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We went to the park today. It is absolutely gorgeous here in New York. Sunny, crisp, not too hot. The perfect park weather. We got there at 5. We almost had the place to ourselves except for a dad and his 3-year-old, a mom and dad with what looked like an 18-month-old, and a toddler who was there with his young mom and grandma. The grandma was standing next to the slide her grandson was playing on. She had a lit cigarette in her hand. Every 20 seconds or so she brought the cigarette up to her lips and blew smoke toward her poor little grandson. I was appalled. The mom was too busy on her cell phone to even notice or care, it seemed.

I hate smoking. Hate it. Loathe it. My mother smoked on and off throughout my childhood. Some of my earliest memories are of my mom sitting in the kitchen — a phone in one hand, a cigarette in the other. She smoked so much that the ceiling above that chair was stained yellow from the nicotine. I often wonder, when I think back, what all that second hand smoke did to my insides. Was it the reason that I had ear infections and allergies as a kid? (Both pretty much gone in adulthood.) Or why I had exercise-induced asthma in my late teens and early 20s? (Again, gone completely now.) I also wonder what, if any, lingering health effects it will have on my body. Will I get lung cancer some day? Dementia? Emphysema? After all, I smoked via second hand smoke for years. (As an aside: None of us — not me, not my sister, and not my brother — ever smoked as teens or adults.)

Digressing as always…so here I am. At a park with my kids who, to this day, have never been exposed to second hand smoke. And I couldn’t help myself. I went up to that woman and, in a very non-confrontational way, reminded her that it is illegal to smoke in a Nassau County playground. (Or park or workplace or beach for that matter.) She looked at me, muttered, “Yeah, yeah,” and just kept smoking. I was seething, but I just took my kids to the other end of the park far away from that stupid, ignorant, selfish, trashy woman.

There are smokers who are, as a group, as rabid as they come. They don’t want anyone infringing on their rights. Why should anyone tell them where or when they can smoke? I’ll tell you why: Because it is WRONG and immoral to force children to inhale smoke. Today we had to go home for dinner, so I didn’t pursue the matter. However, that woman had better watch out. Next time, I’m calling a cop to enforce the law and bounce her and her nasty habit right out on their butts.

Do you smoke? If so, WHY? Have you ever encountered a parent who smokes? Did you say anything? I’d love to know.

7 Responses to “Smoking Near Kids: My Biggest Pet Peeve”

  1. Kate says:

    I have the same pet peeve, although I have to say it’s a pretty broad generalization that all smokers are so inconsiderate. I think we don’t notice the ones who are polite because…well, they have the decency to go far away from us to smoke.
    The other day these people walked up right next to us on the sidewalk and lit up cigarettes right next to me and my 2-year-old, who I was holding. I said “Come on Elizabeth, we have to move because people are obnoxiously smoking next to us now!” Rude? Yes. But probably not more rude than blowing smoke at us.

  2. Laura says:

    It bothers me as well, but I’ve never said anything to anyone before. I’m more likely to move away if possible. Wish I had the nerve to say something, but don’t or haven’t.

  3. Laurel says:

    With studies showing a 20 – 40% drop in heart attacks when smoking is banned in public places, I’d say we’re well-justified to confront smokers. Thank heavens for laws like the one banning smoking in parks – I salute you for making a plan to call the cops next time! You tried polite the first time and that was enough consideration for this toxic granny.

  4. kb says:

    That’s the kind of data that makes me nuts!

  5. kb says:

    You can do it! Next time just think about what Laurel said — second hand smoke can kill, too. It’s up to us to protect ourselves and our kids.

  6. kb says:

    Yes, you’re right. (I changed the wording, actually.) The problem is the crazy smoker rights folks ruin it for their equally as addicted brethren.

    I have no idea how someone could stand next to a toddler and think it is okay to smoke near them. Crazy. Good for you that you said something!

  7. Good post. What’s interesting is that usually the kids themselves are quick to speak up to smokers. Many more municipalities are starting to prohibit smoking in parks and other public places, so we can only hope the trend will continue.
    -Deb for Ecover

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