t such a goody two shoes, I probably would have gotten into trouble.

    • haha – thanks Amy … it was funny after my mother stopped smoking, she was suddenly able to smell everything! I can only imagine how we smelled to people who didn’t smoke, but in the 70s it was so common for people to smoke. When I was in high school working at Bradlee’s dept store, the break room allowed smoking, so I seldom could eat there because … yuk.

  8. Oh this is great! Thank you for digging through the old stuff 🙂 I’m excited to read it. I cannot STAND second hand smoking. It’s disgusting, is horrendous for everyone around whoever is smoking, makes clothes and everything else stink, and gives me the worst headache imaginable. I refuse to go to a couple bars in Pittsburgh that I would enjoy because they still allow smoking, and I absolutely loathe it. And don’t even get me started on when I have to walk through it I near it with the boys. Whoever is smoking gets the dirtiest looks for me, and I don’t bother to ask Bk to keep it down when he remarks that the smoke stinks, he doesn’t like it, and he thinks whoever is smoking is mean. I loudly agree with him. I try to keep him polite about just about everything else but definitely not that one.

  9. Arghhhh…. I hate when people around me smoke. I like to go outside for my lunch break and relax while sitting on a bench and reading a book. It happens so often that somebody sits next to me and starts smoking… The worst thing is when the wind is in my direction. I just want to shake them and ask, what’s WRONG with you? Also I hate walking behind smokers, so I always do my best to outrun them. I just don’t get it! Oh, one more thing, I have no clue how these people go outside at -40 Celsius for a smoke… It’s beyond me 😀 xoxo

    • We call those people ‘true hardcore smokers’ … I mean, what sort of crazy person would choose to be outside in those temperatures. Oops … that is my entire winter workout schedule! haha

      But totally agree – we ran into it sitting in the park last month, were just playing chess on a blanket, fortunately not eating, but someone else came and sat there and started puffing … and it was someone I am fairly certain had/has cancer, and with children. It was sad, but also maddening.

  10. Loved this older post – and it’s fun to see how our writing changes!

    I’m with you on the cigarette smoke, although it reminds me of baseball games (from when I was young); so if I am outside and it’s not too close, I sort of enjoy the smell. Which is crazy. I know!

    • I think it is interesting relating smoking – and other smells – and memories. It pulls from all corners of our lives and experiences. I grew up in a smoking house, so I remember exacting a ‘smoking tax’ from my mother – I would get her a carton of cigarettes from the store down the street but get to buy a soda and candy bar out of the change (when a whole carton was less than $10!). I also remember my grandmother’s house having incredibly poor ventilation and getting filled with smoke, so lots of us would head into the carport for air 🙂 I have no fond ‘smoke smell’ memories … so I find your comment intriguing!

  11. It was so interesting going to Europe and seeing the difference in the number of people that smoked versus here, and the manner in which they did so. In France, it was rampant–people were smoking everywhere, but not as much in London (much cleaner of a city) or Rome. Here, you walk around and there are cigarette butts everywhere. I will say that in France, they don’t just leave them everywhere like they do here. But it really bothered Alex.
    And NYC was definitely different once they banned the smoking, but then it just sent people outside to huddle.
    What gets me is all the people (doctors and nurses included) who huddle around the no smoking signs at hospitals (often, if they are patients, while on oxygen tanks) and puff away. Um, seriously?

    • Totally agree – my European work trips are many years old, but I still remember finding it amazing the extent to which people smoked everywhere in Germany and France but not as much in England.

      And it really IS something seeing someone with an O2 tank who is smoking …

  12. It’s funny you mentioned this because I was thinking the other day that tobacco farms should be shut down. I really really hate cigarettes because they killed my grandfather and it was an ugly, painful death for him. And he smoked until the end.

    My son has unfortunately taken up smoking in the last couple years, and sometimes when he was home, I’d smell it when he was outside and I was inside the closed house. You can’t tell me those things aren’t toxic if I can smell them 100 feet from my bedroom and he’s on the other side of the house, near the basement and outdoors. And I mean the second he would light up — it woke me a couple times in the middle of the night and I texted him that I could smell them and it was gross.

    I hope it’s just a phase, but I know how addictive they are. When I was in rehab, I was the only person in our 17 woman house who did not smoke and many AAers said that quitting smoking was tougher than quitting booze.

    So, yes, I think smoking is a horrible, horrible thing.

    • I know … that bothered me seeing that your son was smoking. It breaks my heart seeing kids doing it … I mean, even at my age we all grew up ‘knowing better’. I do hope it is a phase … but it can be really hard to kick as you say. 😦

  13. Pingback: Monday Rant – Crap That Annoyed Me Last Week | Running Around the Bend

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