Smoke

From time to time I’ve talked about tobacco smoke and smoke in general.  At times I declare that I hate smokers, when really I’m just having an extreme reaction against the smoke they’re generating.  I truly try to avoid smoking-designated areas and stay in my no-smoking designated places, but when the smoke comes into my safe-zone it’s hard to stay Dude-like.  For example…

This morning on my way into the building at work I started to smell cigarette smoke as I approached one of the side-doors.  I work on a no-smoking campus so people aren’t supposed to be smoking anywhere on the property.  If you pay attention you’ll notice pathetic huddles of people puffing literally feet away from the property line in certain places.  This winter they’ve been reminding me of that I.T. Crowd episode where Jen is still smoking.

Anyway, I really have no option but to breathe in this lung irritant for about 40 feet and then as I get close to the door I see someone left a lit cigarette burning on the stairs.  Because of the placement of the door, overhang and direction of the wind, this cigarette has continued to burn and there’s a giant pocket of smoke trapped at the entrance along with smoke in the entryway being sucked in every time the door opens.

For most this is no big deal.  I have friends and family who would not even noticed the smell.  For the past 4 hours this morning:

  • I can’t breathe in as deeply as before
  • There’s a sharp pain on the left side of my chest below my collar bone every time I breathe in, which almost always means I’m wheezy
  • I’m coughing
  • My voice is affected
  • My sinuses hurt
  • I feel like crap

I got into my office took some meds, have been taking it easy and have taken more meds in the meantime.  I’m in no way bad enough to warrant urgent medical care by any means, but this is what people like me go through just from smelling cigarette smoke for about 15 seconds in their day from a single, abandoned cigarette on the ground where it’s not supposed to be.

Last week I read a post on Asth.ma where Dr. Wu, the blog’s author, was surprised to learn people smoke outside the entrance to the hospital where she works.  This is something I feel like I’ve been dealing with my entire life.  As a kid my dad used to smoke around me, people smoked in planes, people smoked in most businesses, and there were always crowds of people smoking outside of a hospital.  I think I can even remember people smoking inside of hospitals.  The worst situations are when I’m heading to a doctor’s office or going to the hospital for emergency care and I have to encounter this, at times, life-threatening smell before getting inside the building.  I take the risk of sounding whiny here, but it’s really not fair.

The crazy part is other than last night when I saw someone smoking close to this entrance, perhaps the same person who left their cancer-stick this morning, I haven’t even encountered smoke for weeks.  I feel very fortunate to work at a place where smoking is banned.  No one smokes in my household, for obvious reasons, and I can fairly easily avoid smoke when I want to in my town and state.  The hard part is when I’m away from home and traveling, staying at hotels, and flying on planes.  Even though people can’t smoke on planes or in most airports anymore, 3rd-hand smoke from people who were around smokers or were previously smoking is just as detrimental.  I’ve had to ask for a different seat on a plane or move on a bus before due to this.  I understand people have the right to smoke, I just wish there was a way to keep the smoke away.