Smoking or nonsmoking?

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I think it’s fair to say that I take a strong, anti-smoking stance.

That’s not to say that I don’t think people should be able to smoke if they want to – I just don’t want it around me and I think that’s because I A) don’t like it and B) was brought up in an environment that preached anti-smoking all the time. 

Having said that, I have a neighbor downstairs who smokes like a chimney – if I open my windows, it comes right up into my place (and sometimes I don’t even have to open the windows to catch it creeping up into my place).  I’m not going to run downstairs and tell her she can’t smoke in her own place – that’s just wrong.

I’m not a recent convert to the anti-smoking bandwagon either.  My mom likes to tell the story about how, when I was quite small (difficult to imagine I know), I used to take my father’s smokes and crush them.  Needless to say, this upset him quite a bit.  I also didn’t care for it when I was trapped in a car with my mom or my older brother, both of whom smoked.  I would beg for a window to be opened even if it were -10 outside and snowing.  Otherwise, I’d cough and cough and try hard not to breathe.

Moving to California when I was little probably didn’t help, and that’s where the ‘environment’ I mentioned above comes in.  There was, for me at least, a lifelong campaign against smoking going on in California while I was growing up.  You had radio and television ads decrying it, billboards telling you how bad it was for you – heck, you even had people coming into the schools to tell you how bad it was for you.

On top of that, you had the legislature passing increasing taxes on the sale of cigarettes to discourage people from buying them.  Then they followed that up with ban after ban on where you could and couldn’t smoke.  Restaurants, for example, became smoke free.  As did bars.  Then it was ‘public places’, office buildings, airports, government buildings – the list goes on and on.  This brings to mind the image of the helpless smokers crowded around the front door of an office building trying to get their fix during their five minute smoke break.

By the time I was out of school and gainfully employed, I had become used to a smoke free environment.  Few people I worked with smoked anymore, and they always did it outside and away where I didn’t see it.  It became an ‘out of sight out of mind’ sort of thing.  I went out to eat and no one ever asked me, "Smoking or non-smoking?" anymore and it was normal and natural – wasn’t it?.  I forgot that just a few short years earlier, I worked the smoking section of a buffet-style restaurant.

Imagine the culture shock of moving, quite suddenly, to Tennessee.  Here were people who smoked; lots and lots of them.  Where I was hard pressed to socialize or work with someone who smoked when I lived in California, the opposite was true in Tennessee.  I walked into a restaurant and asked to be seated in the non-smoking section and was told I had a twenty to thirty minute wait.  There were plenty of tables free, but they only had a very small non-smoking section – about six tables. The rest of the place was smoking.

I’m absolutely certain that particular restaurant was the extreme, but you can imagine how odd that felt to me having come from a place where anti-smoking was so ingrained in us all.  The surreal sensation of it all lasted for quite sometime until I kinda started to remember that California was harder on smokers than other places – or at least it seemed that way to me.  I did notice that airports around the nation had put into place their own bans on smoking, relegating smokers to little lounges that were setup or to the curb for their fix.

When I moved to Colorado several years later, it was like going back to California.  Once again, I found myself in an environment where the restaurants were smoke-free, as were the businesses. I’ve worked for several companies and have had few coworkers who smoked.  I actually started to wonder where all the smokers were.

With my current job, I did find them.  We have lots of smokers here, but it’s similar to California – it’s all ‘out of sight out of mind’ as they file out in groups to take their smoke breaks.  It doesn’t bother me – I’m not standing on a soap box shouting about how it’s bad for them or any of that.  It’s a personal choice for each person and none of my business.

What I wonder about is environment.  If I’d grown up in a different environment, if I hadn’t had a constant stream of anti-smoking propaganda staring me in the face each and every day, hadn’t been indoctrinated – how would I think about smoking today?

To take that to the next level, I’ve been out of school 18 years now.  What has the environment been for the kids who’ve come after me.  What are they being indoctrinated to believe?

~P