Smoking is stupid and brings out the worst in people

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It was recently announced that Walmart and Sam’s Clubs across the country will be raising the age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21, with an exception for active military with ID.

The Texas Legislature is also contemplating a similar move statewide. I wholeheartedly applaud these moves.

Smoking is one of my biggest pet peeves. (For the record, when I talk about smoking, I’m including vaping, e-cigs, joints and any and every other form of recreational inhalant.)

I don’t know what bothers me more, the violation of having vile, smelly pollutants involuntarily forced upon me, or the arrogant, uncaring selfishness of the smoker. I’m a very character-driven person and I find smokers to be seriously lacking in that regard.

I was subjected to second-hand smoke throughout my childhood and early adult years. I hate it and I hate what it did to me. I hate seeing what smoking does to people. I got into many heated arguments about smokers’ “rights” over the years, mostly with people in positions of authority over me. Fortunately, the laws have since been on my side and supported my position and my smoke-free rights.

I fear, however, that the pendulum is beginning to swing back the other way and that has me gravely concerned. From the growing trend of artificial cigarettes to the state-by-state push to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, we are seeing smoking making a major comeback at a time when, ideally, it should be eradicated.

I fail to understand why anyone would even consider starting that nasty habit. There isn’t a person in this country who hasn’t been taught from an early age that all smoking and tobacco use is bad for you. The link to cancer, emphysema and many other diseases and health problems is indisputable. Children who are subjected to second-hand smoke are at greater risk of illness such as SIDS, asthma, and allergies. The addictive nature of tobacco and the extreme difficulty in breaking its grasp are well documented and profound. So why anyone would even think of trying it is beyond me.

In order to start smoking, it means you are wantonly ignoring not only the health risks to yourself, but also your loved ones and others around you. That is an intensely selfish character trait. In many cases, people take their first puff because they have caved in to peer pressure. Being a weak-willed follower is just another character flaw in smokers. There are some who try it out of curiosity to know what it’s like. Curiosity is understandable, but you don’t have to pee on an electric fence to see how it works.

When I say that smokers are selfish, I mean it. There is only one person in the room who derives any kind of pleasure out of smoking and that’s the person doing it. It is of no benefit at all to anyone, including the smoker. In fact, it’s an irritant. It subjects everyone else to the harmful effects of second-hand smoke. It stinks and the odor lingers on people and things long after the cigarette has been extinguished. It’s also rude to make everyone around you suffer with that disgusting filth just because you want to satiate a selfish desire for a nicotine fix.

Smokers are so caught up in themselves that they don’t stop to think about how their habit affects others, even beyond second-hand smoke. Their little five- and 10-minute smoke breaks affect production at work. So does the time they lose due to illness that is directly or indirectly related to smoking. When they are not doing their job, it means some else is picking up the slack or stuck waiting on the smoker.

When the inevitable illness strikes, it means family members must sacrifice their own time to aid and comfort the ailing smoker, which has its own domino effect on society and the economy.

Whenever a smoker undergoes medical treatment for cancer or other smoking-related illness, the cumulative effect is increased medical expenses for everyone. Insurance costs go up because it costs more to cover what is essentially a preventable disease.

In case you haven’t noticed, smokers are responsible for 100 percent of all cigarette butts littering the ground. Cigarette butts are one of the largest sources of litter in the country. They are further proof that smokers are self-centered because they do not care enough to clean up after themselves and leave their mess for others to deal with.

The claim that cigarette butts are biodegradable and quickly decompose doesn’t hold a drop of water with me. I have spent countless hours voluntarily cleaning up roadsides, trails, and waterways and know better. Cigarette butts can and will last for years. I fail to see how discarded butts benefit anyone other than the thoughtless litterbug.

If there is any remote upside to cigarettes, it’s the high taxes on them. That’s a voluntary tax paid by smokers and the money helps the economy. On the other hand, the money smokers spend on their habit is lost to them and can’t be used to the betterment of their lives or the lives of their families. It’s literally money gone up in smoke.

If this rant seems harsh, it’s meant to be. Smoking is harsh and cruel. At this point, there are probably a lot of readers who agree with me and are sharing this column with friends and family because I have put into print what they have been feeling or saying all along.

There are others who probably want to kick my teeth in and stab out a thousand cigarette butts on my carcass for calling them selfish and weak-willed because they choose to smoke. So be it. As the saying goes: the truth hurts.

Additionally, I am really worried about the push across the nation to approve recreational use of marijuana. Everything I have said about cigarettes applies to marijuana and more. Not only does marijuana bring with it the same problems as cigarettes, but it also means the smoker is probably buzzed or totally stoned. If you think drunk driving is a problem, this is worse.

The use of marijuana puts us at risk from drivers who are not in complete control of their faculties. Some of these same people are major cogs in the wheels that move society and run our economy. If you have a worker trying to drive or operate machinery, or a manager making multi-million-dollar decisions under the influence, you’re only inviting disaster. Marijuana also negatively impacts your ability to parent and relate with others, including your spouse, family members, and employers.

That’s why I feel that we must not only uphold our marijuana laws, but we need to add teeth to them and increase their enforcement. Anything we can do to discourage all smoking is to the benefit of society and is worth pursuing, including banning all artificial smoking in places where smoking is already prohibited. Raising the age to buy tobacco products is a great start. To do anything less is a moral and ethical failure.

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