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Community Commentary:

Smokers are waging war on the population

April 23, 2008|By Robert Phipps

On Oct. 27, a smoker started a fire in a Glendale apartment building, causing damage to the building and contents. Fortunately, no one was killed or seriously injured (“Cigarette starts apartment fire,” Oct. 30, 2007)

We are in a war; not just in Iraq, but also at home.

I call it a war because I think of smokers as enemy soldiers in a battle, who are out to harm all of us.

They didn’t start the war, and I don’t think they have anything against us, personally. Their leaders — the tobacco companies — started it and indoctrinated and drafted these smoker-soldiers; but it is the smokers who directly do us harm, and that harm is just as real if unintended as otherwise. And so first we must prevent that harm, and then we can go after the leaders and total victory.


This war has always been one-sided. We, the nonsmoking human (and animal) victims, are in the great majority — about 87% of California adults (and 100% of the children), according to the California Department of Health Services — but only the smokers are armed. They attack, injure and kill; and all we can do is defend.

Here is how the smoker-soldiers fight: They foul the sidewalks, parking lots, bushes, parks, beaches, waterways and other places with their cigarette butts and packages.

They kill nearly 450,000 of themselves by smoking every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control (Of course, a person may choose his or her own method of suicide).

They kill about 50,000 nonsmokers every year with their secondhand smoke and cause nonsmokers annoyance, irritation and disease, according to Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights.

They start fires outdoors that destroy countless acres of vegetation and trees, destroy homes and their contents and kill people and untold numbers of pets and other animals.

And they start fires indoors that destroy the property of others, and injure and kill innocent people and pets. From 1992 through 2002, there were 30,791 fires in California from smoking materials, resulting in more than $125 million in lost real property and contents, injuries to 236 firefighters and 675 civilians, and the death of 102 civilians, according to the Office of the State Fire Marshal.

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