Are Smokers Good People?

It has been my experience over the past 40 years, that most smokers are good people who made a terrible mistake when they were younger. Most smokers will go out of their way to avoid hurting other people. Reputable studies show that most smokers want to quit. Other studies show that nicotine is one of the most addictive substances abused, but many people are able to quit “cold turkey” anyway. These facts are often ignored when legislation is drawn up to protect the public from secondhand smoke. A small percentage of hard line smokers, pawns of the tobacco industry, are paraded before us to promote the industry concocted illusion of smokers’ rights. A tiny subset of an already small minority are held up as an example of people who need our compassion because their “rights” are being trampled. Anyone who has worked in the tobacco control movement knows the tobacco industry is the master of deception. The smoker’s rights illusion is nothing more than an attempt to vilify anyone
who speaks the truth about tobacco abuse. The industry knows if we are successful in pulling down the veil of illegitimate respectability toward tobacco, then all of those good people who smoke will be motivated to quit out of respect for their fellow human beings.

Legislation is often compromised at the last minute in order to give legitimacy to an illegitimate premise: that smokers should have one last place where they can smoke. In reality it allows smokers one last chance to harm others. The fraudulent rights of smokers are placed above the right to breathe clean air, in order that tobacco use retain some respectability.

Regardless of how much progress we make in passing smokefree legislation worldwide, the fact remains that tobacco always retains the upper hand. It is evident in the fact that all debate is conducted from a “grandfathered” perspective that requires proof that tobacco and tobacco smoke are unsafe, instead of requiring proof that they are safe before they can be sold or used. This allows the industry to delay implementation of laws to protect the public, by creating doubts and continuing debate about already conclusive scientific evidence.

As long as we continue to treat tobacco as a legitimate part of international commerce, people will continue to die. As long as we are willing to sacrifice tobacco victims’ rights in order to spare the feelings of nicotine addicts, we will have that small hardline minority of smokers continue to offer themselves up as proof that people who want the right to breathe are really antismoker bigots faking illness for the mere pleasure of denying civil rights to smokers. And many will continue to fall into the trap of believing that telling the awful truth about tobacco addiction makes one a bad person. But not telling the truth, the silence, is where desperate hardline addicts go to find one last ounce of false self-esteem! What they need to understand instead is that lighting up a cigarette in the presence of others is an act of violence. It is assault, plain and simple!