I like to think of myself as a perpetual kvetcher. Give me anything and I’ll find something I don’t like about it.
This is an exception.
In the United States, smoking is demonized. Wikipedia and Mad Men tell me this modern fight against tobacco has been going on since the 1950s when the link between lung cancer and smoking was first identified, but for as long as I’ve been alive smoking has always been “bad,” and definitely never “cool.”
Yes, I grew up with those hideous commercials of people who are forced to talk out of their throat because they’ve smoked so much, and those forlorn, neglected children who are inhaling “second-hand smoke” because mommy or daddy are smokers. And of course the, “No one wants to kiss an ashtray!” and “Smoking kills!” catchphrases.
If you’re American, you’ve probably heard them all before.
I’ve always found the social pressure exerted on smokers by non-smokers to be quite obnoxious, but I agreed with them for the most part until laws started being passed left right and sideways banning smoking in various locations. Now, it seems America is engaged in an all-out war on smoking.
In addition to being the first state to ever institute a smoking ban in 1995, my home state of California has since passed tight city (and state) restrictions. For instance, in Glendale, CA smoking is prohibited within 20 feet of city property. In Berkeley, smoking is prohibited on sidewalks and within 20 feet of bus stops. Belmont, CA banned smoking in all public places including inside apartments and condominiums!
Many cities in Colorado have passed similar bans, and of course, New York City’s Michael Bloomberg was a big supporter of more laws that restrict people’s individual choices when it comes to their own bodies – pledging $220 million for the purpose of stopping smoking worldwide. There are only 10 states left that have no statewide ban, and even those states have plenty of local regulations when it comes to smoking.
Now don’t get me wrong – I’m all for healthy living. But I don’t like anybody, especially the government, telling me what to do with my own lungs.
At some point during college, I found myself increasingly irritated by people who wanted to ban smoking on campus or threw temper tantrums about standing near smoke (barring a serious existing respiratory issue or something of the sort). I never understood the people who come stand outside with smokers and then get indignant when the smoker stands “too close” to them. If you don’t like it, go away!
It is for that reason that I am pro-smoking rights. While no one is foolish enough to deny that it’s terrible for your health and leads to cancer, there are in fact benefits to smoking. Many scientists argue that smokers are less obese than non-smokers (surely an idea for Michelle Obama’s next four years as First Lady). Smoking has also been shown to prevent certain types of dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and has been proven highly beneficial in alleviating mental illnesses, which makes sense given people smoke when they feel stressed and out of control. According to many of my friends, people who smoke also have an easier time making friends – it’s a social activity. So take that American Cancer Society.
The discrimination against smokers in America is just too much. So imagine my delight when I moved to Israel and people didn’t make nasty comments under their breath, give death glares, or move 15 yards away from a smoker in an attempt to publicly shame them.
This is not to say, of course, that there aren’t smoking bans in other areas of the world, or even Israel, but the attitude is different. And for that, I’d like to say: Thank you, Israel, for smoking.