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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Smokers undeserving of societal scorn

    “”He was really cool, but he smokes, so it would never work out,”” said my friend a month ago. She met a nice classmate at a party, but all bets were off when he pulled a pack of Marlboros out of his jean pocket. Even though they had a long, engaging conversation, she decided he wasn’t worth any further consideration because he was a smoker.

    To some, she was justified in rejecting someone for having a “”disgusting bad habit,”” but though it’s often regarded as repulsive and clearly unhealthy, it should not be the sole reason to give someone the boot.

    Smoking seems to be a huge turnoff because “”it’s so bad for you,”” and smokers are often treated as subhuman cretins for partaking in such a hazardous activity. Smokers live with the unfair stigma that they’re bad people and that they don’t care about compromising the well-being of everyone else. Smokers’ choices make little sense to non-smokers, but why are they criticized far more than annoying binge drinkers? It doesn’t seem right to alienate and minimize smokers while enabling and accepting problematic drinkers.

    A close friend is an addicted smoker, and despite the fact that she has straight A’s, rarely consumes alcohol and is graduating a year early, many have asked me if something is wrong with her simply because smoking is her vice. The answer is no, even though the same people argue that smokers wouldn’t be smoking if they didn’t have psychological or emotional problems. The same can be said about drinkers, only college students can easily hide behind their drinking habits because they’re expected to imbibe heavily at this age.

    No one really questions why college students drink, but it’s a different story if they smoke. It’s possible to die from alcohol poisoning after a night of too much drinking, yet the negative effects of smoking take longer to set in. Drinking often evokes boisterous, irresponsible behavior while smoking relaxes the user. Secondhand smoke can harm non-smokers, yet drunk drivers can instantly kill sober passengers.

    As a non-smoker who has never smoked anything, I used to think like the majority of nonsmokers around me, especially coming from northern California where cigarette smoking laws are strict. It seemed inconsiderate and thoughtless of cigarette users to smoke in public, particularly near other people, but they have a right to the outdoors just as much as I do, regardless of their behavior. A classmate was nearly physically assaulted for smoking a cigarette in downtown Santa Cruz, Calif., where marijuana is socially acceptable and cigarette smokers are demonstrably unwelcome.

    One can argue that smokers jeopardize the health of others by smoking in a populous area. Yes, ample evidence suggests that secondhand smoking causes the same health problems as direct smoking. It’s frustrating as a nonsmoker to know that I am taking care of my lungs, yet I am still a reasonable candidate for lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, bronchitis, etc. just because I have many smoker friends and walk by smoking strangers every day. Those who won’t even associate with smokers are also at risk of getting these lung ailments, especially if they live in smoker-friendly places such as the Commonwealth of Virginia. It seems as if even the healthiest cannot be saved by avoiding scientifically proven bad habits.

    Inhaling secondhand smoke puts us at risk, but by crossing a street, we face the peril of getting hit by a car, or even shot by a madman. When we step outside, we overlook the rare possibility of a plane crashing to the ground or a fire enveloping our home. On our trips to the city, we expose ourselves to thousands of potentially dangerous people. Many of these risks are uncommon, but they still exist and we accept that we may be casualties of these any day.

    Essentially, we take countless risks in our lives, so why is it necessary to scold smokers for contributing to our many risks? They’re certainly easy targets, even though polite smokers stand away from others when they smoke, and they tend to wait until nonsmokers have left before lighting their cigarettes.

    Smoking isn’t for everyone, but those who enjoy it shouldn’t be mistreated and underestimated. Please lay off smokers and accept that there are more dangerous things we can do than accidentally inhale cigarette smoke.

    -ÿLaura Donovan is a creative writing junior. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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