Sunday, December 4, 2011

Non-smokers, please read (from 1987) (Sept. 30, 2008)

Current mood: enlightened

N.B.: Last week, when I posted "Smokers, Please Read", a November 1986 essay I penned after a trip to non-smoking Minneapolis, I said I would post this answer essay. Well, here it is, 21 years after the ink first dried on March 16, 1987. As with the other, the formatting is modified to look like the printed version that hung in my office for a couple of years.


N O N - S M O K E R S   P L E A S E   R E A D

The issue of tobacco use in our society has a lot of people on edge, taking sides, and armed for battle. Americans are all too eager to take up "Us vs. Them" attitudes on controversial matters, a point which certainly leads to a lot of hot tempers, emotional speeches, sharp words directed to the other side, and self-congratulation whenever a verbal volley is thrown. This doesn't settle controversies, it makes them bigger, and it certainly doesn't solve problems.

Non-smokers such as myself find it quite easy to lay the anti-tobacco verbiage on thick. It's easy to see why: We get physically ill if the stench gets near us, and it hangs in our hair and on our clothes for hours. But cutting down the next tobacco user we encounter is not the right approach.

Instead, it is necessary to be 100% polite towards tobacco users 100% of the time. They're hooked on the stuff. Until they decide for themselves to conquer their habit, they'll continue to use it. Inflaming them about it only makes their situation more uncomfortable, and neither they nor we want that, right?

No intelligent, decisive, mature, and properly informed tobacco user would choose to continue the habit. No intelligent, decisive, mature, and properly informed non-user would choose to start one. What is needed in our society, then, is to create an environment that encourages:

1) the widespread dissemination of correct information on tobacco's dangerous effects;
2) the prompting to make an informed decision on one's personal tobacco use;
3) the maturity and courage to see that the decision is acted upon and followed through effectively; and
4) those who continue to smoke or chew to politely abstain if politely so requested.

Tobacco non-users, please set an example. Don't nag; just provide facts. Don't tell people to quit; urge them to think the matter through, again, if necessary. Don't ever be mean, even a little bit; be supportive. If tobacco users see we're not "out to get them", perhaps they will stop being so defensive and pay closer attention to the problem they have that affects all of us.

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