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No, really we do.

Look. I'm not a smoker; not tobacco, not pot, not crack, not heroin, and certainly not little fluffy kittens (that's just plain wrong!). I used to count myself among the needlessly self-righteous non-(pot-)smokers. Oh, we were smug then, in the heyday of Mrs. Reagan's crusading call to abstinent arms. Smug indeed in our superiority and sparkling clean lungs, veins free of track marks and urine devoid of narcotics. It was quite a time, let me tell you.

I was one of the more relaxed opponents of the smoking lifestyle (tobacco, pot, etcetera) insofar as I did not indulge, nor willingly spent time in the company of smokers, but never marched, campaigned or wept crocodile tears for the fallen. "It's a filthy habit," I may have declared to my fellow pink-lunged compatriots, "and I want none of it. Take your foul fumes, smokes and ashes far from my presence and come hither never again." but I drew the line at skits, dammit.

The truth of the thing is that smokers are everywhere, combusting their flammable substances and drawing succor from the smouldering remains as they may. Fighting them is like fighting a serious East Coast winter: bitter and pointless, since it's much more patient than you and ruled by forces greater than vile invective.

See, here's the thing: Smokers (at least the ones you're likely to stumble across in your daily meanderings) aren't unaware of the consequences of their actions. They don't need a pamphlet. They don't want to see photographs of diseased lungs or cancer patients or even sad little girls who lost their mommies to emphysema (for the record I lost my grandmother and grandfather to that wicked disease...it was a bad way to go and one I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy, much less my beloved antecedents.) No, it's not a lack of information, guys and gals. Something far less complex and fascinating is at work:

They want to smoke stuff.

That's right. It's a delivery system for drugs, chemicals, social savoir-faire, and even visual appeal to certain audiences. And smokers like it. Who wouldn't? Well, me, I suppose. And that's really the heart of my point, I think.

I don't like smoking. I think it smells disgusting, and looks ridiculous, and it causes all kinds of bad stuff to happen. But here's the really important bit: I don't use those opinions as weapons to influence others. It's such a monstrous waste of time to try. Smokers aren't smoking to impress me or curry favor with my tastes and preferences in social breeding. They're doing it because they like the drugs, status or look of having something burning in their hand and smoke issuing forth from their orifices.

So why on earth should I try to dissuade them? It certainly doesn't work very well to scream and rant about it; smokers near me just move away, and those out of earshot don't know there's anything to ignore. I could be physically confrontational (like one charming young woman I knew who flicked a cigarette out of someone else's mouth when she came upon him lighting up) or even mount a national campaign against smoking in all its evil forms. But why bother?

The group of people my efforts would convince aren't the ones who are most committed to the practice of lighting dried leaves and inhaling the burning output; they're the folks who aren't really that entranced by the whole concept and would find their own way to a comfortable level of use.

Similarly, trying to apply my personal feelings about pot smoking (which tosses that whole illicit drug component into the mix) is even more futile. Now I'm fighting the "coolness factor" of doing something illegal as well as the addictive nature of the drug and enjoyable feelings engendered from same.

Let it go, dude. People like me who don't smoke and don't use recreational drugs ('cept for alcohol...but that's another node) aren't going to convert anyone who actually needs "converting", especially when we use tactics like horrible car-crash-style photos and martyred cancer patients being eaten alive by their lifestyle choices.

How about this: If you're so bothered by the smell, taste or sight of smoke/rs/ing then make sure you never inhale, lick, or stare at it/them/it ever again. Move to somewhere very remote and very wet and proceed to dance in a circle with your fingers in your ears. Or you could just get a clue and play nice with everyone else, yes, even those people with the flaming carcinogens.

And as for the pot issue itself. Shit—life's too short to spend it cramped up in a knot hurling bile at other people for their recreational habits. If your significant other is spending the baby's milk money on weed, smack him/her for being a jerk, grab your baby and yourself and leave. If you don't like the fact that your child is sparking up every weekend then tell them so, punish them or shout at them but for goodness' sake, don't shake your head sadly and leave afterschoolspecialesque reading material on their freshly-made beds as some kind of ersatz attempt at communication. Moreover, resolve yourself to the fact that unless you are comfortable with the notion of literally following your children (or your SO, for that matter) everywhere they go until you (or they) die, they will make mistakes and choices you don't approve of. Maudlin "You, alright! I learned it from watching you!" crapola does nothing but amuse and irritate your intended audience.

And hey, maybe if all of us who choose not to use also choose not to be assholes about it, those people that feel otherwise won't be compelled to act like assholes in return.

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