A writing prompt arose this morning while I was at the gym engaged in a cardio workout. The man next to me had clearly been smoking prior to coming in for his own fitness activity. My Facebook post was this:
“Rhetorical question that I don’t expect an answer to, just venting. Why would someone come to the gym reeking of cigarette smoke? Really, dude? I moved to a different machine to be able to breathe freely. Glad he’s working out though. Hope he quits smoking.”
The response was mixed. Some agreed with me wholeheartedly. One hypnotherapist friend who specializes in smoking cessation said I should have given him his card. What surprised me was the reaction of a friend who felt that I, as a therapist who works with folks facing addiction, should have been more compassionate. My response to her was that “This was not a work setting. This was my gym where I go to stay healthy. We are not talking about a light aroma, but one that could be detected from a distance. I didn’t say anything to him. I simply moved to another machine. Of course, if he was a client, I wouldn’t say that. If people smoking only impacted them, it would be one thing. When they smoke around others or it lingers on their clothes, it affects others, including animals. Second and third-hand smoke is a hazard. I worked for more than a dozen years with clients who would sit in my closed office with smoke on their clothes, skin, and hair. In my current practice, if I know they smoke, I politely request that they refrain before they come into my office. Having had a heart attack and having had asthma since childhood, it doesn’t seem too much to ask. I know it is an addiction.”
I added, “There are people who have been able to quit and some who never do. If you noticed, I said I hoped he would quit and I am glad he is working out. Having had a mother who died of CHF and whose doc asked how long she had smoked and she hadn’t…my grandfather and uncle smoked around her much of her life, and a sister who smoked for 30 years and who now has COPD and has had two heart attacks and may need bypass surgery eventually and a mother- in- law and father- in -law who died of cancer and emphysema, respectively, I am a wee bit sensitive to it. Judgmental? Perhaps. Human? Definitely. I would love for everyone to quit and of course, they won’t.”
A few years ago, following the heart attack, I was attending cardiac rehab at the hospital where I had been treated. It is a smoke-free campus, with signs posted all throughout. On a few visits, I saw folks smoking, one literally in front of the entrance. As politely as possible, I pointed to the signs and reminded them that there were those of us who were there for cardiac and respiratory conditions and need not be exposed to smoke (and the toxins contained therein). On all occasions, they stopped, When I got home, I posted something on social media about the interactions and some told me that I needed to be understanding, since, chances are, the people were dealing with stress. I volleyed back that even if that was so, there was a good reason why the campus was smoke-free AND I questioned whether the patients they were visiting really needed to be hugged by someone who had residual smoke on their clothes. Clearly, this is a pet peeve. A few years earlier, when working at an inpatient psychiatric hospital, I observed ambulance drivers smoking. I was less circumspect with them. “Really? Here you are transporting folks with medical conditions and you are in close quarters with them after doing so.” What I didn’t do was contact the company to let them know and wished that I had.
A few years ago, I witnessed someone smoking in the car with their dog sitting next to them. That dog had no choice about inhaling the toxins.
I also have a judgment about people smoking around children. That child too has no choice. Even if, as some have said, they don’t smoke in the house or car with them, they are still hugging the little one with that third-hand smoke on their clothes, skin, and hair.
There are distinct benefits to being smoke-free.
If you or someone you know wants to quit, The American Lung Association has ideas to assist.