Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Smokers and Fat People.

Is it too early in the morning for such an inflammatory post title?

Katie at Will Race for Carbs (go check out her blog.. it is hilarious and one of my very favorites) had an awesome, thought-provoking post the other day about China encouraging young people to smoke.

In her post, Katie talks about seeing an article in Businessweek about the smoking rates in China, accompanied by a disturbing image of a little boy smoking a cigarette.  In China, they are marketing cigarettes to elementary school children, and the smoking rates are skyrocketing.  Katie made the very astute observation that it's not unlike the partnership that Coca-Cola and other soda manufacturers have with schools in the US, and how while drinking soda may not be as bad as smoking, it's a contributing factor to the obesity epidemic.  (Don't rely on my synopsis, go read her full post here.


I started to comment on her post - but as it gradually grew to take up the whole screen, I realized I had too much to say about the cultural perception of smoking... and other vices, and I wanted to dedicate a post to it. 

Everything about what the Chinese government is allowing the cigarette companies to do is so very wrong, I'm not even going to delve into it.  This article brought up all of these feelings for me about how relatively socially acceptable it is to be obese in this country, yet smoking is demonized.

Full-disclosure: I'm a former smoker, and I've never been overweight (except a little of my post-babies days, and I got cut a lot of slack.)

Here's the crux of the issue for me:  it has become socially acceptable to be openly rude to a smoker due to the recent anti-smoking marketing campaigns..  As a smoker - you get harassed all of the time for smoking, and here's a not very funny story about that.  In my college days, I was working at a restaurant, taking a break in the smoking section, and a customer walked up to me, took the cigarette out of my mouth, and ground it into the ashtray with a haughty "You shouldn't smoke."  I felt violated, ashamed, and very, very angry. 

For those of you thinking, "Yeah, probably not the best way to go about that - but smoking is SO WRONG!"  I get it.  But this is a slippery slope.  Imagine me again, sitting at a table on my break in that same restaurant, but imagine me at 250 pounds.  And imagine I'm eating a cheeseburger.  I know you know where this is going... Can you imagine someone walking up to my fat 19 year old self and taking my food out of my hands looking down her nose and saying "You shouldn't eat that."

Sugary drinks and fast food and all of the fake food GMO bullshit on the other hand are arguably just as detrimental as smoking, but are totally socially acceptable. The dichotomy is baffling.

I want to be clear here - I'm not arguing that smoking is OK.  It is horrible, and horribly addictive.  I wish we lived in a world without cigarettes.  But we don't, and I think the smear campaign the government has spearheaded in the past decade has effectively turned the country against smokers.  Not cigarettes, but smokers.  Have we forgotten that most smokers are in the fight of their lives and would love to be non-smokers?
We now live in a world where "smoke-free" workplaces are ubiquitous.  But that doesn't satisfy the anti-smoking lobbies; now we are gradually shifting to "smoker-free" workplaces.  Smoker-free?  Is this a joke?  Apparently, by refusing to hire smokers (and firing those unable/unwilling to quit), some companies believe they will save money.  If that's the rationale, perhaps we should also refuse employment to other high-cost groups of people:  Obese people, definitely.  Cancer patients?  That probably gets pretty expensive.  How about people with depression or anxiety?  Pregnant women?  They get paid to not be at work - the outrage!

And before you say that smokers should just quit - let me say that I couldn't agree more.  But we need to understand - truly understand -  that for some people, the addiction is so fierce it is nearly impossible to quit.  When I quit smoking for the final time, I was so addicted that I was physically ill for more than a week, and not smoking was the hardest thing I've ever done.  I am not confident that if I started smoking that I would be able to stop again.  When I quit, I was a happy, healthy RUNNER with tremendous family support and very little outside stress.  It was probably the environment most conducive to quitting smoking, and it still was terrible.   Not everyone is as lucky as I was.

I can only hope that when the mob-like tendencies of the collective American spirit turn on obesity, that we keep our rage and disdain focused on the problem - obesity.  Not fat people.


  1. I'm an ex smoker and I completely agree. That's why I think EVERY person in the world smoker and non should have to read Allen Carrs easy way to quit smoking. It really explains what a smoker goes through and how their brain works. I think that the way people treat them is awful. Really the smoker should be pitied. I feel horrible for them now. poor saps.

  2. Fabulous post and I could not agree more with everything you said. I appreciate you voicing your opinion.

    My sister teaches first grade and I am always suprised by how many of her students are already obese at such a young age. so sad.

  3. Appreciated reading your post and your opinions. I totally agree with what you have said...for me...yeah i dont always agree with other's lifestyle choices but mine aren't the best either. i dont understand when people start to think its okay to put their own values on other people...especially complete strangers!?! I have plenty to work on with myself before I should have ANY right to do that.

  4. I, too, am an ex smoker who's never been obese. And I totally agree with you. People who speak up to obese people are bullies. People who mock smokers are heroes.

  5. My kid sister wrote an essay in college about the smoking bans that were happening in Adams Morgan. Basically, you couldn't smoke except in your house with the windows closed (not in your car, not in public places, not in your yard). It's ridiculous. Cigarettes are a legal substance, just like alcohol. Is it healthy? No. Do you have the choice to indulge? Yes.

    I am a former smoker (and former fat girl, if you must know). Quitting smoking was WAY, WAY easier than quitting cheeseburgers for me. I disagree with smoking bans in restaurants and bars...as you said, it's a slippery slope.
    It's like saying it's legal to drink soda, but not out of cans, cups, or bottles.

    I've had many heated arguements about this with friends (most of whom never, ever smoked).

    My favorite encounter from when I was a smoker was a guy who felt the need to veer off the sidewalk to my front porch (Of the house. That I owned.) and say "That's going to kill you." I responded "Not this one, but I might kill you if you don't get the hell off my property."

    Wow. I just realized how much I miss smoking. Especially after a run, when your lungs are wide open and the nicotine just rushes into your system....


    Wait. What were we talking about?

  6. this is an awesome topic. I found myself typing up a very long response too.

    In a nutshell - both are bad, I wouldn't slap a burger or a cigarette out of someones mouth and I do think eventually obese people will be singled out just as smokers have.

  7. Thanks for the love! I happen to be a big fan of your blog as well!! You know this was a really interesting post and it completely changed my perspective. I am the opposite of you in the fact that I have never been a smoker and I used to be fat. You are so right that we should hate the cigarettes and not the smokers just like we should hate what obesity does to people and not hate the obese. I love your point of view on this!

  8. Very interesting view point! Thank you for sharing. Addiction is serious business- food, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, sex, and even running. Congratulations on quitting smoking- I'm sure it was extraordinarily difficult.

  9. I'm an ex-smoker and an ex-obese gal. Do I get a prize?! I can't believe anyone still smokes... but maybe I've seen too many trachs and glossectomies and all that. But, I also can't believe people still don't wear sunscreen. Yes and obesity is bad and I could go into a whole tirade about how it is cheaper to get a combo meal from McD's than cook yourself a healthy meal. Which is wrong on so many levels. Obesity and poverty are like peas and carrots baby. Blah!

  10. Thanks for such good writing and good thoughts here. I know I don't have a ton to say and so why I am commenting I'm not sure...I'm too tired to comment anything worthy of reading. Just wanted to say again how much I love your blog and your writing. Refreshing and so glad I found you here. Your writing voice makes me Want to read and I look forward to your posts.

  11. Here! Here! You said it perfect! It's been almost 2 years since my last cigarette and I still think about it everyday!

  12. Great post

    I am seeing in the Corporate world a change about obesity, I dont think we are that far off from a public out cry on it. I do not believe it will be on the same level as smokers, it will be more of a "you better get fit or else" mentality.


Hearing from you makes me happy! :)

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