No Butts About It

If you’re like me, you find secondhand smoke unpleasant, irritating and a downright menace to your health.  A raft of studies has confirmed the dangers of inhaling secondhand smoke.  To reduce its impact, we’ve banned smoking in the workplace, restaurants and other public places.  But those bans have produced a new menace:  street smokers.

You know who they are. They’re the people who insist on smoking while they’re walking down the street, right next to you and me.

Sure, they’re angry because they can’t light up in stores and theaters the way they used to.  They miss smoking in their favorite bars and restaurants.  And they’re annoyed that they can’t smoke at work anymore.

But hey, street smokers, don’t make the rest of us suffer.  You should be content to pollute your own homes (even if you are endangering the health of your spouse, your children, and the family dog).

But are you?  No, you’re not.  You’ve become street smokers.

You stride through our city streets, puffing away with complete disregard for anyone else.  I’ve come close to being burned by one of your smoking wands too many times to keep it to myself anymore.  You’ve got to be stopped.

Okay, I admit you’ve been entrapped by carefully designed advertising, depicting smoking as glamorous and seductive, inducing you to start smoking at an early age.  Convinced by Big Tobacco that smoking was “cool,” that it would make you more attractive to the opposite sex, you began smoking in your teens, then found yourselves addicted.  So maybe I should pity rather than condemn you.

Sorry, I just can’t.  Uppermost in my mind is the health and safety of us nonsmokers.  First and foremost, I worry about secondhand smoke.  But I also worry about the prospect of burnt skin and ugly holes in my faux designer duds.

Maybe you think smoking outside is harmless to others.  Wrong!  If you’re within ten feet of me on a busy sidewalk, or standing near me as I wait for a stoplight to change, I can’t avoid inhaling your smoke.  And the burning end of your cigarette is more dangerous on the street than off, where you rest it in an ashtray instead of waving it mere inches from my skin and clothing.

Another problem you’ve caused:  Your discarded butts are everywhere.  They now make up one of the worst sources of unsightly litter on the city’s streets.

Instead of pulling out that cigarette when you’re walking next to me, try being a bit more creative.  Maybe an entrepreneur could open “smokers’ lounges” in high-density locations.  (Here’s a idea free of charge:  Call them Smokebucks–a Starbucks for smokers.)  Surely most cities could support one or two.

If you tried, you could initiate some even better options.  You could try a nicotine patch, investigate hypnosis, or join a support group.  In the meantime, don’t expect me and my fellow nonsmokers to shower you with sympathy.

Listen up, street smokers.  Nonsmokers are fed up with you.  We’re tired of inhaling your smoke as you walk in front, behind, or next to us.

We’re tired of dodging the red-hot tips of your cigarettes as we walk through the city.  If you don’t cut out your lung-damaging, skin-threatening street smoking, we’ll organize.  We’ll form a group called ESS (Eliminate Street Smoking).  ESS will create a new morality that makes it unacceptable to smoke on the street.  We’ll lobby for laws banning street smoking, just as drinking liquor and spitting on the street were banned long ago.

If none of this works, I’ll come after you myself.  I’ll pull that burning stick out of your nicotine-stained fingers, hurl it to the ground and crush it underfoot until it’s dead.  No jury in the world would convict me of causing harm to anyone—especially you.

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