Dear Smokers

No smoking. 'Nuff said.

This is an open letter to the two smokers that I had the (mis)fortune of meeting on Saturday. Please note, this is not a general letter to all smokers, nor is it meant as an attack on those who do smoke. While I don’t smoke, you have every right to do so. But really, please don’t smoke – it’s so bad for you.

First let me paint a little picture. Saturday afternoon – before leaving Guelph for my dad’s birthday party, and following my 21.5 kilometre run – I decided I needed to eat. There were two reasons for this. First, it was several hours after lunch and I hadn’t eaten since about 7 in the morning. Second, I had just finished a 21.5 kilometre run and I knew it was probably in my best interest to eat sooner rather than later. And given my surprise when I was faced with the realization during Sunday morning’s weigh-in1 that I’d lost about 10 pounds since Christmas, I’d say it was a smart move on my part2.

Anyway, since I had nothing in the house to eat3 I decided I’d venture over to the local Starbucks for a breakfast sandwich, a vanilla soy latte, and perhaps a rice-krispie square – because my meals are all about balance. Ha! After ordering, I decided to eat my food outside since the weather was nice, the air was clear, and I was still rather warm from all the running. However, the wind was a bit on the cool side so I decided that I’d move to a sheltered area outside – specifically an alcove to the left of Chapter’s (if you were standing in front of the building). It was empty, sheltered from the wind, but open enough that I could feel the sun. Perfect.

Starbucks' breakfast sandwich - best served sans cigarettes.

I dug into my food as I was a bit ravenous. As I was savouring my third or fourth bite, I saw an elderly man approaching. He was tall and thin. As he approached he smiled at me – which immediately put me on edge for reasons that I won’t get into here. I’m sure I awkwardly smiled back, although my look may have instead been one of what the hell do you want and why are you smiling at me and dear god why are you coming over here? I calmed a little when I saw that he was followed by an elderly woman who I assumed was his wife. They both smiled at me.

I smiled back, still chewing. They came to stand about a foot away from me (the alcove was small).

And then it happened.

He pulled out a pack of cigarettes. He looked at me with what I can only describe was a twinkle in his eye as he pulled out one of his cancer sticks, popped it in his mouth and made to light it.

I know for sure that at that very moment the smile left my face. Are you effing kidding me? was the only thing that ran through my mind. Okay – to be perfectly honest, many other expletives were running through my mind but since my mom reads this I’ll refrain from writing exactly what I was thinking. But seriously are you effing kidding me?

Smoking in this day and age – when we know how bad it is for us to do – is one thing, but to purposely sit down next to someone who is eating, and then to light up? Are. You. Effing. Kidding. Me?

The look on my face was surely a mixture of disgust, disdain, and confusion4. How could anyone be so oblivious as to not realize that smoking next to someone who was eating is rude. The fact that I was standing next to a sign that read “No Smoking Within 9 Metres Of The Entrance” seemed completely lost on them. The fact that I was eating was clearly not of concern to them. The fact that I clearly did not look amused when they lit up also didn’t seem to bother them.

Ladies - FYI - smoking almost never looks this seductive/sexy/classy.

What almost pissed me off was that I wasn’t sure how to respond. Was it worth my energy to tell them to take their smoke and go elsewhere? Should I have told them how rude they were? Would it have made any difference to them? Or would it have left all of us frustrated and angry?

Before their smoke could reach me, I grabbed my coffee and moved – close enough that they could still see me, but far enough away that their smoke couldn’t invade my space and spoil my otherwise healthy lunch. Passive-aggressive? Maybe. Did it get me away from the elderly couple who were now furiously sucking on their cancer sticks? You betcha.

As I stood a distance away from them finishing my lunch, I chuckled at the ridiculousness of what had just happened. Clearly these folks had no clue that what they did was rude. Or perhaps, maybe my measure of rude is out of whack. Whatever the case, I had to chuckle because it really wasn’t worth getting pissed off over. But it did get me wondering about smokers, and that of course led me to write the following brief open letter to those that opt to light up:

Dear Smokers:

  1. Do you not realize that it’s rude to light up in front of someone who is eating? At least, for the love of all things culinary and delicious, ask if it’s okay to light up first.
  2. What’s the deal with leaving your butts all over the ground? You realize this is littering, right? You also realize that it looks disgusting?
  3. What’s the deal with lighting up next to a sign that clearly reads “No Smoking Within 9 Metres Of The Entrance”, or “Do Not Smoke Here”, or some derivative of these5? If you can’t read, then you are forgiven. But if you can, what gives? The sign isn’t there as an inconvenience. It’s to prevent smoke from getting into the building. Really – it’s just that simple.
  4. Please, please, please explain to me why you feel okay6 about lighting up and smoking around babies? I mean, really? Babies? What the what?
Gents - FYI - You never look like as tough or as cool as Brando when you smoke.

Signed, Me.

Now as I mentioned before – this is not a letter to all smokers. Just those who do the things I’ve mentioned above. I know this isn’t all smokers as I have friends who smoke and they are very aware of the non-smokers in the room. They would never light up while a non-smoker was eating, they are very careful to make sure their smoke is not blowing into the non-smokers face, and they aren’t the type to just drop a butt anywhere. This letter is really just for those smokers who don’t seem to realize that their actions have consequences to the people who are around them.

Anyway, my rant is done.

I’m going to go eat some pie now, because all good rants deserve pie. That’s a rule kiddies – write it down.

1 Every time I write or say the phrase weigh-in I feel like I’m talking about cattle. Moooo.

2 He says while patting his own back.

3 Okay, that’s a lie. I had mustard, ketchup, various sauces, oatmeal, white rice, and a clove of garlic. As creative as I am, I couldn’t think of any magic creation to whip up with these ingredients. Plus, I was feeling lazy and didn’t want to cook.

4 When I have emotions, I don’t always hide them well.

5 I see this all the time on campus. I can’t honestly believe that of the large number of smokers on campus that choose to smoke where it clearly says not to can’t read. So ya, this has me stumped.

6 I assume you are okay with this, otherwise I’m sure you wouldn’t be exposing a child – whose lungs are still developing – to cigarette smoke.


12 Comments Add yours

  1. Rick says:

    Smoking is one of the most disgusting things in the history of ever. EVER. And these people were just plain rude. You should have thrown your sandwich at them and then prance away. But then you’d need another sandwich. I clearly haven’t thought this through. My rant is done.

    1. dangillis says:

      I do not prance. LOL. Why when I read that do I imagine you writing it giggling like a little school girl?
      Also, I agree – it is disgusting. Even more disgusting than your face. ZING!

      1. Ma-Gnome says:

        Who doesn’t prance?

  2. Ruthbug says:

    I completely agree with you, and thank you for citing my post ‘Smoking around your children is a form of abuse’ as a related article.

    You were right to be annoyed that they lit up in the non-smoking area in which you were eating/drinking, and personally I don’t know if i would have had the restraint you had with walking away, I usually give them the same discourtesy they have given by saying loudly “Isn’t it horrible when some fool doesn’t see the non-smoking sign and ruins your lunch” (knowing full well the person has seen the sign, and if they don’t cotton on when I say that, then I would tell them directly)

    Good article, keep on spreading awareness

    1. dangillis says:

      Thanks 🙂

      Maybe next time I’ll just do something really obnoxious. Perhaps I’ll start scratching a lot and complaining loudly about the lice. Ha!

      1. Ruthbug says:

        Not a bad idea! haha, or start talking extremely loud into your phone, fight discourtesy with discourtesy

  3. Henry Runs says:

    Excellent post. I quit smoking a little over 5 years ago and am now a runner. Now that I am so far past it, I can’t believe I ever smoked. I will say that when I did smoke, I was always very conscious of those around me and would never light up around people who are eating. That said, I wish I could convince everyone I know who does smoke that if they could just gut it out and white knuckle it for 6 months, they could get past it!

    1. dangillis says:

      Congrats! That’s an amazing accomplishment.

      Thankfully it’s not all smokers – just a few that are seemingly oblivious. I’m pretty sure it’s not a smoking trait – it’s just a trait that these smokers had.

      Myself – I’ve never smoked – but I grew up in a family of smokers (and spent many hours at family functions where the rooms were blue with smoke). The good thing, however, was that smoking while eating was never an option. Eventually the smokers were moved outdoors, and even better all eventually quit.

      Congrats again. Quitting is no easy feat.

  4. Beth says:

    Smoking around little ones isn’t just bad for their developing lungs – it actually increases their risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome! (

    1. dangillis says:

      Pffft. That sounds like science. Who needs that?

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