Correcting Your Behavior Since 2017

Surprise: You're Still Smoking

Smokers, I sympathize; quitting smoking is hard. The Curmudgeon knows. I did it (eighty-five years ago, when I was thirty). It was the worst experience ever. But the recent popularity of e-cigarettes and "vaping" as alternatives (or steps on the way to quitting) is proof of only one thing: desperate people will fall for anything.

Here's the thing. These trendy cigarette substitutes may be healthier—may be (the Curmudgeon is not a doctor), but they're not healthy. You're still inhaling questionable substances—gasses and oils and such—that were never intended for your lungs. (Incidentally, here's an informational tidbit that may surprise some readers: The fact that something's trendy does not mean it's any more enlightened or advanced. It could be stupid and unhealthy.) But honestly, who cares about you? It's a free country, and you have every right to embrace this stupid new under-researched craze, inflicting untold harm on yourselves, to your heart's delight. So let's leave that debate behind and get to the far more important issue: the rest of us.

Some smart marketing person has told you that one of the many, many wonderful advantages of e-cigarettes is that they can be smoked anywhere you like—elevators, meeting rooms, trains, dinner parties, movie theaters, nurseries—anywhere. Nothing to worry about.

Of course, there are still disagreements about the toxicity of e-cigarettes and their second-hand vapors. So for now, as we await more solid data, deciding whether or not to take the risk is an individual matter. The problem is this: If you use them in shared spaces, then you've made the decision for the rest of us. You've decided you're so sure that e-cigarettes are innocuous that you're going to forcibly share them. And so you pull out these weird little sticks (some of which glow at their ends in an eerie electronic blue), subjecting others to your personal confidence in their safety, without even asking if anyone minds. And now we're all smoking them. As they say in the South, bless your heart.

And then there's "vaping"—even the word is annoying. It reeks of forced hipster marketing. This particular habit requires equipment—bizarre little devices made of metal and plastic that contain things like coils and batteries and nuts and bolts, and look like they belong somewhere in the inner workings of your future space-travel machine.

By the way, people look stupid using these strange contraptions. They really do. It's like carrying around one of those huge clunky portable phones they had in the 80s. Remember how dumb those looked? And also, you're inhaling from a machine that produces voluminous amounts of smoke (more than cigarettes). And so, as you stroll hiply down the street, imagining the admiring looks you must be getting, you leave in your wake a huge, oil-refinery-sized trail of toxic clouds as a gift to the community. If you turned around, you'd see people dodging and ducking to avoid the floating swarm of potential contamination, radiation, or whatever we'll one day learn this stuff causes.

But that's the thing. You're assuming no one's bothered, because no one wants to confront you and get into an unpleasant conversation. But we are bothered. It may interest you to know that those of us who've chosen not to take up "vaping" didn't leave the house this morning hoping to be enveloped in a smoke bath belched from a stranger's lungs. It's not a plus. It doesn't brighten our day. It's not on our lists of things to be grateful for.

And if your answer to that objection is, "Who cares? That's your problem," then it seems we must once again offer a familiar, friendly, curmudgeonly reminder. There are other people in the world besides you. It's so easy to forget. Maybe you'd like to write yourselves a note, or set a daily reminder on your phone. Or maybe you can skywrite it with your "vape" waste. We all have enough to deal with without wading through your invasive smoky exhalations.

If, on the other hand, you are concerned with the health and comfort of others, you'll need to find places to "vape" or e-smoke where you won't cause offense. That's hard to do. If these practices are important to you, I suggest moving to an uninhabited desert, or maybe colonizing a planet. But really, you should abandon them altogether, rather than investing in something that will soon join the list of former trends we're now embarrassed ever happened. That would be bad for your image. And what could be more important than that?