The Rise of The Nonsmoking Culture
When I was growing up, smoking was still common. You still had to have ashtrays around for the guests even if your parents didn’t smoke and you wouldn’t smoke if someone paid you to do it. Characters smoked in movies all the time, and they weren’t just the villains. You were considered cool if you smoked, and smokers were still perceived as more fun than nonsmokers.
To this day, I’m convinced that I would never have gotten asthma if I had been born in this generation. Children who grow up in smoking households are more likely to grow up with asthma, especially if everyone around them will typically smoke around them. Generation Y still smokes, but they at least statistically tend to be more discrete about it than the previous generations were. They know that the culture at large frowns upon such behavior.
I can remember when the anti-smoking movement really started to gain strength. It felt like by the 1990’s, you couldn’t turn on the television without hearing about all of the reasons why it was important not to smoke and all of the problems that smokers would develop later in life. I do remember seeing a PSA about how children who grew up in households full of smokers were more likely to develop asthma, which is now received wisdom. I just wish that it had been received a lot sooner.
I can’t get over the fact that in the 1950’s, around fifty percent of people smoked. That a solid plurality of people could possibly consume toxins at that level is still amazing to me. The fact that little kids smoked all the time and then desperately tried to quit during the 1990’s illustrates an interesting generational progression in a group of people whose lives were so heavily shaped by smoking.
It is my every hope that the generation of people who are still children now will never have to grow up this way. They will always live in a culture where smoking is still uncommon and where the mainstream idea is that smoking is a dangerous habit that should not be practiced publicly. Instituting designated smoking areas for people who have this addiction is just another part of the overall cultural shift.
What individuals do does affect the people around them. Some habits really are just your business and no one else’s. If you eat sugar, you are not by any means forcing me to eat sugar, and it is your health and your body. If you smoke in my area, you are effectively asking me to smoke as well. I’m going to be forced to inhale your cigarette smoke all the time, and I won’t get the filters that you will receive at the ends of your cigarettes. You may have decided to take this sort of risk, but I did not.
The public smoking bans are reflective of a certain civic-minded behavior. People who live in condominium complexes have to be more mindful of the other people in those complexes, and they are simply not going to have the privacy of the people who own their own homes. If you live in a condo, you have to make sure that you monitor your noise levels in a way that would not be applicable if you owned your own house, for instance.