Or perhaps the subtitle should be: I don't give a crap what you do to yourself (it's a free country, after all; sort of, anyway), but why must I be a conscript on your death march.

OK, that's probably too long for a subtitle, but it sums up how I feel about you smokers. Not on a micro level, of course, because many of my friends lack the common sense--or survival instinct--to cease and desist. And I love (or at least tolerate) them just the same.

As one with plenty of my own annoying habits, I certainly get that smoking is something that people like (read: need) to do, and that on some level, those who feel that way ought to be allowed to kill themselves in peace and quiet.

But that's just the point. You, or at least the vast majority of you who live somewhere other than a survivalist compound in the middle of the nothingness, don't exercise your right by puffing in private.

You are everywhere I am. And virtually all the time, too. I've long said that tobacco in the form of cigarettes should be outlawed. Yes, I know I'm a hypocrite by not including pipe, cigar and chewing tobacco. Ok, add chewing tobacco to the banned list (as an aside, my sister could tell you a very disgusting story about a chaw, her hair and my mouth, but I'll leave that to her and her Facebook page). As for pipes, I don't, and never have, used one (although my grandfather did), and that smell doesn't bug me. Regarding cigars, thanks to my brother-in-law, I can light up a Cuban every now and then, so I'd like to keep cigars as an option.

My Chablis producer uses ashtrays the way they should be used!

Anyway, as I walked the two blocks from Penn Station to my office today, it occurred to me that I had a headache. Not that anyone outside of my immediate family cares, but headaches are essentially debilitating for me, regardless of their intensity, or lack thereof. It's a long story, and I guess I could just blame my mother, but that's as much as is necessary for this little vignette.

I went through my why-does-my-head-hurt checklist: Family? Kids are great, wife is lovely, and we haven't even had a fight in I don't know how long, so that's not it. Wine business? Stressful to start up a business from scratch, but so far, people seem to like what I'm hocking, so that's not it. Illness? I'm surprisingly healthy given the business I'm in, so nope, that's not it either. Money? Well, who doesn't want/need more of that, but like the financial world surrounding us, things seem to be improving, if too slowly for my taste, so I don't think that's it either.

And then as I passed through another gauntlet of tobacco-induced haze, it hit me like a case of lung cancer: I became a seasonal secondhand smoker again. My poor respiratory system wasn't permitted a gradual adjustment to this state of affairs. It's like instead of having one drink, I started with ten. Just like that.

Ah, springtime. Birds chirping. Leaving heavy coats and gloves in the closet. People milling about in less and less outerwear. Smokers gathering in full force wheezing and coughing and lighting up with impunity in groups spaced in what seem like 20-yard intervals on every street.

The worst part about it all is that I can't really blame you. Well, I can, and very much do, but I get how you feel persecuted. Particularly when so many of the rest of us sin tax payers are allowed to practice in public (as long as, that is, we're doing it where we're allowed by law to do it) and don't have to strain our necks to blow toxic clouds away from any person within eyesight of us.

Give clean air a chance.

But at the end of the day, it doesn't matter how hard you try. You stink up my air. Period.

Where should you go to partake in your sin tax activity? Can't help you there. I know where I'd LIKE you to go, however.





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