Leave smokers alone

Connor Nikolic’s Feb. 11 column “Is a tobacco-free future on the horizon?” pretty well sums up the stance most non-smokers have on recent anti-smoking initiatives. Consider, as Nikolic does, that the price of cigarettes has tripled in the past 20 years and that CVS Caremark recently announced the removal of tobacco products from its shelves. I felt it appropriate to voice an opinion that many smokers share but have been shamed into censoring: Leave the smokers alone. How many taxes, bans, and/or false fits of coughing must you heap upon us woeful sinners? We know smoking is a bad idea. But we enjoy it, and we have the right to smoke.

It sounds radical, I know, that anyone 18 years of age or older can go into a corner store (other than CVS, thanks to the House of Hanson development), buy a pack of cigarettes (if one can afford it), go outside (not within 25 feet of a doorway, of course, or soon anywhere on campus) and light a cigarette. If you see this happen, please, run for your lives. Or, just obnoxiously cough from a distance to remind the dumb puffer what a public nuisance he or she is. Honestly, and I have to say this to clear my corrupt, hazy conscience: Anti-smokers are goodie-goodie, prudish totalitarians. Really. If you honestly believe a whiff of cigarette smoke outdoors is going to kill you, you are an idiot.

To be fair to Nikolic, he did not make this claim. It is an attitude, however, which undergirds the University of Minnesota’s outdoor smoking ban, and one which seems to have been propagated by the anti-smoking crowd. To these save-people-from-themselves types, let me say: If you really want to pick on smokers, be brave, and please, be honest. What you truly want is to make smoking illegal. Stop hiding it, and come out of the closet: You are a political authoritarian. It’s OK! Really! Admitting you have a problem is the first step to healing, and it’s infinitely more admirable.

If you want to get involved and do something good for society, start with yourself. I am looking into e-cigarettes as a safer alternative. If you smoke and you want to quit, great: You will live longer, breathe easier, kiss better, have a more consistent mood, be able to taste and smell the world, not stink, save money, sing better, have fewer sore throats and even have a higher class association. But it’s your life, and I’m not going to be like every other self-righteous schmuck who feigns concern with “You should quit.” And I’m certainly not going to fake cough when I walk by you. Why? Because you and I are both adults, we live in a diverse human society and I respect your right to make your own decisions. To all civically minded people, please learn to moderate zeal with tolerance. And please, leave the smokers alone.