Out on the grass in my front yard, near the road, is an empty cigarette package. I keep hoping it will dry up enough so that the wind will blow it somewhere else. I ought to pick it up and put it in the trash, but I have an aversion to all things “cigarette.” I can’t stand the smell. I can’t stand the smoke. I can’t stand the mess. I can’t stand what they do to people. And, I can’t stand the litter. I don’t even like to touch anything related to it.
A little extreme…I know.
It started when I was a kid. Almost every adult in my life smoked, but I saw the news stories and the anti-smoking TV ads, and I believed them. While my mother believed all the Surgeon General’s edicts about smoking causing cancer and emphysema were lies, I was convinced that it was as terrible as they said it was…plus, I just couldn’t breathe around it.
I can’t recall a time in my life when I haven’t HATED cigarettes. From my earliest days, I worked hard at avoiding the smoke. I’d recline on the living room floor instead of sitting on a chair or the sofa so as to be under the floating vapors of death. I spent countless hours isolated in my bedroom. I escaped outside or down in the basement. As a child, I would rather suck in the mustiness of that old basement than the odorous fumes from the cancer sticks.
Car rides were the worst…especially in the winter. The summers weren’t as bad in the old ’68 Chevy Nova with no power nuthin’ because we had the window and vents open, but winter was a killer…some would say “literally.” It really bothers me today to see parents driving around with their kids in the back, windows sealed up tight, and the smoke just rolling around inside. If that isn’t child abuse, then we need to redefine it.
When I turned sixteen and got my license, I suddenly took control of the car. Whenever mom and I drove somewhere, I was behind the wheel. Combine the natural lack of respect present in most every teenager with my obsessive hatred of tobacco products and you have someone who is going to go over and beyond to ensure that he doesn’t have to deal with smoke in the car. One of two things would happen if mom insisted in lighting up while I was driving: 1. I’d turn up the radio as loud as I could take it, or 2. I’d stop the car, then get out and sit on the hood until she was done. Soon, she pretty much refrained from smoking in the car when I was driving. I’m not recommending those steps, but it’s what I did. Call it a confession.
It’s funny how time changes things. As a child, all the adults smoked and all the kids went outside or to the basement to avoid it. Now, many fewer people smoke and generally they have to go outside to partake. In this one way, I like how society has shifted.
Back to that empty cigarette packet on my front lawn…
What is it with smokers? Why do they feel so free to leave their mess everywhere? I took a walk today too, and in the one-mile I trotted I saw a number of other empty cigarette packages and many more old, nasty cigarette butts. Here’s an exercise for you…the next time you’re sitting at a traffic light with the motor idling and you’re waiting for your turn to go…take a look out your window and along the median curb…see if you can count ALL of the butts lying there in the dirt.
Further, I wonder if that empty cigarette pack was left there by the same goofball that has been leaving his or her cigarette butts on the end of my driveway for the last ten years.
I remember as a kid going to Ross Supermarket in Muncie, Indiana with my mom. She would smoke all through the store, and when she was done with one, she’d drop it on the floor and step on it. That was common practice “back in the day.” Being a slob with smoking materials seems to be built into the DNA of our addicted society. But, dear smoker, the next time you are lamenting how your rights are been so severely restricted in today’s anti-smoking culture, you might want to consider all the ways that you have cut off your own nose.
· Contaminating other people’s air
· Locking up your kids in smoke-filled cars
· Causing health problems in others through your second-hand smoke
· Dropping your used butts in every conceivable location
· Burning down your families' homes
· Causing economic and emotion devastation for you family as they cope with your cancer and death
· And, dropping your trash in my front yard!
My mom did eventually quit smoking. In 2002, after she was diagnosed with throat cancer, she gave them up. And, in mid-2004, when the Smoker’s Rights representative called to ask for her help in petitioning the state to prevent smoking bans, I had to tell her that she had died. Because, you see, she died in 2003 from the side-effects of fighting the cancer. That woman from Smoker’s Rights suddenly apologized for calling, and then said: “It’s just my job.”
I sure hope she found a better one.
In memory of:
Uncle-- Keith Terrell (Lung Cancer)
Mom-- Marge DeCamp (Throat Cancer)
Brother-- Bob Nicholas (Throat Cancer)