People who know me know that I am an avid anti-smoking advocate. I think cigarettes are the most disgusting, vile thing ever created by southern American slave owners. Ok….they’re just one of the most vile things ever created by humans, in general, right up there with nuclear missiles and the “reply all” option on e-mails. Not only do they cause cancer, emphysema, birth defects and premature death, they also make people smell rancid and cause skin to wrinkle and crack. They darken teeth and dry out hair, they stain lips and destroy smokers’ sense of smell. They do a whole lot of bad stuff. Second-hand smoke can cause a slew of medical issues in people who are AROUND smokers. We don’t even have to smoke cigarettes to be negatively affected by these horrid cancer-sticks.
In countries around the world, governments make cigarette manufacturers not only place warnings about health issues on the packs, but they make them place actual photos and diagrams of what can happen to people who smoke. Some of these are extremely vivid and profoundly disturbing, but that’s what is needed to get the point across about the harmfulness of cigarette smoking. Most governments have stopped allowing cigarette manufacturers to post the long warning labels on cigarettes that nobody takes the time to read. Now they just post “smoking kills,” or “smoking causes birth defects” in large bold block letters. It’s a step in the right direction.
Over the past 10-15 years, governments have begun passing stricter anti-smoking laws and making more and more venues “smoke-free.” Countries where a large segment of the population smokes have even passed laws against smoking in bars and restaurants (once the denizens of the smoker…making anyone who entered, even for a brief time, come out smelling like a used ashtray)and many public spaces (even many outdoor spaces) have become non-smoking zones. Bus stops and taxi stand queues are non-smoking in most places. Airports have special smoking places that are walled off and have air filters around them, or there’s just no smoking allowed in the airport at all. Governments have finally sat back and realized they can do more good spending the money to pass and enforce these laws rather than spending MORE money on health care for those that get affected by the cigarette smoke. But still, the smokers fight it.
There have been grassroots movements popping up in many places all over the globe for “smokers’ rights.” These campaigns claim that smokers are being discriminated against and they deserve to be treated better. To tell you the truth, I would rather sit in a restaurant surrounded by 25 people snorting cocaine than near 1 person smoking. The people snorting cocaine are hurting themselves and causing irreparable damage, but it’s only to themselves. The smoker is the most selfish of drug addicts. Their addiction harms other people. The smoke coming off a cigarette is harmful to all people who are in the vicinity of it. In fact, because that smoke is unfiltered, it is worse than the smoke the addict is inhaling. Smokers are immensely selfish. They are killing other people just to feed their disgusting habit.
Smokers still defy the laws, and often try to see how far they can go by smoking in non-smoking areas. When New York City banned smoking in bars, clubs and restaurants, club and bar owners didn’t say anything when people continued to light up because they thought they would lose business if they made the customers go outside to smoke. This went on for the first couple of years of the law, and then the mayor pushed the police into cracking down. Hundreds of restaurant and bar owners were fined upwards of $5000 dollars if they knowingly allowed people to smoke in their establishments. So, the owners began enforcing the laws and, when presented with no option but to go outside to smoke in all bars and restaurants, people still went out and patronized these places. They started patronizing stores that sold cigarettes less and less, and the mayor put higher taxes on cigarettes to make them even more undesirable for New Yorkers. Anyone who was caught disobeying an anti-smoking law was promptly ticketed and fined. But smokers still tried to get around them.
In Madrid, an anti-smoking law was passed while I lived there. It was an initiative from the European Union that all the countries of the EU have smoke-free workplaces (this included bars and restaurants). I never met so many smokers as when I lived in Madrid, and I was convinced the laws would not work and that people would just do as they please. After all, these are the Spanish, and sometimes they tend to “bend” the rules for themselves. There were a few months of testing and disobeyance, but after people realized the government was serious, they adapted. Luckily, many Spanish restaurants and bars have sidewalk service, where it is still ok to smoke. People just had to stay outside. Smokers continued to test the laws by lighting their death-sticks in forbidden zones, but they were faced with fines when caught.
Things were worse in China. There were no-smoking laws, but it felt like they were only for show. A lot of things in China are for show because they want westerners to think of them as more “evolved” and “western” than they really are. China can provide all the paperwork to show that there are anti-smoking laws in public places, but they can’t provide the evidence that they’re enforced. There were many times I was hacking in a puff of smoke in Chinese train stations, movie theaters, supermarkets…..even hospitals. In the hospital, I made a comment to the nurse about the smoking, and asked her if it was forbidden. She said it was, and I asked her why they were letting the man RIGHT OUTSIDE MY ROOM DOOR smoke. She gave me a smile and a shrug of the shoulders as if to say “there’s nothing we can really do about it.” I’ve sat through meetings in Chinese public schools where people were chain smoking across the table from me. THIS WAS INSIDE A SCHOOL WHILE CLASSES WERE GOING ON!! They have no respect for the laws in China and, what’s worse, nobody to enforce them.
Now, living in Singapore, the anti-smoking laws are very stringent and, as with all the laws in Singapore, they are strictly enforced. In the past few months that I have lived in Singapore, I have come in contact with fewer smokers than in any other place I have ever lived. People just aren’t smoking in Singapore. I know some do, and I have seen a few of them, but there are so many areas that are non-smoking, that they really have nowhere to do it but home. The streets are meant to be smoke-free, all public places, including outdoor places are smoke-free, every indoor establishment is smoke-free. It’s a wonderful place to live. That black tar that began to line my lungs is finally lifting away and I’m beginning to breathe better. My personal air is cleaner and smells nicer. I don’t smell rancid stale cigarette smoke on random people in the metro and on the street. It’s a utopia for people who are anti-smoking. I just wish the rest of the world would take their lead….