This image I saw from Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids reminds me of a story. I pinpoint it to the day I became militant about smoking.
I grew up around smoking. I breathed six packs a day worth of secondhand smoke from my parents (dad — 4 packs a day, mom — 2 packs a day). I remember whining to them about how much their smoking was bothering me in the car, and I was told “just roll down the window.” They didn’t want to hear it. I remember how bad their smoke was in the RV all night when we went camping.
Well, sure enough, I had a ton of ear infections as a kid. Had to have surgery on my ears because of the ear infections, probably caused by my parents’ smoking. In my early teens I started getting bronchitis all the time. By the time I hit college age, any head cold would immediately migrate to my chest and it would turn into 6 weeks of coughing. Twice in my 20s, I came down with pneumonia (and one time pleurisy). Only at the age of 29 did I finally grow out of that annual cycle of bronchitis and 6-8 weeks every winter of nonstop coughing.
Anyway, this brings me to Vic’s Drive Inn in Friday Harbor, Wash. Vic’s was a smoking joint, and in fact, I never sat down in Vic’s as a result. The smoke was SO thick in that place that one time I walked in just to grab a pickup order and walked back to work and everyone made fun of me because I reeked of smoke. I was in the building for less than 10 minutes. It was so bad, I went home and changed.
So, this one other time I walked into Vic’s, there was a fisherman sitting at a table (Friday Harbor was once a fishing town — no more, the fishing industry was in its dying throes at the time), puffing away on his cigarette with about a two-year-old boy sitting in his lap, coughing his head off and bawling. It just made me livid. The kid obviously had a respiratory infection, and there’s dad sitting 12 inches away literally blowing cigarette smoke in his face. Boy, I’m a big believer in not giving smokers shit, but I gave that guy a good glaring. What an asshole, I thought. What a self-centered idiot. It just brought back all my memories of those awful trips in the car and awful nights in the RV around a haze of cigarette smoke, and awful nights with burning eyes and a burning throat. I literally felt like punching the moron. I was really, really furious. I have never been so angry at a smoker.
Instead, years later, I decided to blog about tobacco and to try and be a bit more constructive. Like I said, i will never forget that day, or that kid, or how amazingly stupid that guy was being. This would have been sometime in the mid-1990s.
(As an aside, Vic’s Drive Inn was sold a couple of years after that, and the new owners made it smokefree. I did a big article on it at the time. They said they lost a few customers, but gained a lot more than they lost. Washington went smokefree about 10 years ago and smoking restaurants went away.)