Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Smokers on the Hill

On the intranet at work, an article was posted talking about the smokers on a hill close to work. Smoking is not allowed anywhere in site where I work, so smokers stand in a clearance by the bushes in between our company and a strip of stores. Most employees complained that the smokers are a nuisance to walk by and they should quit. The smokers charged back asking where else they are supposed to go. Here are my worthless two cents on this issue.

As I walk up and down that hill sometimes, I also come across smokers in the clearing by the bushes and I do not like it either. My throat has been bothering me for the past few weeks and the last thing I want to do is throw poisonous secondhand smoke on top of it.

I would love for them to stop smoking in these places, too. I know they have their rights just as people have the right to do most things, but that notion honestly goes out the window when I am breathing in secondhand smoke.

Do not get me wrong. I am very sympathetic to the plight of smokers. My father was a four pack a day smoker and has now down to two packs for the past few years. Yes, he is still a smoker at the age of 55, and for my first twenty-two years until I moved he smoked in the house around us kids and my non-smoking mother. It was so bad that I when I moved out I went through withdrawal and sometimes even craved a cigarette when I was stressed out, though I never gave it. Now he spares my mother by going outside to smoke.

I am sure that no smoker wants to smoke. They have their excuses why they do it - to de-stress, to enjoy the company of smoking friends, they like watching the smoke they blow out (research was done to prove this point), to stay thin, and even to look cool - but every time the proverbial monkey jumps on their back and demands that they stop whatever they are doing to smoke, I am sure they wish they did not have the addiction.

I think all of us who have tried to curb bad eating habits can understand when we think of the times we just had to have chocolate, pizza, ice cream, cake, pie, overloaded coffee, or fast food. In fact, since food can also be a strong addiction, most of us should be able to understand what a smoker is feeling and why he often inconveniences himself to walk outside while at work in hot, cold, snowy, and rainy weather to get a few puffs in. I remember doing something similar to get some snacks from a 24-hour grocery store in the middle of the night. And has anyone ever gone on a sugar strike, you know, the other white crack? I did one a few years ago and the severe withdrawal symptoms made me sympathetic to every addict out there.

So where exactly do I stand on the smoking issue? Am I playing both sides against the middle? I think that smoking is wrong for all the obvious reasons and should not inconvenience non-smokers. On the other hand, I think that non-smokers can try to be a little understanding of the addiction that smokers battle. It has been said that smoking cessation is harder than illicit drug cessation. They will say that they can quit anytime they want, but it just does not work that way most times. Their mouth is saying one thing, but their brain has been chemically rewired to demand the very thing that is killing them. That is what an addiction is.

What is the solution while smokers continue smoking until they decide that enough is enough? I do not like walking past smoking areas either, but in the larger scheme of things there are not that many places where they are allowed to be where I work. I also do not ever have to worry about coming to work and being confronted with smoking areas outside of entrances to the building like other companies. Besides, forcing people to quit something by taking away their choices is oftentimes not effective. Furthermore, isn’t it as simple as walking on the other side of the street so we do not inhale their smoke? So let them have their few spots. Yes, my co-workers and I are being inconvenienced a little when we past those places, but they are inconvenienced also by having to leave the office and travel to those places in the first place.

To end this article on a positive note, my brother stopped smoking a few years ago and did it for his three young children. He wanted to be able to keep up with them during play time and did not need another reason to be exhausted in addition to caring for a family and working full-time. He also thought it was selfish to pretty much require that they deal with him being diagnosed with some terrible, yet preventable, disease caused by his habit. Yes, we know that time and unforeseen occurrences befall us all, but controlling what he can control in his life is important to him. How does he feel now? It was HARD, but he has more energy now and loves being able to keep up with his kids.

Smokers know all of the consequences of their addiction and how bad it is for them, but something outside of themselves is many times what motivates them to stop. For my brother it was his kids. Perhaps sharing his experience will motivate smokers to think about their quality of life and the importance of others in their lives and exchange their trip to the smoking clearance by their jobs for a trip to doctor to get help quitting.

I do not want to demean smokers or say things like, You should know better. Really, we all probably have bad habits that we are battling although we know better. For example, how many of us still drink diet soda although we know the ins and outs of how dangerous they are? How many of us do not wash our hands as long and thoroughly as we should as recommended by the American Medical Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention? How many of us have a budget but hardly ever stick with it? And these are relatively mild bad habits. I have not even brought up the severe, if not unsound, bad habits we may feed in the comfort of our own home when no one is watching.

So I only want to encourage smokers not to give up trying. We are all battling something as imperfect people. None of us are perfect, but we have to keep fighting if we want to have the best life possible!

This simple article about smokers on the hill reminds me of the importance of picking our battles. The truth is that air pollution cannot be avoided because it is everywhere now thanks to the cars we drive, the planes we fly, the buildings we occupy, the items we burn, and acid rain; every breath is killing us. That's just how it is. In fact, my sister-in-law from VA would instantly get sick whenever she would visit me in NJ because of the air pollution.

Considering all of these things that are bigger than me, I personally am not going to pick this battle. Even if I was looking for a battle to fight (which I am not) I would not choose to battle air pollution including secondhand smoke in public places. The world is too far gone for that. I can only change myself and how I do things; that is all that any of us can do, so I will not allow smoking in my home or car. I would not attempt to force someone to stop doing something I do not like when the inconvenience lasts a few seconds, especially when I could just cross the street to avoid it.

This makes me think about Sesame Street. I am sure most people out there used to watch it at one point or another. Sometimes I still catch myself watching an episode when channel surfing, and that is my confession of the day. All of the muppets and human characters on the show were so kind and generous, all except one - the grouch. So what was the point of adding this character who did nothing but complain and ridicule others? It showed me from an early age that I have to share the world with people who are going to say and do things I do not like. Sometimes the situation may dictate that I address the individual, but most times it is best to just leave things as they are and pick more other battles than can be more effectively fought.

There are hundreds if not thousands of battles to choose if we want. How about we instead focus on considering others before ourselves? When we do that, a lot can be accomplished without our realizing it.

What do you think? How do you feel about your co-workers’ smoking habits while at work?

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