Spare Me Your Secondhand Smoke   Leave a comment

No Smoking

Above:  “Smoking Not Allowed Here” (1897)

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-56425


Among the realities of life in society is that, whatever we do affects not just ourselves but others.  Thus, if we are responsible, we will act of out a sense of responsibility to and for each other.  This principle constitutes one of the foundations of my ethics.

I teach for the University of North Georgia (UNG), a successor of Gainesville State College (GSC), for which I also taught.  Prior to the consolidation of UNG I taught for GSC part of the time on a satellite campus of Lanier Technical College at Winder, Georgia, a short drive from Athens.  I parked my car in the back and entered the building in the rear.  One day, as I approached the building, I noticed an inconsiderate person smoking while standing next to the sign announcing that there was a ban on smoking on the campus.  I pointed out this fact to the young man, but he indicated that he did not care.  At that point I told him precisely what I thought of him.  What came up, came out.  My use of such language has long been rare, but sometimes people have acted in ways that have justified occasional spice in my vocabulary.

There is abundant evidence of the effects of secondhand smoke.  Given that fact alone, I harbor no sense of guilt over choosing to vacate the premises rather than continue exposure to secondhand smoke when I have the opportunity to leave.  I am also physically intolerant of cigarette and cigar smoke; my throat becomes irritated, my eyes water, et cetera.  On certain occasions when I have not been able to avoid exposure to secondhand smoke, smokers have stood in front of me much too long, despite the obvious nature of my physical discomfort.  They have not seemed to care.

I also understand the science of addiction in broad terms.  Furthermore, I have heard and read accounts by smokers (current and former) about their struggles to quit.  None of those factors cancel out or reduce the moral mandate to act out of a sense of responsibility to and for others, especially those in one’s physical proximity.  Smokers, please spare the rest of us your secondhand smoke.




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