The Hypocrisy of Those Who Hate Smokers

Dawn Bevier

Don't treat me like a serial killer when your habits are just as dangerous

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I am a smoker.

Lured in by the eighties heavy-metal craze I immersed myself in as a teen and a rebellious best friend whose exotic tough girl allure I envied, I smoked my first cigarette at age fifteen.

I have only stopped twice — both times for the entire pregnancy of each of my two children.

The day after giving birth, there I was, outside the hospital in my gown and slippers, gloriously blowing out streams of smoke once again.

I am forty-seven and still hanging on to that vicious bad habit.

Why?

A number of reasons — none of which serve as an excuse. None of which make me a victim. My choice-my demon-no one else’s fault.

For one, I suffer from anxiety disorder and borderline OCD.

I worry about everything — including cancer — but still I smoke.

What started out as an endeavor to be glamorous, an attempt to make a freckle-faced outcast more mysterious, more seductive, has turned into a lifelong habit that at least psychologically makes a brutal world more bearable.

There is something about that deep inhalation of smoke — the “draw” the “gathering and holding in” of smoke, that makes the exhalation more than just one of smoke. It mystically exhales stress, pent-up worries, fears, and internal conflicts along with its noxious fumes.

The sensation is intoxicating — so much so that, in releasing the myriad of stressors felt daily through that stream of chemical air, it invalidates the worry of its ultimate consequence — death.

It energizes me in the mornings when I feel fatigued, when I feel the ugly pressure of the nine-to-five hamster wheel that faces me.

It calms me in the evenings when I finally let go of a day that has pushed me, time and again, to the limits of my physical and emotional capabilities.

Ironically enough, my job as a teacher allows no lunch outings, no “cigarette breaks,” so I go eight to nine hours a day with no “hit” of nicotine. This fact has probably given me ten years back to help balance the other years erased by smoking.

Yet the moment I leave the school parking lot, the ritual begins. The flare of a lighter. The rush of nicotine entering my body. The release of tension as the smoke leaves.

In my car. All alone. Bothering no one.

Yes, I am a smoker.

And I am totally addicted.

But that’s no reason to turn your nose up at me.

To snub me.

To act as if I am a pariah, a child abuser, or a serial killer.

I am a teacher who excels at her job, a mother to two smart children who are succeeding at the top of their class, an avid reader who can name all of Henry the VIII’s wives and what happened to them, who can quote Shakespeare verbatim, who believes in the power of exercise and diet so much that I get up and run almost four miles four times a week at an ungodly hour when most people sleep [Ironic, I know, but don’t hassle me please].

But, yes, I have this one terribly nasty ritual.

And, no, it should not define my entire existence.

Blot out all my good qualities or virtues.

After all, I play by your rules. I keep away.

I don’t smoke in your houses when I am invited over, and I don’t sneak a few puffs in your mall restrooms or your businesses or your hotel rooms.

But still, I am many times treated as if I have the plague.

Want to know when?

When I tell you I’m going to step outside for a few minutes and have a smoke.

When we are shopping and I stop at a kiosk to buy a pack of cigarettes.

When I desperately huff away outside at lunch, forty yards away from other life forms, body twisted away from the maddening crowd so as not to offend.

When I come in guilty, still smelling of smoke, even though I sprayed myself with febreeze like a woman getting ready for a wet t-shirt contest.

I have a right to my shortcomings, however dangerous they may be to me. And I do my best to keep them away from you.

But, ask yourself, can you say the same?

After all, I see your bad habits and your “addictions”: promiscuity, greed, insensitivity, cruelty, prejudice — all practices that you can commit freely, openly, in every environment.

And I know for a fact that they are as toxic to others as my own, maybe even more so because there are no limits to where or when you can perform them.

Not to mention another particular habit you possess: alcohol.

You sit at your bars and your restaurants and order drink after drink. No one judges you or ponders that you will soon go outside, crank your car, and play Russian roulette with innocent children and adults sharing the highway.

You may not commit this sin of which I speak, and thank goodness for that.

Maybe you play the same game I do: Russian roulette of a more personal nature, where you are the only one in the game and eventually a bullet will be found in the chamber.

You indulge in greasy, fatty foods that coat your arteries and make your heart work harder than it was ever meant to. You never move your bodies to a healthy state of physical exertion. Your insides are suffering from your fixations just as mine are.

We each have our own special brand of poison that we show to the world.

So, don’t act like I am some sort of special extra deadly evil.

And yes, when I use “you” in this article, please know that I am not talking to everyone. Undoubtedly, you will know if the “you” that I speak of is actually, well, you.

Bottom line?

I am human, and I’m not asking you to change your rules and laws that keep me outside of your establishments.

I am just asking that you see me — the good, kind, hard-working me — before you see the cigarette.

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Sanford, NC
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