Smoking outdoors is worse than confining it indoors

Opinion

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Kim Theriault, One View

In the midst of controversy about a smoking ban in Chicago restaurants, I have to ask if eateries and bars are really the problem. Just this week I went to my doctor's office, located on Westgate. After parking my car, I began walking down the sidewalk. In less than one block, I passed two smokers squatting in the doorway of the sub shop and noticed more at the end of the block at a little café. Clearly, they weren't allowed to smoke indoors, so they were hanging out blocking doorways.

But the biggest problem was the gaggle of smokers?#34;at least 10 of them?#34;congregated outside the door to my doctor's office. The stench for a non-smoker was, to say the least, disgusting?#34;and even though I was out of doors?#34;I still reeked of smoke by the time I got into the doctor's office. Apparently, these were workers from the smoke-free office building next door but who had to get their fix.

So what would have been a nice little walk on a sunny day ended up being asphyxiating.

Scenes like this happen all the time, every place, unless a business makes its workers smoke a certain distance from the building or doesn't allow it in entrances.

Last spring I sat reading on Navy Pier and in less than an hour was attacked by smoke from four different people seated at various times on nearby benches, including one of those dumpy, middle-aged guys who arrogantly puffed away on a cigar. Apparently, part of enjoying a nice day is not taking in the fresh air, but stinking it up with smoke and making everyone else miserable.

Just yesterday, while walking in the city, I had to fan away the smoke of a woman walking near me because I couldn't breathe. She yelled at me for doing so. Can you believe it? Many smokers at least make an attempt to keep their smoke out of other people's faces.

As I see it, the problem is not smoking in restaurants and bars and buildings in designated sections that can be avoided and generally treated with good ventilation systems, but it's the rude people like these who just sort of take over fresh air like they are entitled to pollute it.

I remember climbing a mountain with a group only to have someone pull out a cigarette as soon as when we reached the summit, blocking the wonderful vista with a grey cloud that somehow one just couldn't escape due to the wind.

Honestly, when I go to a bar, I expect there to be smoke and that I am putting myself at risk. I hang out for a while and then come home and take a shower to wash the stench out of my hair. I told this to a friend who immediately jumped all over my comment, asking if I knew how bad smoke was for people, particularly the servers. But I have worked in restaurants before, and that is just part of the job. It's a risk, just like an injury risk in any job.

Why do I have to be terrorized by smokers just to get through the door of my doctor's office? And what about the old woman who was on oxygen who I saw there once? Did she have to pass this cloud of smokers to get into the office too? Then again, maybe she was on oxygen because she had been a smoker.

It just seems like the problem with smoking is much bigger than a ban. Smoking is big business?#34;bigger than the Chicago restaurant industry?#34;and the real problem is the rudeness and discourteous behavior of smokers.

Give them a place to smoke, like a section of a restaurant, hotel room with ashtrays, smoking lounge, and it seems to me they will use it. I know that's supporting their addiction and a dirty habit, but quite frankly, that keeps it their problem, and it then doesn't become mine. Maybe we should pity the smokers because, like "Pig Pen" from the Peanuts cartoon, they are surrounded by a haze of repulsive stench.

Or maybe they just need help. What if all of that money for special ventilation, sanitation of picking up cigarette butts and providing public ashtrays, remodeling for smoking lounges, and the health care costs of these individuals who will inevitably get lung or throat cancer?#34;plus the Chicago smoking ban?#34;were diverted to buying them "the patch" or whatever treatment necessary for them to kick the habit. Or maybe they themselves will do the right thing and switch their cigarettes for something that will help them kick the habit.

It certainly would be more courteous than their current behavior, and we would all be able to breathe a sigh of relief: of fresh air.

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