Dear Dick: Smoking and environmentalism don’t mix

Dear Dick,

I think that it is really cool that you want to help protect the environment. I’ve seen you at all kinds of rallies, including those organized by Peaceful Uprising, the Swing Into Action and Earth Jam. We should all want to leave the planet better than we found, so I applaud your efforts.

However, Dick, there is something incongruous about your professed environmentalism, especially when you are at a clean air event.

I don’t mind the fact that you drove to the event for the environment, as the Utah public transit system makes it all but impossible to get from one event to another in a timely fashion. What bothers me is that in the middle of the event, you walked off to the side to light up a cigarette. I am pretty sure you haven’t thought it through.

If you want cleaner air, then that means eliminating all of those things that cause air pollution. Your habit is worse than a coal plant smokestack. Cigarettes release over 4000 chemicals into the air, including 50 carcinogenic chemicals. Not only that, but you have personally chosen to release the greenhouse gasses carbon dioxide and methane into the air. This is the very antithesis of what any environmentalist should want to do.

Maybe you think that your one little cigarette really can’t do that much damage to the environment, but beyond the effect that you smoking a cigarette has in the environment and the health of those around you, the farming of tobacco, the making of the cigarette and its packaging and the transportation that it takes to get that cigarette to your mouth all take a toll on the environment, even if you are smoking organic cigarettes.

We are not just talking about the petrochemicals used in the farm equipment and the fertilizers used to grow the tobacco. We are also talking about the pesticides used on the tobacco plant, bleached paper that goes around the cigarette and the plastic wrap around the cigarette pack.

Smoking and calling yourself just sends a mixed message. Maybe your environmentalism comes from the guilt that you feel when smoking. If that is the case, then quit.

I understand that quitting is harder than it sounds, but tobacco companies have paid for quit plans in all 50 states.  In Utah, the number is 1-800-quit-now. Or, as a student at SLCC, you can take advantage of the quit program at the Health and Wellness Center.

If you just like to smoke, you should know that no matter how much work you do to help protect the environment, your smoke, ash and butts take away your credibility and you are responsible for undoing anything that you may have accomplished with your own efforts.

Hypocrisy may be a part of the human experience, but you should really think about finding another habit that isn’t anti-environmentalist if you want to continue to work toward a planet with better air quality.


Shad Engkilterra