I recently worked at a place that banned smoking and said they would fire anyone who so much as smelled of cigarettes smoke. They claimed the owner was seriously allergic to cigarette smoke, which was obviously false on a few levels:

  • I twice smoked on my lunch break while walking around, return, wash my hands, and was called into an emergency department meeting. The owner showed no awareness or reaction.
  • Her husband smokes. Saw him at the Christmas party.

Once the HR department sent out an e-mail claiming that the owner had been getting headaches because people were taking 15 minute breaks during the day and came back smelling of cigarette smoke, which then stank up the halls. This not only obviously relies on the social stigma against smokers (all smokers smell and are dirty, filthy, and unhealthy people), but it also proves that she does not have a serious allergy. A serious allergy is when you have a potentially-life threatening physical reaction, like a rash or swelling, and you need to either use an epi-pen or book it to the hospital for treatment.

If anything, she had a sensitivity, as she was only experiencing headaches and fatigue. I’m not discounting it; I have a sensitivity too — to perfumes. There are one or two citrus-based essential oils I can stand, but every other scent out there and marketed spirals me into a serious migraine. Unfortunately, because of the non-smoking policy at work, my co-workers would drench themselves in perfume and cologne. Some perhaps because they just liked the smell. Others because they smoked and were trying frantically to hide it. But I would walk in to that building and my eyes would start watering, my nose would start tickling, and within minutes the headache would settle in.

There is obviously a social stigma against smokers. I disagree with it, personally. At this point, smokers have gone along with every price hike and every legal restrictions. I can no longer smoke in bars, restaurants, or within 25 ft of an air vent or door. I pay nearly $8 a pack, with all the federal and state taxes lumped in. Recently, our state voted down a law that would have slightly raised the tax on candy and soda pop. Slightly — we’re not talking cigarette-type taxes, which are well over a dollar per pack for the STATE tax (not even addressing the federal tax on top of that). Despite the fact that I’m actually willing to pay taxes on my unhealthy habit, despite the fact that I obey the laws, and despite the fact that most people who meet me are shocked when they learn I smoke because I don’t, “smell like a smoker,” there continues to be a massive social stigma against smokers. My favorite argument is, “Smoking will kill you.” I’m sorry, so if I quit, I get eternal life? Is that the secret? No, because guess what — LIFE will kill you. Morons.

Now, when I present these arguments in support of my freedom of choice to smoke, the discussion invariably devolves to the other party stating flatly, “Well, it stinks and I don’t like it.” Super, but that’s not a good basis for laws. Seriously. If that was, I would start drafting a proposed legislation to outlaw perfume and cologne in all public areas. I don’t even get why people wear perfume or cologne — when I walk by someone wearing scent, my automatic assumption is that their shower is broken, or they’re temporarily homeless, or they lack a sense of smell.


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