Stop shaming cigarette smokers

Kelly Novak

Let me get one thing straight: I am not condoning smoking cigarettes in any way, shape or form. I am aware of the countless damages it does to one’s health, including increasing the risk of contracting different types of cancers, emphysema, lung disease; the list only goes on. There are no benefits to smoking cigarettes and that’s not what I’m here to discuss.

It’s no secret that smoking is not a popular habit of students here at Quinnipiac. Those who do are absolutely in the minority. Therefore, when you see someone smoking, it comes as a surprise and judgement is passed. I face it every day. The looks of disgust, the act of trying to avoid me at all costs—I’m a pariah, basically.

I can’t speak for all cigarette smokers, but I know I didn’t start for the right reasons. First off, I started my freshman year of college. Many people succumb to the peer pressure and desire to smoke in their adolescent years, so trust me, I have seen the looks of disappointment and heard the gamut of questions as to why I began so late in my life. (It was for a guy I liked—simple as that.)

I am not proud to be a smoker; in fact, I hide it at all costs, and so far I have been successful at keeping it from the student body—looks like that cover is blown. But the point I’m trying to make here is this: I am judging myself for this bad habit every day. I don’t need your judgment on top of it. Please don’t walk around swatting nonexistent smoke away, especially when I’m 10 feet away from you and don’t wrinkle your nose at me while you’re throwing something in the trash can, where the ashtrays are usually located.

Smoking cigarettes has gone beyond being just a bad habit. People judge your morality, your overall character, all because you engage in this behavior. They may be reluctant to get to know you and their whole view of you changes, merely because you do this one thing. There are so many people in this world with dynamic, fun and interesting personalities—and some of them happen to have a bad habit or two. But you shouldn’t write them off because of it. While cigarettes are especially damaging to one’s health, alcohol and even many socially accepted drugs can be just as dangerous.

I try and be as considerate of a smoker as I can be. I never smoke walking on the path to class because I am aware people behind me may not also want to ingest my carcinogens. I always stand off to the side in an unpopulated area and dispose of my cigarette properly. If I’m smoking when I talk to someone, I always blow the smoke away from them and have them stand in the opposite direction the wind is blowing. If I know someone isn’t okay with it, I don’t smoke by them at all.

Do all smokers feel the same way I do? Absolutely not. They probably don’t even care what you think of them; I walked behind a girl smoking on the path to CAS just this morning. And some of you non-smokers may not judge as harshly as I’ve depicted or even at all. But for those who do, all I ask is this: Next time you want to judge a person’s entire existence because he or she smokes cigarettes, please refrain. You don’t know anything about them, and shouldn’t let one bad habit be the thing that defines them.