Disclaimer: I was a 40 year smoker, a pack-and-a-half a day, Marlboro box. Like most smokers, I started in my teens. For the best part of the last ten years, I’ve instead become a vaper. That is, I’ve substituted vaping for smoking.
The other day, I watched a Youtuber doing a taste evaluation of a chain restaurant in a foreign country. He sat at an outdoor seating area, next to which was a table where a lady was smoking. As it turns out, she smoked one cigarette and then turned around and lit up another.
Our youtuber’s reaction was instructive. He was angry, exceptionally so. One got the impression that if he hadn’t been filming, he would have gone to the adjoining table and scolded the smoker. As it was, he had to stop and regain his composure before going on.
First, let’s dispense with the health arguments. I would posit (with well-backed research) that cigarette smoke, to those not actually smoking, offers little effect whatsoever. In a well-ventilated area outside (which this was), the concentration of cigarette smoke in the air is slight. You may well be able to easily smell it, but by actual measurement of its percentage against pure air, I’d guess its concentration at less than 10% of the actual composition of the overall atmosphere in such a place. Without actual measurement, the point would be arguable, but it should be clear that it certainly wouldn’t make up anything like even half of the breathable air in an outdoor setting.
Now, it should be obvious that cigarette smoke is not toxic to the same extent that, say, chlorine gas or tear gas, or any other similar substances is. It simply isn’t. Otherwise, the military would have weaponized it years ago. In fact, decades ago, they used to supply cigarettes with meals to soldiers in the field. No, they weren’t aware of how bad smoking was for you at the time, but it clearly wasn’t bad enough that you could simply throw cigarette smoke bombs into German trenches and disable or kill all the combatants there.
So while cigarette smoke may be toxic to some extent (and I would argue a lot less so than medical dogma insists), it’s certainly not as toxic as it’s made out to be.
So our Youtuber, presumably downwind of our smoker, gets a few nostrils of the stuff, at a concentration strong enough to smell, but certainly not strong enough to do him any harm. Because we’ve established 1) that cigarette smoke (second hand) is in no way as extremely toxic as it’s made out to be, and 2) any well-ventilated outdoor space will dilute the smoke to detectable but non-toxic levels.
Now let’s hypothesize. Suppose that instead of cigarette smoke, our Youtuber was subjected to camp fire smoke. Would he react with the same resentment and venom? Unlikely. Yet, I’d bet that if you did the same type of research on camp fire smoke, you’d find that it is every bit as toxic as cigarette smoke, if not more. In fact, it could well be that campfire smoke is more toxic than cigarette smoke. If you’ve ever spent a significant amount of time close to a camp fire, you know how unpleasant the smoke can be. Or let’s say that our smoker at the next table was lighting incense, stick after stick. This might have affected our Youtuber’s sense of smell and the food review, but it’s unlikely he would cite its threat to health. And yet incense is more or less the same thing as camp fire smoke. Sticks of wood packed with fragrance powder, set on fire and allowed to burn, ending, like campfires and cigarettes, with tar and ashes.
So what’s really going on here? Our Youtuber is clearly upset about the second hand smoke he’s having to smell from the next table. In fact, he’s near livid about it.
Full disclosure here: Our Youtuber is kind of a health nut. He’s in his 60s, I’d guess. But he runs marathons and eats more fresh food where he is than we typically do in the U.S. He does eat meat and fish, but he also eats a lot of vegetables. And he doesn’t eschew sweet desserts, occasionally.
So where does our Youtuber’s resentment come from? The actual threat to his health from the next table is minimal, if even measurable. Doubtless, not being a smoker (and he probably never was), he doesn’t like the smell of cigarette smoke. But that’s just an aroma. Marijuana smoke is also an aroma. Incense is an aroma. Camp fire smoke is an aroma. Dead fish or rotting flesh are aromas. You can like or dislike them, but they are unlikely to cause you to have to stop and gather your wits about you before going on with a vlog. So what is it about cigarette smoke in particular that sets our Youtuber off?
The fact is that much research has been done over the years into smoking and its health effects, including the health effects of second-hand smoke. Most of that research is “junk” science, but it is nonetheless picked up by the media and peddled to the ignorant populace as medical “fact”. It is dogma. It is orthodoxy. It represents some degree of “threat” to humans and so is able to move people emotionally, which is what news organizations aim to do. (You thought they were about reporting the news, just as facts? Shame on you.)
Don’t misunderstand. I’m not trying to make the case that smoking is good for you or does no harm at all. Smoking is unhealthy. Cigarette smoke is toxic. Both these facts were known long before the Surgeon General came out with his report in 1964. But a full study of the research done on the subject shows that its threat to health is highly exaggerated. Yet the press, health organizations, and the CDC have seized upon this research data to pressure smokers to quit smoking. Funny too, when you consider all the excise taxes that cigarettes rake in for the government.
But our Youtuber’s reaction was primarily about one thing: he doesn’t like cigarette smoke, and thinks that you shouldn’t smoke. He thinks he’s justified here, because the medical establishment has been pushing this narrative for 50 years, and they’re scientists and doctors, so they must be right, right? The most important component of this that I want to point out is his seemingly justified resentment. It’s so potent that he’s sorely tempted to visit the next table and give them a piece of his mind.
What interests me most here is what he thinks gives him the right to have such resentment against people who aren’t really a threat to him, who are engaged in a perfectly legal activity, and have no intent or desire to harm or offend him. Yet he’s incensed about their behavior. And believes he’s fully justified in being upset. In other words, he doesn’t like something, and because some “authorities” agree with him that it’s unhealthy, he’s fully justified in resenting it.
So here’s another aspect of the “busybody” culture– people who believe they are justified one way or another in telling you what you should do, what you should like or dislike, what you should eat, drink, smoke or otherwise ingest. Not because they actually are justified, because they’re not. But they think they are. And they’re willing to annoy you at times almost to the point of physical violence just to get their point across. Moreover, these people consider themselves better than you, and that you are inferior to them, because they have the virtue of not partaking in that which you find normal or pleasurable.
I find people like this incredible boors. I avoid them. I encourage you to avoid them as well. In fact, I find health foodies some of the worst of the lot. This is why I appear to encourage people to smoke. I don’t really want them to take up smoking. But I get tired of all the misplaced arrogance and resentment involved in the whole debate. If someone wants to smoke, let ’em. It’s not my health they are tampering with, but theirs. If I truly don’t approve of something someone else is doing for some reason, I simply avoid associating with them. That more or less ends the whole thing. I don’t have to tell them I’ve disassociated from them. I can simply disconnect. If they notice and want to know why, I’m willing to tell them. But otherwise, I’m perfectly willing for them to go on with their lives without me.