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?