Smoking versus Fat

I hate smoking. I hate it with every fibre of my being. I grew up a severe asthmatic, and even the slightest hint of smoke sets me off. My father is a smoker, and has been since well before I was born. And I hate it. When I went to school my uniform blazer often reeked of smoke because he would light up in morning traffic. The smell was so much so that teachers would pull me aside to warn me about my bad habits. Hell, even my grandfather smoked for 77 years before it got him.

We are now a society that has banned smoking in a lot of areas, and as a society we tend to make moral judgements on those who do. Well, at least I do. If I’m being honest, I consider people who smoke to be less intelligent, more prone to impulsive behaviour and with disgusting hygiene. I am aware of the bias I have, given my family history.

Tonight I realised that people think these same things about me, but because I’m fat. See, I hate the smell of smoke. But they hate the sight of fat. I feel as if smokers encroach on my personal space. They think I, as a fat person, encroach on their personal space. I care about the damaging effects to smokers’ health and wellbeing. They want to fight obesity to improve my health and wellbeing. I must admit, it’s an interesting comparison that I hadn’t really considered until this evening.

Does this make it better/worse/indifferent? I don’t know. I think there’s a difference between fatness and smoking, because a person chooses to be a smoker – but then people think I choose to be fat, too. And maybe I do? Does it make them any better than me? No. It just means I’m fat. Just like it just means my dad is a smoker. It doesn’t make him better or worse than me. Or anyone. It just is.

Why do we make the moral judgements we do? Why is any one group more or less simply because? I will never like smoke being around me because too much of it induces an asthma attack. But my dad is a very considerate smoker these days, and if I ask him to he wont smoke around me. I’m afraid it can’t be the same if a person dislikes my fat; it’s not something I can (or am prepared to) change so easily.

My dad disagrees about the medical risks of smoking – he claims that people die of lung cancer and emphysema who don’t smoke, and that correlation does not equal causation. I don’t know what the actual research is or who did it; I only know about those ads I’ve seen on television where they wring a sponge out to symbolise a smoker’s lungs. But I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been judging people based on the court of popular opinion, in exactly the same way people do about studies regarding fat, and obesity. I know it sounds crackpot and conspiracy theorist to assume that studies are wonkily funded, but if reading books on obesity and politics has taught me anything is that you can’t always trust the studies. It’s important to look at who funded each study, and if the research is unbiased. Only then can we get true results.

I’ll always disagree with smoking because it fucks with my ability to breathe. But I think from now on I’m going to stop making moral judgements. I have no right. Nobody does.

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  • Anonymous

    Excellent post.

  • sykobabble

    Excellent post.

  • http://www.annetoinette.blogspot.com Jorie

    I think the thing for me is when I eat or choose not to exercise, no one else gains weight. When my brother in law smokes around me, I take on the risks that he's chosen, not the ones that I have. I don't think it's morally wrong to smoke necessarily, because people have the right to do with their bodies what they wish, it's the fact that smokers can also do to me what they wish that I have a problem with.

  • http://bbgetsherbounceback.blogspot.com/ Bianca

    I have no problem with people smoking as long as they choose to do so in a perfectly sealed bubble with their own air supply…Me being fat doesn't make anyone else fat, smoking around other people affects them though.

    I really don't think its a matter of one being right or better or anything else over the other but they are very different.

  • Ankrhe

    Wow. This is a really interesting comparison! I'll have to think about this more in future.

  • nonny

    I go to every possible effort to minimise the likelihood of second and third hand smoke reaching non-smokers. I made the choice to take on the risks to my physical health in exchange for the benefits to my mental health -benefits which have been enormous. Without smoking, I have no capacity to hold down a job. Period. I’m sick to death of being told I’m morally bankrupt for smoking. If I don’t smoke, I’m a crazy dole bludger who doesn’t care about The Tax Payers. If I do smoke, I’m lazy, stupid and dirty -judgements that I got my entire childhood for my class status.

    Thank you for thinking about your opinion of smokers -it’s something very few people question.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PI63XUGK2NNPRJQVGE47XJGB7E audreydc1983

    Actually, it seems that the studies that claim that secondhand smoke is dangerous have OODLES of questionable practices.
    #1 They are based on surveys, not actual MEDICAL STUDIES
    #2 They don’t acknowledge that this person may have other bad habits/lifestyle choices that contribute to an illness that they attribute to “secondhand smoke”
    …those are the biggies.
    Honestly, I really don’t think it’s the “killer” it’s made out to be. But if you’re asthmatic, sensitive to allergens, etc – it can be devastating.
    I was a smoker myself, and tried my best to be conscientious about it (picking up my butts, going outside, positioning myself according to the wind direction, etc). But most smokers I’ve met really don’t give a damn. I’ve had a few clove cigarettes over the last 7 years, but for the most part, I’ve been smoke-free. I do understand how smokers are ostracized – because I used to be one. So – I don’t hassle smokers to quit, or tell them to take their cancer-sticks elsewhere, if they’re obeying the local laws of distance from a building entrance.
    I think that the belief that all smokers are dirty got around because of non-smokers: to us, smokers smell awful, they look awful (nicotine-stained fingers and teeth, as well as those lovely wrinkles around the mouth later on), and they aren’t, by our standards, hygienic : dropping butts everywhere, dumping ashtrays in inappropriate places, dropping ash on the floor/ground/a table. Eww.
    But my issue with smokers is just sadness… the last time I visited my dad, I heard him cough at night, through the walls. It alarmed me…and made me hate cigarettes. My maternal grandmother has Emphysema and COPD – and she may die of it. She smoked for a good 50 years – and now she’ll pay for it, with her health.
    Smokers definitely have a right to light up, if they do so please. It doesn’t bother me, because it’s their choice – a choice I made years ago. I can put myself in their shoes – I know what it’s like to be hassled.

  • Gillebro

    I have to say, if you succeed in stopping yourself from making moral judgements on smokers (and it’s totally fine if you don’t – the fact that you want to stop is celebration enough, I think), then that is incredibly mature of you. It is far more mature than most of the rest of the world seems able to be, at any rate.

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