Earlier today I unfollowed someone on Twitter. I rarely unfollow people. Sometimes if people turn out to be shameless self-promoters with nothing interesting to say I might unfollow them but as a general rule, if I’ve seen fit to follow someone I hang in there. I’m choosy. I usually make the right choice.
Mostly I follow other writers, agents and editors, quite a few prominent book bloggers and some friends. The person that I unfollowed was an agent I think. My unfollowing of this person was a reflex, an impulsive hissy fit in response to something they included in their profile bio. Of 140 characters they chose to include this, so it must have been important to them.
“Proud Smoker” they called themselves.
I’ve been known to unfollow and unfriend people who stubbornly refuse to accept scientifically proven facts for some time. Anti-evolutionists for example, creation scientists. I mean life is just too short. So my unfollowing of the Smoking Agent was in part inspired by that policy. You see, the thing is, the scientific evidence that cigarette smoking kills is INCONTROVERTIBLE. So the Smoking Agent was either ignorant of that fact or stubbornly refused to accept it. Either way, a strong contender for unfollowing, but normally I would at least try to show someone who was ignorant or blinkered about something like this the evidence, lead them into the light before I gave up on them. I didn’t bother with Smoking Agent.
Because I don’t think Smoking Agent is ignorant or stubborn. I think Smoking Agent is an educated liberal (as most agents are) who is well aware of the dangers of smoking and just doesn’t care. So I unfollowed Smoking Agent. I unfollowed Smoking Agent it a fit of pique because I think they are selfish. Self-indulgently, self-congratulatingly, belligerently selfish. Because even if you acknowledge that smoking will probably kill you and you’re prepared to take that risk, you still have to know that your preventable death will cost other people. It will cost your family and your healthcare provider and your employer and your friends and your community. To be proud of incurring this cost is unforgivably selfish.
I accept smokers, lovingly, sympathetically. Smoking is an addiction, a tragic addition that many people can’t control. I have seen people die from smoking. I have seen people unable to visit family because they were terrified of being on a plane where they couldn’t smoke. I have known welfare dependent mothers spend $100 per month on cigarettes. None of those people were proud to be smokers.
This all happened today because today is one of those horrible days where we all look at the state of gun control in the USA and shake our heads in dismay and frustration. Am I comparing smokers to shooters? No. Shooters KNOW someone is going to die. Smokers only know someone MIGHT die, like those who own, and/or advocate the widespread ownership of guns. They know someone might die. But they don’t care, because they are proud of their guns. Proud of their freedom to own guns. So blinded by pride that they can’t see the INCONTRAVERTIBLE evidence that lack of gun control leads to dozens of deaths by accident, suicide or murder in the United States EVERY DAY.
IN 2006, for example 30,896 Americans were killed by a gun (to be fair, some of them, perhaps a disproportionate number, were not American citizens). About half were suicide and half murder, with some accidents, and 360 killed by law enforcement. In the same year around 450,000 people died from tobacco related illness.
And, Smoking Agent, you’re PROUD? You’re an educated liberal, right? You’re probably for gun control, right? You probably mock the NRA in Manhattan cafés. Yet you flaunt your fashionably skinny New York body around chic parties and park benches with no concern for the teenagers who might be watching you, thinking how cool you look. One in five of them will take up smoking, you know. About half of those will never be able to quit. Half of those who don’t quit will die from their addiction. If 200 teens smoke because they think you’re cool then you are responsible for ten deaths. The Aurora gunman killed twelve.
But you’re proud that you smoke.
This is individualism run rampant. The idea that your health and safety is yours and only yours to squander or defend (or pay for) as you see fit is a cancer (excuse the pun) on the American psyche. To be proud that you partake in either unapologetically deadly industry (guns or tobacco), to ADMIT that pride online demonstrates a disregard for human decency, life and health that, frankly, I find obscene.
Smoking Agent you should be ashamed.