Non-smokers have as many vices as smokers

DANIEL ANTOLIN

As someone who was a nonsmoker, teetotaler and pretty much against everything that was considered taboo by society during the first 23 years of my life, it’s my place to tell close-minded and judgmental people who don’t smoke to just butt out of smokers’ business. There are, after all, worse things to be in this world than a smoker who stands outside of buildings and puffs carcinogenic air at passersby.

Imagine one such passerby, walking out of a building after class with sunglasses on and car keys in hand, raising her covered eyes at a group of people who are puffing their brains out. She also observes skateboarders doing some mad stunts nearby. This person gets in her car, drives toward the freeway, recalling the day’s events. “Damn those smokers. They should be fined,” she thinks, or rather she tells her boyfriend on a cell phone, not concentrating on the road. “Hold on a sec. I have to get some gas,” her boyfriend hears coming from his end of the conversation for the second time on that cloudy day, sitting in a lecture class in the same building on campus just a few miles away.

As she waits in line at the gas station, he hears from his Bluetooth earpiece all about the incompetent clerk who should be fired for taking forever with customers.

Even though her boyfriend is sitting toward the back of the classroom with people who are surfing the Web on their laptops, the professor continues on with the lecture, hoping that at least students in the first few rows will listen to what she has to teach. The boyfriend observes a girl next to him on a Mac, using Photoshop to brighten a picture of she and her girls at a club. Also open on her desktop is her My Space page, GMail account and the ”Grey’s Anatomy” Web site. “The last episode really sucked,” he comments to his girlfriend, who is filling her gas tank for the second time that day. The girl sitting next to him looks up and says, “I know, right?”

Their conversation must come to an end. Even though she does not want to, his girlfriend has to be at work in 10 minutes. The boyfriend figures he’ll pass the time talking with and batting his eyes at his cute neighbor, a fellow “Grey’s Anatomy” hater. When his evening class takes a break, he’ll probably drive to the Carl’s Jr. a block away, get something to eat and fill up his car’s tank for the 10-mile drive home. When he walks outside the building, the boyfriend sees the same smokers his girlfriend ran into with “death sticks” in their mouths.

Everything was going so well for these upstanding members of society until those junkies showed up. She saw skateboarders performing stunts she thought were cool outside of the building, sticking it to campus police who have repeatedly told them not to, filled her gas tank twice, helping to further pollute the environment, was rude to a gas station clerk, cut a lot of people off on the freeway when switching lanes, all while talking on a cell phone. He was talking on a cell phone in class with her, flirted with another girl, drove to Carl’s Jr, even though it was within walking distance, and refilled his gas tank. By the way, “he” and “she” represent most people on campus.

As mentioned earlier, there are worse things in this world than smokers who expose themselves to the same level of danger Cal State Northridge students do on a daily basis. Even worse are people who are arrogant enough to think they can decide which of these activities are right and which are wrong for people they haven’t even met. Maybe a better idea would be for these people to meet.

Let me be the first to break the ice. I’m a smoker and started puffing away about a year ago to understand the great mystery behind these “death sticks.” At the same time, I don’t enjoy driving because of the harm it does to the environment. I know. We’re all hypocrites.

What I found was that people are not so much addicted to the nicotine as they are to the atmosphere that smoking can create among colleagues. They are able to relax, have a few laughs, and vent some anger, brainstorm ideas, and form bonds free of some of society’s more arbitrary rules of behavior. Everyone in a smoking circle is an equal, after all, even if you don’t decide to smoke.

So bring a cigarette, a cappuccino, a Burger King Double Stacker, or just show up with car keys in your hand and get to know people before you judge them for doing something just as stupid as something you probably do every day without even knowing it.

We invite you to our smoking circle, even though you never invite us to your “Grey’s Anatomy” nights.