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Is the vilification of smokers a good thing or a bad thing?

Especially in the United States, smokers are vilified as second-hand killers. Through smokers actions, people every year die from second hand smoker. People who smoke are stigmatized in the US.

In the United States, this has lead to laws preventing smokers from smoking in public areas. It should also reduce the number of people who smoke in future generations.

In Europe, where there is not a stigma attached to smoking, I probably inhale the equivalent of 1 cigarette a week in the form of second hand smoke. In the US, I would probably catch a faint whiff of cigarette smoke once a month. The thing is, in Germany, the same number of cigarettes are consumed per person as in the United states. The stigmas and the rules about smoking in the US prevent people from smoking in public locations. This is good for the health of non-smokers.

I know people say that this is just another way to hurt poor, working class citizens as that is the demographic that generally smokes. I did not know before reading articles on this subject that that population is the population that smoked.
I also recognize that a lot of smokers try to quit.

So is this stigma associated with smoking a bad thing on a whole? What are your opinions?

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    Jul 12 2013: Not sure about vilification, but ban on smoking in public areas is, definitely, good.

    In Ukraine 15 years ago, it was impossible not to breathe cigarette smoke. On any public transportation stop, there would be ten people around me lighting up. In any street, there would be, at least, 2 smokers in front of me puffing out smoke that I had to breath in. My wife worked as a secretary at the university. During the break, the department office was thick with cigarette smoke. Flower pots were full of cigarette butts and coffee grounds. And, for some reason, many people have an urge to spit when they smoke. So, those bus stops were quite filthy. All of this is quite disgusting. I doubt the situation changed since the last time I was in Ukraine.

    I think, the stigma around a habit that leads to cancer and death is very healthy thing. I do not understand how these laws can be viewed as "hurting poor people". If anything, these "poor people" should stop spending $$ on cigarettes and get rid of health issues which cost themselves and the public huge money.
    • Jul 13 2013: And how does one define "public areas"? There have been attempts in some US municipalities to define "public areas" in such a way as to make private homes into "public areas" because the air in a private home mingles with "public" air. If a private home can be defined as a "public area" for smoking purposes, then it could be later defined as a "public area" (and no longer subject to privacy restrictions on police activity, for example) for all other purposes.
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        Jul 13 2013: Bryan, I don't care much about definitions. I just don't want to breathe cigarette smoke. That's all.

        I lived in apartment complexes where my neighbors smoked on their patio and the stench went up into my living room. I don't mind them smoking in their apartment. I mind the smoke going into my window.

        I don't think it is possible to create a definition that would fit all purposes and circumstances. But in every situation, a solution can be found. E.g., in places where houses or apartments are packed close together, a designated smoking area can be created. There are off-leash dog areas in parks, after all. If you live in the wilderness, you can shoot assault rifles on your property. Not if you live in an apartment building downtown.

        I don't vilify smokers and I don't mind inhaling smoke occasionally, but not where I cannot avoid it on a regular basis - e.g. my home or work place.
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    Jul 10 2013: It is good to condemn, inhibit, and prohibit a harmful deed. It does no good to vilify those who commit harmful deeds. Such people should suffer the consequences of ignoring legal prohibitions, but denigrating or belittling them does no good.
    • Jul 11 2013: When condemning a bad deed, it is very hard to not attach a social stigma to the perpetrators.
      Historically, I cannot think of a single case where the two did not go hand in hand, but many where they did.

      We vilify drunk drivers, murderers, child molesters, etc, but we do not belittle them. (Not that smokers are as bad as those people, they are just the first people that society vilifies that popped into my head). I am not sure if society does belittle smokers. Do we? If do, how?
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        Jul 11 2013: Absolutely correct Betty. The thrust of your question goes to the efficacy of a deterrent based upon targeting the offender as opposed to the offense. In the case of smoking I think it is the act itself, the offense, which must be addressed. I am not advocating glorifying smoking, or even being accepting it as benign. I am advocating for laws against smoking in public. To me it's like Russian Roulette. If folks want to play that deadly game in private where no innocent people are endangered I don't think we need laws to stop them from that, however we do need laws to prohibit the activity in public. And no I do not think committing murder or rape, etc. in private is OK. In such cases the perpetrator must be aggressively and individually targeted with the full, swift force of the law. I do not think such severe measures are appropriate for smoking. Thank you!
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    Jul 12 2013: People should smoke as much as they want to, but only in the designated areas. I don't vilify them, but their space ends where mine begins. People should definitely be informed of the dangers that comes with that habit, but never prohibited from doing so if that is what really want to do.
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    Jul 12 2013: Second hand smoking is not more dangerous than air pollution caused by cars and big factories. If we want to live in big cities we have to deal with it.
    Sure it's not ok to smoke in caffes, but on the street...?
    P.S. I'm a smoker.
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      Jul 13 2013: http://www.webmd.com/lung/news/20040823/smoking-worse-than-exhaust-for-air-pollution

      "The cigarettes produced 10 times as much particulate matter as the auto, comparing the first hour after starting the engine with the first hour after lighting the cigarettes."

      I looked this up - the statistics are pretty amazing. I feel horrible for smoking - the addiction and mental anxiety vs. stability and will is insane. I wonder how much America makes monetarily per year, with the growing (labor) and selling of these things.
      • Jul 13 2013: America MAKES NOTHING OFF OF THIS! I don't make a penny. You are vilifying an ENTIRE COUNTRY. You're just another typical bigot.
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          Jul 13 2013: You shouldn't call people names- its offensive. Why on earth would America produce and distribute tobacco if the country, and the tobacco farmers, did not make money from it?
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    Jul 14 2013: I'd like to know the statistics on how this has affected the number of new smokers. is it working to discourage kids? I am a smoker and a mom. I don't mind going to designated places to smoke. My son will not be a smoker. I'm interested in seeing if this tactic would work against drugs.. legalise but villify? I don't believe it worked against alcohol
  • Jul 13 2013: I am an ex smoker thank goodness. After surgery the anaethetist told me just as well you gave up, as this golden staff infection would have killed a smoker. I blame my smoking on making my Rheumatoid disease 100 times worse than it would have been.

    A close family member died at 55 from smoking I tell you it was a dreadful way to watch her die and her son is now in a deep depression, lost his job etc.

    Any stigma that saves these people from their own (smoking) stupidity and the second hand smoke for others is a real GOOD thing.

    In Australia where harsh NON smoking rules are being rolled out ....it has saved the health care/hospital systems billions.
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    Jul 13 2013: My dad smoked between one to two packs of cigarettes a day. When I was growing up I had asthma, which unknown to me was caused by his smoking. After I moved away for school my asthma disappeared. My dad died a very painful death by cancer, something I dont wish anyone to go through. I dont have asthma anymore, except when being long enough around smokers. Reading the comments I can only agree to the following points:
    - Really, the main culprit is the tobacco companies.
    - Keeping smokers away from public areas is good, if at all for public health.
    - Stigmatizing smoking is also good, there should be awareness that they are endangering their health and the health of the people around them.

    Having said that, I do have several friends that smoke, and that I know they know it is not good. Some of them even have siblings who have died of Cancer. I do sympathize with them and wish them well. I really hope that they will not go through a painful illness like Cancer. And I find it good that they all know that it is NOT OK to smoke. If they decide to keep doing it, it is their choice
    • Jul 13 2013: "Cancer" is just a thing. It is not God, it is not a human being. The word "cancer" NEVER needs to be capitalized. It's just silly and superstitious to constantly capitalize "cancer".
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        Jul 13 2013: Bryan, The day you get cancer, you will write it as CANCER. God willing, that day will never come.
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    Jul 13 2013: NO! Acknowledging and obviously letting people know this stuff is bad is fine, but so long as it is legal, you can't judge someone. However, this is something that with knowledge comes self-judgment, so vilification is not nice, but acceptance whenever and wherever is not okay too, as we've legally enforced.

    I agree with one of the other comments that putting someone or something down so much will only result in a negative response - kind of like relating the, I think it may be Buddhist, idea that you can only overcome fear or hatred with love.
    • Jul 13 2013: You can always judge someone, but making a judgement on just one fact is plain dumb.
      Tolerating it means more people will do it. Tolerating stupid ads linking smoking to status or success is even worse.

      There's a difference between villification, as in labeling people as evil because of one thing, and no tolerance to the costs incurred on all of us by the smokers. Applying pressure on smokers to quit is not the same as villifying them.

      Smoking is also a dumb thing and should be seen as such. Not judging the fact of smoking is tantamount to accepting it or ignoring the detrimental effects. The only smart smokers are those really trying to quit this addiction.

      Unlike some other addictions, this one even has a cost to the nearby environment and people.
      • Jul 13 2013: "Tolerating it means more people will do it"--odd, that's what I hear hardcore fundamentalist religionists say about homosexuality, too...
        • Jul 13 2013: Unlike smoking, sexual orientation is immutable and does not harm anyone.
  • Jul 11 2013: From a purely pragmatic standpoint, if that's what it takes to get people to stop smoking (or even just help them along), or better yet, not pick it up in the first place, I'd defend harsher means than "vilification".

    I've seen my grandfather die a slow, painful death of gastric cancer caused by his smoking. By the time it was over, he was a shell of a man, on so many painkillers he didn't know where he was or what was going on. Its not a fate I'd wish on anyone, be it from first or second hand smoking.

    Aside from obesity and traffic accidents, smoking is the single biggest killer in the western world.
    Vilifying it doesn't really do any damage except making people feel a bit bad about themselves (if you really want to call it vilifying--some shunning is not the same as a lynch mob). Ignoring it on the other hand, kills people off.

    That's really no choice at all. In fact, I'd say that vilification isn't going far enough.
    • Jul 13 2013: That's nice, little boy. Not everyone agrees with becoming neonazis.
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    Jul 11 2013: As Edward Long has wisely stated, bad habits are what they are: BAD. And they should be condemned. It is however not helpful to vilify people for anything; even though sometimes some people commit themselves to harmful/destructive habits to the extent that it becomes difficult or almost impossible to remember them for any good thing or to associate them with goodness.
    No one is perfect; yet, we should strive to make choices guided by love. As much as people should not be vilified, people are still known and judged by their fruits (acts).
    • Jul 13 2013: Condemnation is condemnation. Most people are too stupid to condemn a habit without condemning people who have those habits. Therefore, the vast majority of people will be too stupid to condemn smoking without vilifying smokers.
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    Jul 9 2013: For anyone out there who thinks that smokers are being vilified, close your eyes and think of an adult woman, of legal age to smoke and who has enough brain cells to decide for herself whether she wants to accept the risks that go along with smoking…..can you see her?..........Is this okay with you? Now look a little lower and get a glimpse of her beautiful abdomen where her twin babies are forming. Is it still okay with you?
    • Jul 10 2013: So, I know that smokers are looked on poorly. I recently read articles saying that this was a bad thing. Since I always thought the increasing social stigma attached to smoking was a good thing, I wanted to create a forum to have a conversation about it.
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        Jul 10 2013: Betty, So glad you think that way. I was only trying to address the folks that don't. I didn't mention this because I didn't want to make it personal, but my father smoked two packs again until he quit at the age of 55, due to his death. I stand in line at the store sometimes watching kids (I call everybody kids cause I'm 50) ask for cigarettes and get carded. I desperately want to say things like "she's old enough to get cancer." I don't know if you have read some of my other TED comments, but I personally have had the need for chemotherapy, albeit for a non smoking related illness. I sat with the IV in my arm for seven hour stretches while the poison was pumping in, realizing that the next five days would be hell, only to return next week for another run. I wonder when I see a smoker if they could sit in the treatment room for just one day and watch what someone with cancer experiences. (kind of like that scared straight program where risk taking juveniles see first hand where it may land them) It boggles my mind that this treatment was pure hell, and yet there are folks out there that knowingly risk such an experience. You and I both know Betty, that we cannot save people from themselves, but I believe that the social stigma is a good start.
        • Jul 11 2013: Amy, I am touched by your story, but try, and I know it's hard, to remove one's self from the equation when talking about youth, who you so understandably want to help.

          Know that it is a function of growing up, a function of the brain developing, that effects the risks vs. rewards functions in the brain, that one can clearly see so prevalent in teenagers. It's that same biochemistry that makes teenagers binge on drinking alcohol. The same that level of risk vs reward underdevelopment that makes the brain see no issue with drink and driving. The same biochemistry that makes them want to see the worst horror films.

          By stigmatizing a person a a young age, it will inevitably lead to a isolation that will manifest it self in violence and anti-social behavior, as a backlash to the very reason you want to stigmata the person for in the first place, that stigma will not benefit not the individual nor society as a whole.
  • Jul 8 2013: neither good nor bad. Those doing the vilification are tightly constrained in their level of Awareness....some are fully asleep in life. In other words, they have completely misperceived themselves and the situation. They are a bit like Kindergartners in life........be kind to them for they know not what they do. Gently awaken them.
  • Jul 15 2013: I would prefer if they just started forcing tobacco companies to make their products leaner (with less tar and such in it). Other than that its their lives they can do it. Although here in Canada smokers are pretty polite about it, so if ya let them know its bothering you often they will abstain or wander off a ways further
  • Jul 14 2013: I am 14 years old and believe that it is a depended on witch angle you view it from. People who smoke are inhaling a poison and when they do so pass on second hand smoke poisoning those around them there ,because of that I must say though my emotions might tell me to say no, yes the vilification is justified by the evidence as in any police or scientific investigation.
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    Jul 14 2013: Vilification is probably not good public policy, but banning smoking in public places is. The public disapproval and discouragement of smoking will follow. Smoking adds tremendously to health costs and insurance rates, both for cancer and "chronic obstructive pulmonary disease" (such as emphysema) so I do think that the use of public funds to help reduce this unfortunate addiction, for example through counseling or withdrawal programs, is money well spent.
  • Jul 13 2013: So, Arkady, you hate jerks. I can't argue against that.
  • Jul 13 2013: Vilification of any minority group is always a good thing. It is how the majority maintains its solidarity, after all, and whatever enforces blind conformity is always a good thing!

    Am I in error?
  • Jul 13 2013: While I am not a smoker, my father was, and my mother still smokes. I do not have a problem with places saying they are non-smoking, but, they have taken this thing too far. I own a downtown building that the State, in their infinite wisdom, have decided for me, that it will be non-smoking. This is really a violation of my ownership rights. I would have complied with putting up a sign that warned others that this is a smoking establishment, but the state has decided for me. They have decided this because they say it will keep insurance costs down for all of us, poppycock. My insurance costs have only went up and will continue to do so. This is just another example of who is really in control. Welcome to the new world order.
  • Jul 13 2013: I would prefer a "stick it to the man" approach to the situation as opposed to vilifying smokers. Tobacco companies know that they manufacture a highly addictive device which contains carcinogens. This is the reason why drug companies target young people because they know that if they get you early, the probably have you hooked for life. Nicotine addiction is a very profitable affliction. From a marketing standpoint it isn't so evil, however, that fact doesn't justify it.
    • Jul 13 2013: Won't happen. Rich people do not suffer. The majority of smokers, on the other hand, are on the opposite end of the wealth continuum. Thus, it is safe to hate, vilify, and otherwise inflict harm upon ordinary smokers. Cowards and bullies never pick on the strong (tobacco companies). Instead, cowards and bullies pick on the weak (individual smokers). Anyway, if tobacco is to vile, then just put in on the federal schedule. It doesn't even need an act of Congress, just an administrative decision.

      However, this decision has never been made or even proposed. Marijuana is classified as being as dangerous as PCP, but tobacco has no such classification.
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    Jul 12 2013: Betty, I tried smoking and beer as a kid ... peer pressure. I got dizzy and had to go to the toilet. Guess I was luck the experiment went that direction.

    Have you ever met anyone who was not on one side or the other? As a rule I do not go to places where a lot of smoking takes place ... bars etc .... that does not mean that I do not still get the effects. Ride in a smokers car, set next to a smoker in a theater, etc .... the odor is in their hair, cloths, breath, etc ...

    I do not hate them or vilify them ... I simply do not prefer the aroma that comes with them.

    It was suggested that it is the lower class who smoke .... I know doctors who are both fat and smokers ... talk about people who should know better. Guess my question is how did the lower class get the label. Isn't smoking a society problem not just limited to the "lower class". Weed was also mentioned ... isn't that smoking? How about a second hand high? LOL Funny how weed users state they are non-smokers.

    A wide variety of comments on this subject. I wish you well. Bob.
    • Jul 13 2013: It's not the "lower class" that tends to smoke, it's the lower income. For some plutophiles, "class" equals "income", in that they believe "poor people are innately inferior in all ways". I don't. However, the negative correlation between smoking and income in the USA is well established.

      Smoking is, on a marginal level, quite cheap. It has larger long-term costs, but it has also been well established that, when income is below a certain threshold, it actually can be a viable strategy to ignore long-term costs and focus on marginal costs, due to the great unliklihoood of ever being able to retain enough saved resources to deal with any long-term costs in the first place.
  • Jul 12 2013: The Villification of a person is an absolutely pointless and cruel way to deal with any kind of situation. It will not stop people from doing whatever it is, and in many cases will make a situation even worse.
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    Jul 11 2013: I hate cigarettes. I've seen too many people die from them. I've seen too much avoidable human suffering because of them. Nicotine is one of the most addictive drugs known. But longer than 50 years ago, smoking was just fine. Why? Because for most people, something else would kill you before cancer, or lung disease, or heart disease or any of the rest of it would. People used to get old & die at about age 60 or so. Life was too short for the cigarettes to kill.

    Now cigarettes can guarantee you a long, lingering death from pulmonary disease or heart disease. That will consume so much of our resources over time that our children will regret it. They might regret us ever having lived or regret that we taught them or let them smoke tobacco.

    I hate cigarettes. They are evil. I guess If I lived in a tobacco state where tobacco is grown, I'd feel differently. But not so much for me these days. Cigarettes kill.
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    Jul 10 2013: With all these tobacco talks churning up I smoke more frequently now. Thanks Ted! :D
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      Jul 14 2013: Typical smoker - Blame it on TED, or Fred or Joe, or anyone else but yourself!!!!
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    Jul 10 2013: Ang, "There is absolutely no reason in the world why tobacco sales should still be legal," oh yes there is. It is a source of funds for every government on the planet. In some places the majority of the money spent on cigarettes actually goes to the government. With prevailing attitudes about letting adults smoke if they so chose, it is easy for governments to add taxes high enough to bring in substantial tax revenue, but not high enough to actually stop the sale in the first place.

    Politics wins out over science. Again.
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      Jul 10 2013: Is that really a reason or an illogically justified excuse to continue doing something they and everybody else on the planet knows is wrong?
      • Jul 11 2013: I guess it may be a question of good. Is the "good" that would occur due legalizing tobacco be more or less than the "good" that the government programs tobacco tax revenue pays for?
    • Jul 11 2013: i think these government are in taking in account that all these substantial tax revenue are spending it to fix the damages that caused by increasing the number of smokers.
      they lost there time !
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      Jul 12 2013: Re: "There is absolutely no reason in the world why tobacco sales should still be legal,"

      Prohibiting anything that people do regardless including alcohol, tobacco, firearms, drugs, abortions, and prostitution only benefits criminals and does not seem to improve public health, morals, or safety. There are many reasons why NOT to make these things illegal.
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    Jul 10 2013: Just make it illegal already. I'm not the type of person to knowingly break the law so I would no longer smoke and it would be the easiest way to quit ever. There is absolutely no reason in the world why tobacco sales should still be legal, no health benefits and only maliciously negative effects on health and we're not just talking some minor sore throat every now again we're talking deadly. The tobacco company is like a food processing company that adds razor blades to canned goods, it's deadly and they know it but somehow it's still ok to sell tobacco products. I'm a smoker and I know that it might seem a little weird for me to go off about it but I know that I personnally would drop the bad habit if there was nowhere aside from some seedy dealer on a street corner to get smokes.
    • Jul 11 2013: UCSF Medical center says "Nicotine has been proven to be as addictive as cocaine and heroin and may even be more addictive."

      So by making people go cold turkey, by "making it illegal already", you maybe forcing people to go to some "seedy dealer".

      Only a sustained, continuous government and medical intervention program, that actually aids people in giving up while not costing them, while not stigmatizing them, or making smoking illegal, will eradicate tobacco from the culture.
  • Jul 9 2013: It's not a bad thing, it's a stupid thing. If we really want to help people give up smoking, vilification is not the way to go.

    UCSF Medical center says "Nicotine has been proven to be as addictive as cocaine and heroin and may even be more addictive. Many people who smoke develop nicotine dependence, which makes quitting all the harder, especially when they try to stop smoking on their own. In fact, 70 percent of smokers report wanting to quit"

    We should encourage people to get help, rather like we do with drugs and alcohol. Vilification never causes an addict of any kind to get help. Ever.
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      Jul 10 2013: Tify, You are so right in that the people that are already addicted to nicotine need a positive approach in their efforts too quit. However, the vilification may help our youth who have not yet begun to smoke and may make the decision to stay that way because of the vilification that goes along with it. True that vilification may not necessarily be very best motivator for the addict, but for our children, I say vilify!!!!
      • Jul 11 2013: I'm sorry Amy, I have to disagree, specifically since that you mentioned youth.

        For the understanding and psychology of youth had to be clearly in one's mind before one vilifies any entity. To know that the rights of manhood even though different from the African rituals still exists today, even in the western world.

        The angst of youth, the rebellion, the lack of respect that is shown to the father, all allow youth to become men. If one vilifies, one is only giving fuel to the fire, to make a route open to countermand the authority of parenthood, and so encourage the very act of smoking, as it then becomes what is needed for those very rights of passage.
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          Jul 11 2013: Tify, I was responding to your comments about the addiction aspect of smoking. I realize that once you need the nicotine, words alone or dirty looks from people and not what you need. But I was also addressing the non smokers who have not yet become addicted. Of course there are many rebellious kids out there, but by the time they are old enough to smoke, the whole teen/parent battles should be calming down. There will always be the rebel, but even rebels have brain cells and that might give the vilification aspect a glimpse of hope. Any hope is better than none. And I also believe that there are lots of kids out there that don't have the power struggles with their parent (my son and I never did). So, even if vilification only affects those who can relate to their kids in a positive and productive way, (even if it is only 2%) I feel that it's worth it.
      • Jul 11 2013: Amy you would never had that struggle with you son, because your it's mother. Please note my other comment, above. As for "by the time", in fact, it can, and does because of that maturity of the brain last up to and including the 20's, so people are still a lot more susceptible than you think, as well struggles with authority/parents and the risk reward scenario of choices made.

        Trust me, I understand why you feel vilification would work, and can see why you state it. But the physiological and psychological scientific evidence shows a completely different story.

        That's why I have mentioned the effects of nicotine from UCSF. As for the people that are non smokers, again vilification has been shown, because of the target audience age, not to work.

        There are many other routes a parent can go. Contacting UCSF and Stanford are probably the best routes if your concerned, as they have all the facts, biochemistry papers, as well as psychological effectors that make people start. Most in lay language.

        I'd urge you, if your kids or kids you know are at a susceptible age to contact them. With the addictive power of nicotine - gut feelings are honestly and respectfully - not the way to go.
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          Jul 11 2013: Tify, I remember a time long ago when my mother babysat my son while I had a girls night out. I have a few too many, and when my mother dropped of my son, she yelled at me for drinking and called me a "snake" . I was vilified for doing something that was legal and I was of age to do so. My son saw this and to this day I have never seen him drunk. Perhaps seeing the vilification of his own mother lead him to not want to be a snake. This was done without contacting anyone at Stanford. In addition he saw me criticize my own father for smoking in front of him, thereby vilifying my father. To this date, he has never smoked a cigarette. So, while all of your psychological scientific evidence leads you to your belief. I am a mother, and a daughter and a sister, and I simply have my opinion as previously stated. So on this point we will simply have to agree to disagree.
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    Jul 9 2013: It's a bad thing.
    Granted I don't want it in my lungs but I won't make you out to be the devil for enjoying your cigarette.
    Leave people to their vices.
    • Jul 10 2013: Drunk drinking is a vice? It endangers peoples lives.
      How is smoking around people different?

      (playing devils advocate)
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      Jul 12 2013: Hi Matthew
      I think you have struck the nail on the head. I would not pay any attention to a smoker doing his thing in his own environment. What causes whatever vilification takes place is the fact that smokers often indicate their belief that they have the right to smoke where they want, if they can get away with it.
      My #1 pet peeve is in the elevator. The no smoking sign might as well have an ash tray attached.
      My #2 pet peeve is they throw the cigarette down where ever they want, still smoking. This includes on carpeting, and in the bus or taxi. I don't believe that they are aware that they are smoking. It is just a natural part of their life. It is this type of behavior that encourages vilification of smokers.
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    Jul 8 2013: It the collective thought process. Similar to belief in government being good and the private sector being evil. The belief in being non racist to the extent of not saying anything as it could be misconstrued. It is the substance of the water we swim in.