Thoughtless: The plague of second-hand smoke

Grandma Walton said something like, "If God intended people to smoke, He would have put chimney tops on our heads."

I don't remember much about The Waltons, but I do remember that phrase, because smoking is one of the worst things you can do to yourself. What about other people? Second-hand smoke is still being studied to see if it's a health hazard.

Whether cancer and heart disease are proven to be influenced by second-hand smoke, today we know that the acrid by-product of another person's bad habit can make allergies flare up, coughing erupt (especially in asthmatics), and clothes smell bad. Should public smoking be banned?

I recently flew to LA to visit my family and friends. About 15 percent of Californians smoke– one of the lowest smoking rates in the country. (I think only members of the Hollywood movie industry smoke in LA. Have you ever seen Bette Davis without a cigarette? That would be like Dean Martin without a martini.)

Virginia has one of the highest smoking rates in the country: 25-30 percent of the Old Dominion's citizens puff regularly. That's one reason why going back to LA is such a drastic and pleasant change for me. All restaurants are smoke-free– even bars and nightclubs.

While in LA, I was recovering from a cold, but my partner and I decided to go to Las Vegas to see Cirque du Soleil anyway. As I walked into the MGM Grand Hotel, I was amazed by the size of the lobby, the huge videos, and the flashing lights from the slot machines. However, within one minute, I began to feel like a character in The Towering Inferno. It was so smoky in the hotel that I started to blow my nose and clear my throat at the front desk.

The non-smoking floor, as well as the non-smoking room, reeked of smoke as much as any other place. I began to wonder if the hotel used tobacco-based detergent to clean their sheets. (Why not? Woody Harrelson wore hemp clothing on the red carpet.)

I could not escape the smoke anywhere in Las Vegas. The restaurants supposedly had non-smoking sections, but in reality we were all sitting in a BBQ pit of smoke. If I were a salmon, I would have been sliced up and served on a toasted bagel with cream cheese. Even the restrooms had ashtrays on every urinal and commode. Needless to say, in 36 hours, I had lost my voice from a raging sinus infection.

Back in Charlottesville, I avoid certain restaurants or venues because of the smoke. Some restaurants could hang bacon in their front windows so we could see the curing process occurring. I once went to a local club, and my suede jacket smelled like Marlboros for two months! (I should have put on cowboy boots and a hat with my smoky jacket, but my better judgment told me I could not pull it off.)

I love Gravity Lounge and Miyako because they are non-smokingĀ­ which is amazing, because in many clubs and restaurants, people smoke like choo-choo trains.

I know tobacco use is an addiction. I have seen patients with severe lung disease who continue to smoke while struggling to breathe. Heart attacks stop the majority of smokers from indulging their habit, but I have quite a few patients who still smoke even after suffering a heart attack.

I don't think a person's intelligence or moral character determines who can kick the addiction. However, I'm not sure if smokers realize how much their smoke affects non-smokers. To many non-smokers, public smoking is like passing gas in public, belching in someone's face, or even running exhaust fumes from the garage into the living room.

I wonder what Miss Manners has to say about the issue?