Wednesday, April 11, 2012

‘Smokers have no conscience’

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — It was a bad day.
I couldn’t decide whether it was allergies, the onset of a migraine or if I was coming down with a respiratory malady that had felled most of the newsroom.
All of the above ailments have something in common: All are aggravated by cigarette smoke.
And smoke seemed to be unavoidable that day. It started in my driveway, where smoking passersby had deposited a pile of cigarette butts.
I was stuck in traffic behind a truck with two cigar smokers, both of whom had their windows down. At stoplights, fumes and ashes drifted toward my windshield.
At work, both exits were surrounded and I couldn’t go in or out either door without suffering blasts of smoke. Instead of dissipating it, spring breezes conspired to deliver whirlwind blasts of smoke from smokers outside offices on both sides of me.
I was feeling worse by the minute. What could be better than a workout and a salad from my organic market, right? Wrong.
The dressing room at the health club reeked of cigarette smoke. Could someone have been audacious enough to sneak a smoke there, or had the smell permeated her clothing and towels? I made it through my laps and ran the gauntlet of smokers outside the health club. (Work out and stoke up, you guys? Really?)
As it happens, the back entrance to my market is right across the parking lot. There was no way I could get to the market without navigating an alley filled with employees from the health food market, all — you guessed it — puffing up a storm out back.
As my respiratory passages swelled and closed down and my migraine went from a threat to a promise of hours of misery, I pondered whether karma was at work.
I, too, once smoked, in my late teens and early 20s. Recent studies have revealed that I may have been an unwilling “smoker” for my first 18 years, too. My mom and dad each smoked several packs a day, so my involuntary secondhand smoke intake dated back to the womb.
“Smokers have no conscience,” my spiritual mentor Tenny Hale once told me.
It was my ashamed realization that she was right, along with my then-small son’s allergies and the coughs and complaints of the nonsmokers in our smoke-filled newsroom, that prompted my decision to quit, back in the days when cigarettes cost less for a carton than people now pay for a pack.
That was before the warning labels, the definitive medical studies, the advertising bans and the prohibitive laws. But when I consulted my finally-smoke-free conscience, I knew I’d always known that smoking was bad for me and those around me.
And so had my parents, even though they had grown up in an era when the “health benefits” of smoking were actually touted in ads, and my pipe-smoking physician grandfather had lots of company at medical conventions.
I knew they knew, because they always looked guilty when we three kids begged them not to smoke in the car during long drives, because they pleaded with us never to take up the “habit” ourselves, and seemed heartbroken when two of their kids became smokers. That’s how I felt when I realized the son who inspired me to quit had become a smoker himself.
Now I have become the kind of nag I hated when I was a smoker. Nicotine is one of the deadliest and most addictive drugs ever to lure and enslave humanity. And it’s a drug that can effectively sicken and poison those who don’t use it, too.
That’s why you’ll hear usually laissez-faire, liberal me pushing for more anti-smoking laws and regulations and for enforcement of those we have. (Have you ever known anyone who was actually punished for smoking when or where he shouldn’t?)
And that’s why I’ll keep nagging.
It’s true that I don’t want to develop immediate and long-term health problems because of secondhand smoke.
But it’s also true that I care about you and don’t want to see you and your kids suffer and miss you when you die, decades before your time, as my parents did.
If you’re thinking about starting or resuming smoking, please don’t. And if you smoke, set a date to quit now.
Some generation must finally end this addiction that maims and kills not only ourselves, but also innocent strangers and those we love the most. Whatever it takes, let this be the generation that calls it quits for good.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style. Follow her on Twitter @DerricksonMoore

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