Updated 15 September 2015

10 irritating smokers' habits

Many smokers feel they are being singled out for selective punishment. Here's why they may be to blame themselves.


Smokers are treated like the lepers of the Middle Ages. Cast out into the driving wind and rain. It's more or less a national sport to blame the selective zealousness of the Health Ministry, but here's why we think smokers themselves are mostly to blame.

If anti-tobacco activists had their way, smokers would be banished to isolated colonies or would have to move from town to town ringing a bell and crying: "Unclean! Unclean!"

A couple of decades ago, you could light up anywhere – in the cinema, on the plane, in shopping centres and in all restaurants. In fact, no one thought twice about lighting up inside cars or in the company of children.

Much of that has changed now, as studies proved without doubt that cigarettes pose not only a health risk for the smoker, but also for all those around him or her.

"More than 10 percent of the total number of deaths that occur on this planet each year are attributable to tobacco and this is nothing less than appalling," said Dr David Katz, an associate clinical professor of public health from Yale University School of Medicine.

But despite all this damning medical evidence, people still carry on smoking. Nicotine is a truly addictive substance.

What are the things that some (happily not all) smokers do that would make normally timid non-smokers reinstate certain medieval methods of dealing with offenders?

Not cleaning ashtrays. Few things stink as much as an old, full ashtray. Leave it in a closed room for a few hours, and you might want to wash the curtains. Non-smokers do not like cleaning ashtrays – that's the job of the smokers themselves. And it should be done regularly. Once a week is not enough.

Smoking in the company of babies. Secondary smoke harms babies. Holding the cigarette in your other hand while you're holding the baby is simply not on. In fact, studies have shown that even parents who smoke only outside the house, still expose their babies to unacceptable levels of nicotine.

Smoking at the table. There are still people who do this. Some people vaguely ask if you mind, while they are already lighting up. A good answer to this would be, "I don't mind if you smoke while I eat, if you don't mind if I vomit on your shoes." That usually puts a stop to it.

Asking for ashtrays. If there are no ashtrays, it's because it's a non-smoking household. Otherwise the ashtrays would have been in evidence. Don't just assume that it's OK to smoke indoors in other people's homes. Or to make them feel guilty about the fact that they don't want you to.

Discarding butts carelessly. Cigarette butts are litter. People who would never dream of chucking plastic bags from windows, happily throw burning cigarette butts out of moving cars. One of those almost burned Table Mountain down a few years ago.

Not realising that smoke stinks. If you smoke 30 cigarettes per day, you and everything around you stinks of smoke. You might not be able to smell it yourself, but everyone else does.

Holding cigarettes behind them. Even if cigarette smoking is permitted in a restaurant or a pub, have you noticed how often smokers hold their burning cigarettes behind their backs? They don't want the smoke to blow onto the people at their own table, but are happy to asphyxiate the people at the next table.

Bumming cigarettes off others. Many smokers feel if they are not buying cigarettes, they are not really smoking. But this can carry on for years and can be very irritating to fellow smokers.

Congregating outside building entrances. Many office buildings are non-smoking zones. That means that outside the main entrance, one finds hordes of smokers puffing away, and everyone who either leaves or wants to enter the building, has to barge their way through a cloud of cigarette smoke.

Denying that smoke is harmful. The evidence is incontrovertible.


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