As an example to others, and not that I care for moderation myself, it has always been my rule never to smoke when asleep, and never to refrain from smoking when awake.—Mark Twain
I understand: clean air. The statistics regarding second-hand smoke are damning. I’ll admit, I don’t mind walking into an office, especially the doctor’s office, and the whole place not smelling like smoke. I don’t mind walking into a restaurant and not having to choose between smoking or non-smoking (we typically chose smoking simply because it was less crowded). I don’t mind coming home and my clothes not smelling like a cheap brand of cigarettes. I get it. I understand what anti-smoking advocates are trying to do. I still don’t like the damn signs.
Statistics are clear: cigarette smoking remains the largest single preventable cause of death in the United States. In addition to killing somewhere in the neighborhood of 480,000 people in the US each year, the direct cost of that addiction in terms of healthcare and lost productivity is around $300 billion annually. Smoking doesn’t play fair, either. One is more likely to smoke if they are male, has their GED, is a former service member, and is racially mixed, according to statistical evidence. Children born to mothers who smoke during pregnancy are likely to have a significantly lower birth rate. Smoking is the second leading cause of death in the entire world. The numbers against smoking are absolutely overwhelming.
There’s just one problem: Uncle Fred.
Uncle Fred was a two-pack-a-day smoker. He was respectful, he’d go outside, step away from the doorway, smoke two or three, then come back inside. If it were raining and the porch was too short, he’d either find a tree or stand under the eve of the house. All that smoking eventually killed him … at age 96. Aunt Irene, who didn’t smoke and wouldn’t allow Fred to do it in their house, died four years later at age 92. If we look solely at Fred and Irene’s statistics, smoking’s apparently good for you. That’s why I have a problem with those damn signs. Statistics are numbers and numbers aren’t people. We don’t know how many Uncle Freds there are because, since they aren’t dying off too quickly, we’re not studying them.
There are roughly 320 million people in the United States. If we lose 480,000 to smoking each year, that’s a whopping 0.15% of the total. Pay attention. That’s not fifteen percent. That’s less than two-tenths of ONE percent. We’re making all this fuss over a group of people so statistically small that, in almost any other study, they would be insignificant. With over seven billion people on the planet, we’re over-populated beyond the point of sustainability. We need more than 0.15% to die off if we’re going to continue living here. Sustainability is more critical than smoking at this point. Think of smokers as volunteers for population control.
Smoke ’em if you’ve got ’em and lose the damn signs.