Wednesday, March 01, 2006

You smoke. You die.

Ok, this post started as a response to my friend's Blog post today (3/1), but instead I've deemed it worthy of my own post because it's something I feel so passionately incredulous about. (ooh, fun words!)

I can't believe I'm actually sort of "defending" smokers here, but I would say my friend John is an exception in that he was able to quit so easily. For most people, it's extremely extremely difficult and nearly impossible without help. I've known people who have WATCHED THEIR LOVED ONE DIE a painful death for months... and they still smoke. I don't get it either. I can't imagine being so weak and so stupid that I would keep smoking with all that we know about it today. Perhaps people who seemingly quit smoking easily are actually transferring their "addiction" to something else? I don't necessarily mean something negative or destructive, but just SOMETHING that can consume them in a similar way or be an outlet.

What is truly incredible to me is that if cigarettes were invented TODAY, there's no way in hell they would EVER be made legal. They are toxic, they are poison. They cause cancer in the user AND IN EVERYONE ELSE AROUND THEM. No way would it be approved today. But it's still legal because everyone's addicted AND of course... it brings in billions of dollars to tobacco companies, the federal government, and the health insurance companies, the cancer drug companies, the cancer specialists, etc.

I mean, god forbid we prevent all these illnesses... the country will slip into an economic depression!

(and then people will want cigarettes again...)

Ah, the sweet cycle of stupidity.

Employers are now able to compell their "at will" employees to quit smoking or be fired. On a moral/emotional level, I say "good riddance!" and go for it. But I don't know what the exact legalities are, and it confuses me. Because for instance, if they can justify firing smokers because they cost the company money in health care and lost time/wages if they get sick... then how come that same logic doesn't apply to say... pregnancy? Or eating lunch at McDonald's everyday? Or not exercising for 10 years? Each of those actions are choices made by the employee and each can impact cost to the company.

It's a fuzzy line because I'm all for personal freedoms and if you want to trash your body, I don't care as long as it doesn't effect me. But higher insurance costs do affect me. Higher taxes (for such stupid things) affect me. My thinking would actually be that companies should be able to refuse healthcare plans for smokers. Let smokers (or smoking spouses) get their own individual insurance. Then it won't cost the employer or the other employees via higher rates across the company.

But really, politicians need to stand up and ultimately BAN smoking all-together. Someday we'll be ashamed it was legal as long as it's been.

Here's a fun little story... A colleague here at work told me that his 11 year old son came home from school last week and got right up in his face and said "YOU SMOKE. YOU DIE!" And he said "What?" and the kid kept repeating it... "YOU SMOKE. YOU DIE!" Apparently, he'd had a health lesson about smoking at school that day and wanted to convince his Dad to quit. This brought me to tears. It really did. And I said to the guy "Please go home tonight and THANK your son for saying it and tell him to KEEP saying it until you quit". He told me he once quit for an entire year, and then eventually started up again. If his son's pleas can't motivate him to stop, I don't know what can. Just wait until the poor kid learns about second-hand smoke.


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