The timing is amazing. Hard on the heels of yesterday's post about otherwise nice people who insist that you must do things that are good for you, comes an editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle opposing the currently fashionable persecution of smokers, and I'm amazed to find I agree with it.
Let's get the disclaimers out of the way. I don't smoke; hell, I'm an asthmatic. I've smoked I think 7 cigarettes in my life, when I was in grad school, to see if I liked it. I didn't; you wake up in the morning and your mouth tastes like an ash tray. They say that kissing a smoker is like licking an ash try (I was married to one, and it's not quite that bad, but you do notice it); try waking up with that in your own mouth. So I never contracted the habit, which is fortunate because if I had, I probably couldn't breathe at all now.
But this hounding of smokers by constantly reducing the list of places where they're allowed to indulge their habit is getting into the category of the people who yell publicly at pregant women drinking wine (see yesterday's post). The official justification for segregating smokers is that secondhand smoke gives non-smokers lung cancer. OK, that may even be true; but the guy with the Camel in his mouth is at much higher risk. Also, the nicotine habit is the hardest addiction to break - worse than heroin. But as long as they stay in their corners and don't breathe the smoke at other people, how is their nasty habit anybody else's business? Enough already.
This comes back down to civility, a topic I've ranted about before. If I have a nasty habit of some sort, which I manage so that it doesn't harm or threaten other people, then it is nobody else's business. If I'm fat, that's my business. If I drink too much, as long as I don't drive, that's my business. Ditto with the smoking: as long as they control where they light up, it is nobody else's business. But the category of people I call "social Nazis" (yes, I realize I'm echoing Rush Limbaugh, with whom I disagree on almost every point) feel that they, through their superior moral characterstics caused by their possession of The Only Truth, have the right to chastise other people publicly for indulging in habits that injure only the habituee.
But the pregnant lady with the wine, they cry: she's harming her baby. Well, maybe she is: but there was a whole generation of people born in the Roaring Twenties, when everybody drank socially all the time, and that's the generation that won World War II. It's probably better if she doesn't drink, but you don't see fetal alcohol syndrome in the child of a woman who has an occasional glass of wine with dinner. You see it in the children of women who drink their dinner, and breakfast and lunch too. Besides which, it's her baby. It's not the critics' baby. And, getting back to the smokers: as long as I don't have to inhale their smoke, if they want the habit, that's their problem.
The critics really just want somebody to look down on, so they can feel morally superior, safe in their possession of The Truth, which gives them the right to criticize, because they are Right. Try criticizing something they do and see how they like it.