The California State Air Resources board this week voted to classify secondhand smoke as a toxic air contaminant. So now it gets to hang out with the big players, arsenic and benzene, among 200 other substances deemed by the state to be hazardous to health.
The decision was made on the basis of studies liking second hand smoke to increased incidences of cancer, heart disease, asthma, and infertility among non-smokers. Since I’m not a scientist, I’m not sure exactly how the link was made here. Perhaps it was non-smokers who were exposed to second hand smoke on a regular basis? The British Veterinary Associate several years ago linked increased cancer rates in animals to second hand smoke, based on a study of animals that lived primarily indoors with one or more smokers. That seems like a reasonably solid connection, although, the point is, there are a lot of environmental pollutants which could be responsible for this, not just tobacco smoke. It seems as though something is always causing cancer, and then it doesn’t, oh but it does, but maybe it doesn’t…
I think the real reasoning behind the ruling is simple. Smoking is disgusting. I think it’s the most foul personal habit on earth. I loathe it. I wish all smokers would either quit or be isolated to a desert island far far away. I hate how it smells. I hate how it looks. I hate choking on a cloud of tobacco smoke when I walk in the streets. I hate that the foul miasma clings to my clothing, bringing the nastiness into my home. Smoking causes a visceral reaction in me.
But at least I’m honest about it. Yes, second hand smoke is probably not terribly good for me. But so is driving. In one year, a mid-size SUV can release 14 or more tons per year of harmful greenhouse gases. According to the Tappet brothers, 70 million SUVs are releasing as much pollution as 110 million cars. As someone who just smogged a car prior to selling it, I can say that the maximum emissions loads allowed, even in California, are amazingly high. (By the way my car was extremely clean burning, thank you very much, the mechanic even commended me for it.) A fuel efficient car like a Prius still releases a fair amount–up to five tons. In addition to the industrial pollution caused by burning things like coal for fuel, each and every American is already responsible for a lot of particulate matter and pollution floating around the atmosphere.
Smokers, according to the Air Resources Board, cause 1,900 tons of carbon monoxide pollution per year in California. That’s 126 Lincoln Navigators. 380 Priuses. I think you can see where I am going with this, homechickens, but let me spell it out for you. Pollution is a big problem. I want to the earth to be healthy. But smoking does not cause enough of that pollution to justify an all out war on it. We should be waging war on SUVs if we are concerned about particulate matter, pollution, and cancer, because they are much larger (hah hah) culprits than smokers.
Why can’t the Air Resources Board just admit that smoking is yucky, and that’s why they are taking another step in the war on smoking?
Clearly, the direct effects of smoking are harmful. There is a strong link between smoking a wide variety of yucky diseases. And I am always very supportive of the people in my life who want to quit. Alas, my support is probably largely due to my own personal revulsion, rather than the improvement in their health. But, once again, at least I am honest. And they do get healthier anyway, so there.
As a fat rights activist, I really struggle with my position on smoking. It’s clearly stated above. Smoking is gross. It should stop. I should be applauding bans like this, but instead I am criticizing them, because I think the ban is hiding an attitude. I think it would be much more honest for the legislature to pass the “Smoking is Fucking Nasty Bill of 2006”. At least it’s right out there. The state is saying “this is gross, and we’re going to make you stop.” But, at the same time, a lot of the war on fat is couched in similar language. “Being fat is unhealthy,” “fat people release 37 tons of methane per year,” “fat people are endangering our children,” and what have you. But the government can’t say “fat people are gross, and that’s why we are really making such a big fuss about them.” I’ll be honest with you, there are a lot of things people do that other people think are gross, like pooping, picking your nose, eating toast, eat haggis, and so forth. Should we ban all of those things as well, simply because we don’t like them?
I don’t think I will ever become a smoker’s rights activist, because of my own personal aversion to smoking. But I do think I need to adjust my opinion of the smokers rights movement, and admit respect for them even if I dislike their cause. I imagine there are a fair number of smokers out there who think fat people are disgusting, so maybe we are even.
That said, if you ever light up in my presence, I will fucking kill you. Go outside. And don’t stand in the doorway, you disgusting piece of shit, go away from the building, away from the windows, and away from the intake vents. In return, I will agree to eat only two slices of chocolate cake at one sitting, instead of four. Ok? And I won’t pick my nose. In front of you, anyway.