On my way to the beach recently, I noted how cigarette smokers flick their used butts out of their car windows onto the street. Any one of us has seen this behavior thousands of times by now. It is likely that not more than a handful of drivers even use their ash trays any more. It would not surprise me if many didn’t even know what purpose it is supposed to serve.
Upon my arrival at the beach, I noted the countless thousands of cigarette butts mixed in with the sand. So plentiful were they that one could not even find any two foot square area devoid of them. Clearly, many cigarette smokers consider the beach to be their own private ash tray.
It has not escaped my notice that criminals overwhelmingly tend to be cigarette smokers, nor do I think it is mere coincidence that impulsiveness and a general lack of concern for the rights of others seem to go hand in hand with this habit. Those who are considered “white trash” almost always smoke. Typically they can be found with a beer bottle/can in one hand and a cigarette in the other as they rattle off four-letter words.
As common as this habit seems to be in the U.S., it is far worse in other parts of the world. While in Beijing, I offended locals by calling their city “Phlegm City” to their face. In Beijing, one must always keep an eye on the ground before him to avoid stepping into this ubiquitous bodily fluid. In Egypt, they smoke a nasty cigarette called “Cleopatra”. They should have called it “Asp”. I’m pretty sure that American cigarette manufacturers send their nastiest (too-dangerous-for-American-consumption) products overseas. While in Israel, I was told that the most popular cigarette there, called “Time”, is none other than lower grade Marlboro that cannot be sold in the U.S. Many male Israelis have a ritual they follow when lighting up their cigarettes. They stand with one foot in front of the other and squint their eyes a certain way. After the cigarette is lit, they look up at the world as if they now have special powers. Everything about them says “I am macho”. In Europe, as I remember, almost everybody smokes. When I pointed out, to some locals in the Netherlands, that this is a nasty habit, one of them thoughtfully responded, “I guess it might be considered rather anti-social”. Yes, in my travels, I was ever the American anti-smoking missionary. Intent on teaching the world to be more like good Americans and refrain from smoking.
I have come to realize that my endeavors have been futile. It makes no more sense trying to transform a smoking society into a non-smoking one, as it does trying to transform a Negro society into a Caucasian one. The existence of cultured, conscientious smokers notwithstanding, overall I believe that smokers are an inferior race. Of course, unlike biological race (which one cannot choose for himself), a person does choose to become a smoker. At some point in his life, a person decides that he would be more “cool” if he were a smoker. At this point in history, he is certainly aware of the health risks and the annoyance to other people – but he doesn’t care. He is willing to increase his chances of disease, the risks of fire, to impose his litter on the rest of society, to inconvenience others with his stench, to yellow his teeth and alter his voice all in order to be more “cool”.
I now realize that there are actual benefits to cigarette smoking. A person can maintain his weight through smoking and I’m sure it is a great stress reliever. Perhaps it actually does aid in digestion. Certainly some smokers begin their habit after careful consideration and weighing of the costs versus the benefits. But those people are the exception. Most start because of a weakness that made them more vulnerable to peer pressure. This weakness is part of their personality and smoking is only a symptom of it. I am fairly certain that this weakness is linked to a high time preference. I am not simply guessing here; I have discussed this topic with many smokers – some of them quite close to me.
It hurts me to see those who are close to me taking up such an unhealthy habit because I do not enjoy seeing them putting themselves at higher risk for disease. It hurts me more to see them engage in an activity that ends up costing other people their hard earned money to pay for their medical costs and to clean up their mess or put out their fires. In essence, I am bothered more by the the moral downsides of smoking than by the its health risks.