Sunday, February 28, 2010

Where There's Smoke...

My father has been a smoker for longer than I've been alive. He used to smoke around me when I was a child; it was usually in the car, and he claimed that because he did it with an open window, it couldn't really be hurting me or my brother. And though he couldn't smoke inside the house (Mom insisted), he always smoked right outside the back door, which was the only door we could actually use because the front door is three feet off the ground and there's no porch or staircase there. Meanwhile, though I can't speak for my brother I can say with absolute certainty that I always had trouble breathing when Dad smoked. I've always been sensitive to the smell of cigarette smoke—one whiff and I end up in a coughing fit—but in recent years it's been getting worse.

Sometimes I just feel so helpless against it. Smokers are everywhere and too many of them feel entitled to indulge their addiction right outside almost every door in every public place I go to every day. Apparently their right to smoke trumps other people's right to breathe. Being someone who suffers a particularly unpleasant reaction to cigarette smoke, even the smell that it leaves on everything, that just makes me feel incredibly frustrated. Every time I have trouble breathing, every time I end up coughing so hard I taste blood, every time I end up with a tight feeling in my throat for days after being exposed to cigarette smoke, I also become angry. It's one thing for them to do something that will eventually wreck their own health. That's their decision, and it's their right to do that to themselves if they want to. But when it starts to impact other people—second-hand smoke is notoriously awful for everyone, regardless of whether they smoke or whether they have my sensitivity to it—that's where their right to smoke should end.

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