Friday, July 3, 2009

Portrait of a Capnophobe

"It is now proved beyond doubt that smoking
is one of the leading causes of statistics."
- Fletcher Knebel, Reader's Digest, December, 1961

Dr Adrian Wong (2nd from the left) acquiring his bedside manner in Manipal, India

This post was inspired by Vijay Kumar Murugavell's instructive comment on "smokophobia" on my previous post... and also Dr. Adrian Wong who said:

Sorry but this has got to be one of the stupidest pro-smoking posts I've read in some time. Seriously, are you for real? No one is against your right to smoke yourself to death. That's your right. However, smoking is hardly the PERSONAL choice many smokers make it out to be.

Everywhere I go, I see smokers puffing away. I am FORCED to breathe in the smoke even though I choose not to smoke. Heck, I have to walk circles around them just to avoid getting poisoned. So, what about MY RIGHT to clean, healthy air? Frankly speaking, if I were the Health Minister, I would BAN the damn things. What are ciggies good for anyway? They do nothing but kill people and the country pays the price of smoking-related illnesses and death.

Again, if you choose to smoke, by all means, go ahead. It's your life. But please do it in the comfort and privacy of your room or car. Please have a thought for other people who do not care for your cancer sticks. We really would love to live a longer, healthier life. Thank you.

capno-, capn-, capnod- (Greek: smoke; vapor; sooty)

capnophobia; also, fumiphobia - (1) An intense hatred, or fear, of smoking or having anyone around who is polluting the air in the immediate vicinity with tobacco smoke; whether from cigarettes, cigars, pipe, or from any similar process of smoke distribution. (2) A fear of smoke exhausts from motor vehicles which are blamed for causing so much pollution in the air.

capnophobiac (s), capnophobiacs (pl) - Those who have a dread, or extreme hatred, of smoking and being around people who are doing it.

capnosis - The smoking of cigarettes, cigars, etc.

capnotic - A person with the smoking habit; pertaining to smoking.

Vijay Kumar Murugavell's enlightening comment:

I have been a smoker for the last 27 years, I don't smoke in no-smoking zones, in front of children, non-smokers or domestic animals. I mean, what next? Gruesome pics on McDonald's wrappers to deter fast food overindulgers? Customized cigarette cases have been selling like hot cakes recently. Allow me to share a series of smokophobia forwards I received by email some time back (author unknown).

What is Smokophobia?

Smokophobia is an irrational fear and intolerance of smoke and smokers, particularly directed against those who are oriented toward tobacco smoke. Smokophobia is one of the most prevalent and "popular" forms of bigotry in our society. In fact, it is a mental illness that afflicts literally millions of people, all of whom irrationally fear those who smoke.

Smokophobia is so entrenched in modern Eurocentric cultures that even seemingly intelligent non-smokers have a hard time seeing it for what it is. Examples of smokophobia include:

The many laws passed against smoking, restricting when and where smokers can partake of their inhalational preference. (Smokophobes have tremendous legal and political clout!)

The countless hate-filled "public service" commercials that make smoking seem "unhealthy" or "unclean."

The "health education" programs in public schools that scare impressionable young children and create dark images of death and disease linked to smoking. (We're not talking about Nazi Germany or the Inquisition: this still happens in 20th century America - even in seemingly "modern" communities like Boston and San Francisco.)

The blatant segregation of restaurants, hotel rooms, and public transportation systems into two classes: non-smoking and smoking, with smokers clearly being treated like second-class citizens.

Efforts of "well-meaning" friends to encourage smokers to quit - as if one's identity as a smoker were a simple matter of choice!

Frequent lies from all sources claiming that smoking "causes" cancer and other diseases, neglecting that fact that everyone is at risk for cancer.

Strong parental opposition to safe smoking education in schools. These parents often forbid their children to ever even try smoking - afraid that their child might discover he or she is a smoker.

Levels of smokophobia

1) Extreme smokophobia. You view smoking as sinful, wrong, or "a crime against nature." You think smoking is unhealthy and kills thousands of people. Smoking is viewed as something to eradicate, even if it requires the force of government to do so. You see smoking as a stupid, harmful "choice" made by others. Tobacco companies are thought to be motivated by "greed."

2) Hateful intolerance. While you may recognize that some people naturally are smokers, you still find smoking repulsive and refuse to be in the same room as smokers. You don't want smokers to baby-sit your children. You aren't troubled when smokers have to leave their workplaces to smoke outdoors - even if it's bitter cold outside. And taxing cigarettes makes perfect sense to you.

3) Well meaning ignorance. You recognize the right of others to smoke, but feel that they are hurting themselves and others by doing so. You may be willing to associate with smokers, but fear breathing too much "second-hand smoke." Smoking is viewed as an act of rebellion or immaturity, possibly even "an addiction."

4a) Limited tolerance. You accept others who have found their identity as smokers and recognize their right to smoke. But you don't want them smoking in your home - and you secretly hope that none of your children turn out to be smokers.

4b) Informed tolerance. You understand that smokers are people just like you and accept them as productive members of society. You recognize that lung cancer can afflict anyone and is not simply "caused" by smoking. You understand that persecution of smokers can cause so much stress that they are susceptible to serious health problems, including lung cancer. You know that inhalational preference is affected by genetics (an obvious fact, since children raised by smokers are much more likely to be smokers themselves).

5) Enlightenment. You realize that smoking is a natural and delightful experience for those with that orientation. You advocate smokers rights and embrace the smoking lifestyle as a valid and wholesome expression of the full human experience. You are not afraid of finding out that you or your children are smokers. You are even willing to take a puff or two to find out. Isn't it about time you enlighten up and rid yourself of smokophobia?

Have you hugged a smoker today?

Am I smokophobic? Many non-smokers are, but to different degrees. You may be smokophobic if you display any one of the following symptoms. The more symptoms you have, the more extreme your phobia is.

Warning signs of smokophobia:

You are afraid to even try smoking a cigarette (or anything else) because you think you might get "addicted." You are uncomfortable sitting next to smokers, fearful that their smoke might "harm" you or make your lungs "unclean."

You would be uncomfortable having a smoker baby-sit your children. You think that smoking causes cancer and kills people. You think that lung cancer is primarily a "smokers' disease."

You think that states should be allowed to pass laws against smoking. You feel upset when you see a smokers' pride parade. When you see a burning building or a hotel fire, you immediately wonder if a smoker is to blame. After spending time with smokers, you feel a compulsive urge to wash your clothes lest others think you, too, are a smoker.
Please, if you are a capnophobe (which is the lexicologically correct term for a smokophobe), seek help immediately. Don't let your ignorance and fear contribute to any more unnecessary deaths of smokers.