Okay, I think it’s about time for the real anti-smoking rant. Before I was just asserting that smoking was, in fact, the number one cause of lung cancer by leaps and bounds and that if some guy (like, say, Peter Jennings) died of lung cancer, it was most likely (any other possibility is, in fact, vanishingly small) that it was a result of either his smoking or someone else’s.

I was ranting, you will recall, because someone rolled their eyes at that suggestion. Instead of going into a huge ban-inducing rant against that kind of attitude on a moderated board, I did it here. My rant was impassioned, but it was also factual — and I still caught flak over it.

Since I enjoy catching flak, I’m about to point out that lung cancer is the least problem with smoking.

Lung Cancer is the least problem with smoking. Every time I talk about the health effects of smoking, every time I tell people they should stop or ask them to stop smoking near me, everyone always assumes I’m talking about Lung Cancer — I’m not.

All things considered, the chances you will get Lung Cancer from a cigarette, a pack of cigarettes, or even a case of cigarettes is vanishingly small. The more you smoke or the more you inhale cigarette smoke, the more the chance rises until it approaches a certainty. Big deal, it will shave an average of some two years off your life, and a few minutes off mine. I don’t care.

To quote Agent Smith, it’s the smell. Cigarette smoke is one of the two or three most disgusting smells in the world. Even cigar and pipe smokers think so. Ask them. On top of that, it carries with it a certain aura of deadliness that simple feces or urine simply can’t convey. Every time you smell it, some insignificant fraction of your lifespan is taken away. To make it worse, it saturates and clings, more than any other scent I can think of. It clings to fibers. It clings to walls. It saturates the area, and it lingers, long after both cigarette and smoker are gone. It’s also overpowering and nauseating (in a very clinical fashion. in fact. I’ll come back to this.)

Of course, smokers can’t smell it. Smokers can’t smell a damn thing. Or taste it, for that matter. Their sense of smell was burned away long ago, so if you tell a smoker he reeks, he’ll get a blank look in his face for a second until he figures out why you’re “picking on him” and then start in on you for the unjust persecution of “the anti-smoker/smoking crowd” (which amounts to basically everyone who still has a sense of smell and enjoys breathing.)

For non-smokers, cigarette smoke induces headache, nausea, and vomiting — but you knew that. That’s what it did to you the first time you tried it. It does that to everybody. And that’s hardly surprising, considering it’s a lethal poison. There ought to be some kind of violent reaction to small quantities of it, don’t you think?

If you just smoked, you need a bath. While you’re at it, get some clean clothes on. Seriously. At the very least, take some damn time to air out. And, no, I don’t care if it’s fifteen fucking below with gale-force winds out there. Nobody asked you to smoke, that was your idea.

If you smoke, your house is uninhabitable. So is your car. Don’t ask me to ride with you or hang out at your place — and don’t look all wounded when I turn you down. Don’t point out that you don’t smoke there (even though you probably do) or that you have the window open or use a fan because it wouldn’t matter — that shit clings. It follows you inside and it stays. For days. For weeks.

It’s not okay to walk into a grocery store with a lit cigarette. Even if you put it out just after coming inside, I can now smell it all the way over in the damn produce aisle, and it will be a bit before I’m brave enough to walk back out through that entrance. I don’t care if, in your home state, or when you were young, it was okay to do that sort of thing. It isn’t okay, and it certainly as hell isn’t cool. You want to stick it to “The Man”? Cheat on your income taxes. No Smoking isn’t “The Man”‘s rule — it’s mine, and that of all of your sane, non-addicted fellow-citizens.

Don’t try to hide the fact that you smoke. You can’t. It just makes you look like a jackass. Don’t say you’re trying to quit — you aren’t: You’re smoking. Smoking is, by definition, not quitting. Quitting involves not smoking. Maybe that’s why you’re having trouble.

Being polite about smoking is actually quite appreciated, but I would appreciate it a great deal more if you would take up a less offensive vice — like porn, sado-masochistic sex, or murdering children.

What pisses me off more is society’s notions about smoking — that it’s some kind of a right, and that it’s no big deal. We have laws against all kinds of public asshattery — why not smoking?

And then there’s the health effects, many of which are short term, many of which are not life-threatening, all of which are real.

Smoking burns out your olfactory sense. Spending that much time dealing with a single overpowering scent will do that to you. This transforms the average smoker into an intolerable asshat for no better reason than that he can’t smell a damn thing and is therefore blissfully unaware that he is surrounded by a toxic cloud that could fell a horse. Becaus of the attitude that comes with being an addict, he gets all defensive when you point it out.

Smoking destroys your lungs. You know those pictures they show you of hideously misshappen, burned-out hulks of lungs? Those are real. Those actually belonged to a smoker. In point of fact, they look a lot like yours, if I were to cut you open and pull the damn things out of your chest (which would, at least, make you quit smoking…)This has the effect of shortening your breath, and it can lead to all kinds of respiratory disorders. If you don’t get lung cancer, or die of the extremely likely heart attack, you will spend your last days breathing with apparatus of some sort because you’ve destroyed the fine breathing machines you were issued at birth.

Smoking is the number one risk factor in heart attacks. Nothing else comes even vaguely close. Nicotine, as it turns out, is a deadly neurotoxin that, in sufficient quantities, will (among other things) actually cause your heart to cease functioning. Plants developed it as a way of killing the insects that were eating them — and you’re addicted to this crap. Naturally, in the tiny doses you’re getting it in, it isn’t going to kill you immediately, but it does do some weird crap to your heart, causing a great deal of damage that will eventually (if nothing else kills you first) cause it to stop functioning, and those defibrilator paddles won’t even come close to saving you. Naturally, these deaths are rarely attributed to cigarette smoking, though the number of smokers dying of that cause at any age dwarfs the nonsmokers.

The other health effects — whether merely cosmetic or a serious lifestyle issue — are too numerous to list, but smoking is some nasty shit. If I had the opportunity to outlaw cigarettes in favor of legalizing pot, for example, I’d take it in a heartbeat — because I know for a fact that pot is a great deal less destructive.

But what makes me really sick is when people smoke around their kids. Not only does it provide a bad example that will very likely cause them to take up smoking in their own turn — it is actually a leading cause of respiratory diseases in youngsters — diseases that only get worse with time. Is there anything worse you can do that ruining your own children’s lives? And yet there’s no law — there’s not even a movement. Noone cares, and that disgusts me.

Smokers are generally under the impression that they’re being opressed, that there’s just some kind of arbitrary hatred that makes us want folks not to smoke near open containers of flammable liquids, or in restaurants, bowling alleys, institutes or higher learning, or nurseries. It’s not. There are actually solid reasons for all of these things. Most involve a distinct lack of dying due to someone else’s stupidity. Generally, we would prefer not even to be inconvenienced by someone else’s stupidity.

You know smoking is bad for you. We’ve known for decades. You know it’s nasty, and you know it hurts and inconveniences those around you. Unless you’re simply a misanthropist or a sociopath, is there a solid reason you’re still doing this crap? Is it just because you haven’t done your research? Maybe you’re being stubborn. Maybe you lack willpower.

Enough with the excuses. You know you should quit. If you find you can’t quit, get help. End the stupidity. Now.

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