I’m sure I mentioned this before but, I used to smoke.
Like a freakin’ chimney.
At the top of my game I smoked three packs of non-filtered cigarettes a day. But then I realized that I didn’t really have that kind of free time.
When I started smoking, at the completely appropriate age of fourteen years old, it seemed like one of the most socially acceptable vices ever conceived. It was easy to buy smokes with your allowances, because they were cheap and readily available in vending machines. You never got busted, mostly because no one cared.
I’m serious, literally not one adult gave a rodents rear-end when they saw kids smoking. At least not enough to do more than grumble about those damned delinquents with nothing better to do but hang around the malls in their black denim jackets smoking cigarettes.
That’s right you could smoke in the mall.
You could smoke pretty much anywhere. In restaurants nonsmokers would huddle in small, cramped separatist camps, the boundaries of their clean little world clearly demarcated by signs on brass poles, open doorways, and (if you were in a real classy joint) velvet ropes. All of seemed things seemed sufficient to ward off dreaded second-hand smoke.
Things started to get a little serious just before the time I was old enough to buy cigarettes legally. Someone shouted, “Think of the children!” and so they got tough on sales to minors. I got carded once or twice but that was easy to get around. Most of the Einsteins they had jockeying registers couldn’t imagine a seventeen year old being ballsy enough to present there driver’s license in expectation that they weren’t going to be paying enough attention to notice he was a minor. Either that or they really sucked at math.
Also I started noticing a lot more of these odd little signs every where.
Flash forward a couple of years and by the time I was in my mid twenties the tables had turned. These signs were practically everywhere and it was smokers being herded to a few scant tables in the dark recesses of local eateries. Gone were the tall sand filled ashtrays that once lined the halls at local shopping centers. My friends and I would constantly complain how it wasn’t fair. We talked with some indignation about some imagined rights of ours being overlooked, ignored, and just plain violated.
Time passed, I grew older. I became a homeless wastrel, faced the harsher realities of life. At some point you see that there is more to existence than when and where you can smoke. So when, after I spent sometime getting my crap together, the state I reside in decided to outlaw smoking in restaurants I didn’t take it as a personal insult. I did think it was dumb that it became a matter of legislation rather than the property owner’s choice but whatever. So it became that you could only smoke outside. Well, except if your standing outside the airport waiting for your ride.
Eventually I quit smoking. Not because anyone was making harder to do, because lets face it they’re not. You can still get all the nicotine you want at your corner drugstore. I quit because it was bad for me and I was tired of doing it.
I started wonder if this was some sort of symbol of us evolving as a society. That we didn’t have to bother telling people that they couldn’t smoke somewhere anymore, because it was just expected that you couldn’t. That finally we have accepted that the health of the many, might outweigh the desires of the few.
It was in that moment I realized how fortunate it is that we, as a society, have finally sorted out where people can and can not stand while smoking.
With any luck and another couple of decades or so worth of work we can finally deal with smaller social justice issues, like poverty or civil rights. That would be nice. Maybe we could get a couple of guys to get some real work done with public education, you know if we can spare them.
Anyway, that’s what I spent some time thinking about in the past week.
P.S.: Can someone go get a ladder and help me down off this horse?
Photo of newsies smoking by Lewis Hine and is in the public domain. No Smoking placard pictured at the right side of this article modified from No Smoking Sign by Zubi CC BY-SA 3.0