Cigarettes and Social Justice



I’m 32 years old, and I have been smoking cigarettes for 17 of them. It does not makes sense that I started to at all; granted. I would say that at this point, I have probably quit 10 or more times, sometimes for as long as six months. I fall a little short of being regretful for that; I figure that I will quit if or when I feel like it again.

I used to drink quite a bit, also. For those in the know, cigarettes and beer are natural allies and chase each other endlessly around barbecues and bonfires. For the sake of disclosure that tastelessly transcends ethical, I had a horribly rebellious time as a teenager where alcohol and cigarettes were the least of my problems. However, nature ran its course and sorted things out, so one day I was smoking “the pot” with my friends and colleagues of the variety that parents universally despise, and it occurred to me that I really did not like it anymore. Suddenly, there was just this new-found angst for wanting my head to feel clear when I tried to think. The alcohol lasted a few years longer, but it too fell by the wayside on its own, when I suffered the realization that alcohol really did make me less sensitive and perceptive to the emotional wants and needs of the people I cared about.

This is so far a lot of rambling, but it is on its way to something approximating a point, I promise. While it would be horrible to advise another person to take the approach or attitudes that I have with my life and stewardship of myself (the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that smoking cigarettes contributes to 20 percent of premature deaths in the United States annually), everyone is different. It is such a common refrain that we often forget to think about what it means.

I never could have quit cigarettes or anything else if I did not come to my own understanding and resolution. As I remain a smoker, one of the things I notice is that society is growing increasingly less tolerant of the behavior. I am positive that there are people who can survive and thrive in a situation where the concerned voices of their loved ones ring ever in their ears with scolding over their cigarettes, but personally, I just avoid situations that bear for me a subconscious expectation of unpleasantness. Translation – a one-size-fits-all approach would likely not be effective. I need the tear-jerking reason to get motivated. I like cigarettes, and defeating that requires emotional acceptance.

So here we are, at the bottom of the post, and I have yet to tie in social justice. It is probably predictable what angle this is going to cut, but here we go anyway. People know that respecting each other is the right thing to do. We know that respect is a great thing to practice and that it greases the wheels of human interaction. We have all met people across the whole ethnicity spectrum who have defied stereotypes, and the point that I will stop speaking for everyone is where I say that many of those experiences have touched my heart.

I cannot consider myself a racist, because I have no enmity in my being for anyone that is predicated on anything other than their actions. Racism certainly is still a problem in society, but from a practical perspective, it is more likely that it stems from feelings of insecurity, jealousy or inadequacy than from lack of education that people are still people regardless of skin. Read that as, it would be more helpful to foster an attitude of accepting responsibility for one’s own outcome, than to blame other demographics for stealing potential mates or taking jobs or whatever other racist folklore is repeated with the intent to foster hate.

The approach that a certain type of person takes to control the behaviors of other people, be it their smoking or their non-conformist social attitudes, is through shame and a form of social intimidation. They create a landscape where simply being “good” is not good enough, where you need to constantly prove yourself by the expression of exceptional zeal. I categorically reject the “it takes a village” mindset, and its accompanying subtext that gangs of people have natural rights that supersede those of individuals. While its true that my rights end where they impose on yours, the reverse is also true, and the tie-breaker should be to stay out of each others’ way. If someone were to tell me that my smoking effected them via their healthcare costs, I would remind them that they were the ones who voted that it should. I am an idiot for smoking cigarettes, but that is my burden to bear, and it is not anyone else’s obligation to save me from my own actions. I think I will have a cigarette now.

Blog by Brian Whittemore



Photo by AZ – flickr License

One thought on “Cigarettes and Social Justice

Comments are closed.