Smoking sucks. That’s what we’re led to believe, especially on this campus, but millions of people enjoy the habit-forming dependency on a daily basis. I enjoyed smoking cigarettes for years, but it wasn’t until I transferred to Cal Poly that I realized how unattractive cigarettes are to others, and how judgmental some nonsmokers can be.
When I moved to San Luis Obispo in the summer of 2006, I smoked. I was in a new town, I didn’t know anyone, and cigarettes became my social buffer. If I was at a bar or restaurant with a patio, I would be there puffing away. I was never alone when I smoked – my neighbors smoked, my coworkers smoked, and some of my new friends smoked. I found that it was a great conversation starter, especially if I didn’t have a lighter with me.
When fall quarter started, I was thrust into a whole new world full of nonsmokers. One day as I walked to class taking drags from my habit-forming friend, minding my own business, a complete stranger passed me producing an unnecessarily loud and incredibly fake cough.
After this obvious audible intrusion into my day, the glare he sent my way was enough to make me choke on my smoke. I have never felt so cruelly judged by someone who knew nothing about me.
Based merely on the fact that I smoked, this person summed me up as disgusting. That wasn’t the last time a nonsmoker on campus gave me dirty looks or made it clear that my smoking habit and I were problems on campus. Similar incidents occurred at least a dozen times after the first one.
I consider myself a courteous smoker. I never blow smoke in someone’s face, I make a conscious effort not to smell like cigarette smoke before I enter a classroom, I try not to smoke near doorways or building entrances, I throw my cigarette butts in trashcans or ashtrays, and I don’t smoke in front of children.
Eventually, I learned to hide my smoking habit so well that people who saw me every day had no idea I was a smoker. Almost overnight, this guilty pleasure became a shameful, sinister secret.
Nonsmokers need to understand that smoking is an addiction, and that smokers are people too. Although I am trying to quit (it has been 24 days since my last cigarette), I still encourage nonsmokers to be kind and show a little more compassion.
You don’t have to condone smoking, but you don’t have to condemn smokers either. Those who go out of their way to make others feel ashamed of their lifestyle choices are much more disgusting than those who smoke cigarettes.
Whitney Diaz is a journalism senior and Mustang Daily copy editor and reporter.