Surely smokers have a right to use cigarettes in their own homes, without exposing us to the risks of passive smoking? Who says we have any right to stop them from gaining a little pleasure (and hurting themselves) on their own?

Patrick Gliddon

I stood in line behind them. You've seen them too. Maybe you've seen entire flocks of them feeding, feeding, feeding.

She was about 5'2" and her friend was about 5'3". Mid-50s. Tight sweatpants/sweatshirts (not matching), in lovely shades of dusty pink. The shorter of the pair was about 300 lbs., and the taller was a little bigger.

Both had a couple of cartons of cigarettes in their hands.

"God damn it, I don't know where these lazy bastards get off, y'know...kick them all off welfare and make them work for their god damn money," said Short Dusty Pink.

"Lazy fuckers. I hope Harris starves them to death, I really do. Here I am paying these god damn taxes, and they just piss it away on beer," said Tall Dark Pink.

"We work for our money. Why shouldn't they? I learned my lesson well. You've gotta make your own way in the world. Don't freeload," said Short Dusty Pink. "Where do you wanna have lunch? I'm tired of McDonald's. How about KFC?"

I stood there contemplating these two walking, talking animated cylinders of corpulent flesh. KFC. McDonald's. Cigarettes. I contemplated their likely cardiovascular future, and the hundreds of thousands of dollars that would be spent saving their worthless hypocritical lives, just so that they could go back to KFC and two packs a day. I caught myself thinking these things, shook it off, and thought instead about how much more comfortable they'd be without the extra 200 lbs. and the wheezing.

Sure enough, their tobacco and their saturated fats don't affect my lungs or my arteries. But my taxes? Maybe I'd rather have my taxes spent on retraining, education for those that can't afford it, nutritious meals for hungry students at school, and so on.

Should I have been even the slightest bit annoyed at the Pink Ladies? They were doing nothing illegal. They were buying a legally approved intoxicant in large quantities. So what? They weren't buying them on the black market. They weren't smoking in the lineup, though I could see a pack in the bum pocket of the sweatpants (1 each). They were off to a delicious meal of deep-fried chicken (maybe even chips and gravy too). So what? They didn't contribute, as far as I could tell, to the burgeoning fitness economy. So what? They wheezed a bit, and from the very slight bit of sweat on their foreheads, were not entirely comfortable encased in their bodies. So what? They weren't hurting me. They didn't blow smoke in my face. They didn't steal food out my mouth in order to feed their own. They had jobs. They had real lives, unlike those awful, disgusting, horrible, evil and creepy welfare bums they were discussing.

Nonetheless, I was disquieted. Maybe they were each perfectly healthy. Maybe they will never darken the doors of a hospital until they're ninety and die peacefully in their sleep. Maybe they will never cost me a penny. Maybe I am, by virtue of participating in the human race, obliged to help out with their self-originated heart attacks, cancer, stokes and the huge medical bills that those problems will entail. I truly have no idea.

But as for their habits being utterly harmless to me? No effect? My pocketbook feels the effect, and that effect is most likely much stronger with them than the welfare-bums they were dissing.