A Change of Opinion

While entering Frankfurt train station last week I had to walk through a gauntlet of smokers gathered around the main entrance. “How dare they?” I haughtily thought to myself. ” How dare they force me to endure this carcinogenic smoke in order to catch a train?” Yes, I am an arrogant, bigoted anti-smoker. I loudly complain about people smoking in my vicinity. Let people smoke but don’t expose me to the effects, I say.

But after passing through the gauntlet last week, I had a sudden change of judgement. Second-hand smoke apparently increases the risk of cancer. But how is this different to my own activities that also negatively impact on others? When I drive, I force pedestrians and cyclists to involuntarily breathe my car’s carbon monoxide exhaust. When I fly, I force people living near airports to suffer noise pollution. How do they sleep?

The only difference is that smokers can see the passive sufferers around them. But with the people I make suffer, they are out of my sight. It doesn’t mean they suffer any less.