Thursday, September 28, 2006

Smoking = Farting

Senor Llama posted recently about his friend's (possibly satirical) call to arms for smoker's rights. YL is usually a pretty clever guy but his past demands for smoker's rights have always struck me as quite silly; again, these may be a joke but I feel they raise some good points that I'll deal with here in utmost seriousness.

One of the points YL has made (I can't find a reference at the moment) is that the medical data about the health effects of smoking and secondhand smoke is exaggerated or misunderstood or perhaps even false. I'm not a health professional (and neither is YL) so I'll just set that aside for now. I'll even go one further and say that even if it is all true, it doesn't matter so much. It's not inconceivable that within 100 years medical science will have advanced so much that any negative effects of cigarette smoking can be reversed. Should the anti-smoking measures then be repealed? Of course not. And if the health effects are truly negative to the user, shouldn't people have the right to take their health into their hands? Of course they should. So let's concentrate upon the effects of smoke upon non-smokers.

It would be better for all sides if smoking is compared to something similar in effect: farting. Let's say you had a serious gas problem, one that made you break smelly wind at least once an hour (we'll say that it's silent for simplicity's sake). While it might be healthy and pleasureable for you to fart, you know that doing so will bring a horrible smell into the noses of others. You would probably do what you could to stop this, such as take some sort of pills to cut down on your gas production. You'd probably also feel bad about subjecting people to this horrible smell and take solace in the fact that you can't control it very much. Surely the guilt you feel at the discomfort of others would outweigh the great pleasure that you, like all people, take in the smell of your own farts.

Smokers, perhaps as a reaction to the villification they've faced in recent years, seem to think all their 'farts' smell like perfume (or 'pure Virginia pleasure'). They don't seem to realize that a non-smoker who attempts to breathe smoke will cough and can't tell the difference between their smoke and the neighbor's house burning down. Smokers aren't really talking about the right to take their own health into their hands or the right to enjoy something privately; they want the right to force strangers to smell their fecal matter.

Both sides of the debate would be served to take up this analogy. The anti-smoking crowd could point out the rudeness of the act, perhaps inspire a rebirth of manners that is certainly sorely lacking at the high school I work at. Or even inspire more research into smokeless cigarettes (this might not work, however, as some have postulated that the attraction of smoking isn't the nicotine as much as it is the ability to have fire at your mouth).

The pro-smoking crowd should also adopt this analogy and direct their energies to making smelly farts publicly acceptable. Not only would we all be better off having less to annoy us, but maybe such smells are just an acquired taste. This would give the smokers a foot in the door that they could later use to make their own habit acceptable. As long as it's not around me.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Chris said...

I don't think I ever said smoking is not bad for you. Or even suggested that it is not as bad for you as some make it out to be. What I believe I suggested is that smoking is not as bad for society as some make it out to be. And so justifying cigarette taxes to pay for increased medical bills is not justified. If cigarette smokers cost social services (e.g. Medicaid) less than non-smokers over the course of their lifetimes, where is the justice in making smokers pay extra to get in on such services? If cigarette smokers cost more, will someone please show me the evidence?

And this has nothing to do with laws that prevent people from smoking in restaurants, bars, etc. With regard to those laws, your "fart" analogy is at least on target, if not particularly appropriate. I'd liken cigarette smoke more to Polo Blue than farts, but that's a matter of personal taste, and likely appropriate for the political process to decide.

1:33 AM  
Anonymous Ol' Dale said...

It was slightly satirical; the main thing that makes me angry is complying with all laws (i.e. going outside, standing right next to an ashtray, using said ashtray) and trying to be as polite as I can possibly be with my admittedly non-popular and yes, not alltogether sweet-smelling habit, then having someone try to make me feel like an asshole for doing something that makes me happy.
On a side note, in Seattle this weekend I am completely unable to follow my own advice. I still step well out of the way and use all ashtrays.
I think the health risks of smoking are equal parts putting dangerous chemicals into your body and genetics; I have only anecdotal evidence. My maternal grandparents and most of my aunts and uncles have been lifelong smokers, and the ones who are dead lived well into their late-eighties to early nineties and died of completely unrelated illnesses. I think part of it is my descent from coal-miners-- natural selection weeds out the coal-miners with weak lungs.

2:45 PM  

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