A quick and probably unpopular post prompted by my train journey home yesterday.
It is 2013. We know, beyond doubt, that cigarettes are bad for us. We know that they cause cancer and ultimately, kill you. We know that the effects of smoking cost the NHS millions every year. And we know the effects of passive smoking.
Yet, whenever proposed government changes intended to de-glamourise smoking make the headlines, the “it’s my choice” brigade come out in force. People seem to defend their right to smoke with more vehemence than any other “right” our nation allows us. Where do my rights come into this?
Surely it is my right to be able to walk down the street without someone else’s smoke hitting me in the face every few paces?
Surely it is my right to waddle, heavily pregnant, into the women’s unit at the hospital without having to fight my way through hoards of smoking patients? And yes, these included many pregnant women. The Neo-Natal Unit at Heartlands has a tagging system to ensure no babies from the ward go missing, a tagging system which is often set off by people who accidentally help themselves, not to a baby, but to some other element of hospital property – perhaps bedding. This triggers a 10 minute lock-down while security check that every baby is safely in her cot or incubator. During one lock-down I was treated to a heavily pregnant woman in her pyjamas repeatedly swearing because she desperately needed a ciggy right now. As, apparently, did her mother.
And surely it is my right to sit on a train for an hour without gagging at the stench of stale smoke on the clothes of the otherwise immaculate businessman wedged in beside me? I spent most of my journey home last night trying to quash the nausea by sucking on breath mints, and even as I descended the escalator at International I could smell the lingering odour on my clothes. It was disgusting.
I’m sure smokers will want to weigh in here, and I have to know – why are your rights so much more important than mine? We are seen to have a basic human right to fresh water – why not to fresh air? Why are my choices less valid than yours?