smoke smoke smoke that cigarette

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : May 25, 2007

Today I woke up into a world where a parent who smokes in front of their child is looked at with eyes of disdain, but parents who let their kids watch R-rated movies are quaintly permissive. 

For the record, my mother died at the age of 50 because of her smoking.  She had emphysema, got a lung transplant, started smoking again, got pneumonia, and died.  I think smoking is stupid.

But it isn’t a great moral evil.  It bothers me that people get SUPER upset with other people when they start smoking again…but they shrug their shoulders at promiscuity and the like. 

What’s with this trend? What does it say about our society’s moral priorities?

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12 Responses to “smoke smoke smoke that cigarette”

  1. Steve Treichler on May 25th, 2007 11:11 am


    Smoke em if you got em!

    Ya know, I don’t smoke regularly - and I like the clean air and all. And, simply - it AIN’T GOOD FOR YA!!But hey, this is frickin’ REEDICKULOUS!! Are we going to outlaw Big Macs, the sun, Rosie O’Donnell (causing heart attacks to conservatives), Rush Limbaugh (same to liberals), lawn darts and fireworks (guess we already did that).

    Prohibition doesn’t work. And, to quote you, “it isn’t a great moral evil.” It just smell and causes others to dislike you (so does farting - but I do it regularly!


  2. ron on May 25th, 2007 11:15 am

    Hey Mark, I wonder in this realm of post modernity where there is ” no ” absolute truth. I wonder if we don’t see morals the same way. I can’t help but think of guys like CS Lewis, who talked about the fact the universe was defined by physical laws…but also built into the DNA of creation was a moral law. I think maybe there is a cancerous mutation happening in humanity…that we are quickly loosing the moral code that was to ensure wholeness. There is no right, no wrong…no absolute truth. All is a wash in a sea of grey.

  3. ron on May 25th, 2007 11:17 am

    Maybe…I missed the point. This just isn’t about cigarettes…the under lying reality is…I think…our moral conscience has gone up in smoke>

  4. Anna on May 25th, 2007 12:13 pm

    Excellent point. Maybe smoking crosses the boundary of private into public, whereas sex is suppose to be “consensual” between two(or more!) people in private. The libertarian stance undergirding this is, “If you aren’t hurting anyone, its okay.” Second hand smoke is proven to hurt others, so NOT cool. Of course, there is the whole STD and Irresponsible Reproduction side to sexual immorality…

    I empathize with your family situation and your mother. My mom has stage 4 lung cancer, not due to smoking. We are always quick to say that. The type she has is most likely caused by a combination of genetics, pollution and life-time exposure to industrial chemicals in laundry detergents and household cleaners. Hazards of being a housewife!


  5. Aric Clark on May 25th, 2007 12:42 pm

    As an impassioned anti-smoker I understand where you’re coming from. You’re certainly right that it gets more focus than it deserves and that it doesn’t belong on the same stage as major moral issues like torture, war, or poverty. However, I don’t quite accept that smoking doesn’t have a moral dimension. I consider it very much akin to driving drunk, or leaving your children alone in the car, or a company not policing their own polluting - aka it is at least negligent not only of your own health, but the health of those around you. No one in this day and age is ignorant of the damage it causes so at some level you must be making a conscious choice not to care about the health of people in your vicinity. Granted this is not a moral choice on the same level as committing direct violence to someone, but it is a moral choice about negligence and failing to love your neighbor.

    Most sin fits into this category - aka passive acceptance or negligence around actions which are damaging to others.

  6. JoshuaEllens on May 25th, 2007 1:13 pm

    i agree with your statement that smoking has “…a moral dimension.” however your statement about it being “akin to driving drunk, or leaving your children alone in the car…” is quite misguided. it seems that if smoking has a moral dimension at all it is in the general sense that everything we do affects us physically and spiritually as well as those around us. the problem is that the act of smoking is to a large extent quantifiable. remember, there are those who smoke on occasion (i myself have a pipe a couple of times a month) or those who only smoke outside/alone. i have a hard time with your comparison of that to someone who drives drunk. there is inherent risk involved in drunk driving. there isn’t a ’safer way’ to drive drunk, or to leave your kids in the car. there is a safer way to have a puff that still provides a certain social function while avoiding harm to others. the inherent harm in an occasional smoke i believe would more accurately be described as being akin to eating fast food, or lots of red meat, or foods with chemicals/preservatives. it is easy to overlook those chronic problems with our society that are associated with such things.

  7. dlw on May 25th, 2007 4:11 pm

    I think the addictiveness and the harmfulness of nicotine is pretty well established. Cigars/Pipes may be more inefficient means of intaking such and preferable, but most cigarretes are no good, though I hear there are better possible versions that could be developed down the line.

    As far as Rated R movies go, it depends on the movie and the age of the child and whether the parent and child talk about it afterwards. But it’s not hazardous, though porn is psychologically hazardous for children to be exposed to…

    I don’t think we’ve over-reached on the dangers of cigarrettes yet, but we’ve definitely under-reached on other matters…

  8. Michael Westmoreland-White on May 25th, 2007 9:08 pm

    Well, I think parents letting their kids watch R-rated movies are more than just ‘quaintly permissive.” But the parent smoking is not just giving the child a bad example, but poisoning them with second hand smoke. It’s a form of assault–in both cases.

  9. Aric Clark on May 25th, 2007 10:00 pm


    Hi! Thanks for your reply to my comments.

    You are right that there are smoking is also somewhat analogous to eating fast food - except the harm to others part, which is why I used drunk driving as my example and I’m sticking to it. You argued that it is inappropriate because with smoking there are degrees of harm - but that is precisely how most people in this country look at drunk driving. The USA today did a poll about 5 years ago that said almost 80% of respondents thought it was okay to drive if you were only a “little” tipsy - or if you didn’t have any passengers in your car, or if it were really late and night and not too many cars on the road, or if you couldn’t afford a taxi etc.. etc… the point being that people use all kinds of excuses to justify damaging behaviors as being “okay” because they’re “less bad”. I suppose you could argue that a person who was absolutely religious about never smoking near another human being had achieved a different ethical standard than most people do smoking, but that is not generally the case.

    Basically though I agree with dlw - I think we’ve given other, more important, issues too little attention, not so much that we’ve given smoking too much attention.

  10. Ryan Bell on May 25th, 2007 11:13 pm

    I’m not an activist, per se, when it comes to smoking, but I have to say that, for one thing, smoking is addictive whereas Big Macs, in the strictest sense of the word, are not. In addition, the whole industry of Big Tobacco is an institutional evil as far as I’m concerned. They prey on the poor and working class citizens, target children with their advertising and refuse to bear any responsibility for the deaths of millions of people. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease in our world. That sounds like more than a trifling private issues to me. It sounds like a massive public health crisis. Then there’s the whole second hand smoke issue, which someone else mentioned. Anyway, I don’t think this issues is just a private issue, like eating too much chocolate or banning trans fats.

  11. Barbara on May 25th, 2007 11:24 pm

    I think its easy to put down smokers because its NOT moral issue so the person that is having an affair or cheating on their taxes has no problem saying: Look at that disgusting smoker polluting the air and killing them self.

    I’m sorry about your mom, my dad died at 48 from lung cancer caused by smoking.

    I smoke one cigarette a day. So shoot me.

  12. dlw on May 26th, 2007 1:29 pm

    One cigarette a day isn’t that bad, but the addictiveness of cigarettes make it much harder to hold it to that….


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