opinion

'A huge chunk of Sydney is about to ban smoking absolutely everywhere. I won't cope.'

*The author of this post is known to Mamamia but has chosen to remain anonymous for privacy reasons. 

I can’t breathe. The room is spinning. I can hear my heart pounding in my ears and I know I am shaking but I can’t stop to see how much, I am running.

I burst through the doors of the pub and scramble for the packet. I can’t find a goddamn lighter. I can never find a goddamn lighter.

I hurry up the street looking for someone, anyone who might have one. I check my jacket one more time and feel the cold, hard, lump of plastic.

I rush into an empty, dark side street.

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I lift the flame to my mouth, cup the cigarette to protect from the wind and inhale.

My world steadies, my feet feel firm on the ground, my shoulders relax, I realise I’m crying.

This is how my anxiety presents itself. It’s sudden, it’s scary and it feels like I am losing control. I’ve had this level of anxiety for over 10 years. I go to a psychiatrist and a psychologist. I take medication. I meditate. I smoke.

Last night the North Sydney council voted to bring a total smoking ban to the CBD. They want non-smokers to take back the street. It makes sense. I understand it. I won’t cope.

I smoke because it is the only coping mechanism I have found that helps me in those moments. I understand the detriment to my physical health. I do not need to be reminded. I am riddled with guilt constantly because of it. As I’m sat by the hospital bed of my Dad, I feel that guilt. I felt that guilt for the three years I dated someone with Cystic Fibrosis, helping him to get up the stairs of an evening and rushing him to hospital at night because his lungs were once again failing him.

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I am fully aware of the detriment to my health, so I am cautious to protect others from it.

I don’t smoke while walking down the street. In fact I hate being stuck behind someone who is. I don’t throw my butts on the ground, that is littering. I never smoke around large groups of people or anywhere near children. In fact the only time I ever smoke outside of my own home is in the smoking area of pubs or bars or down a side alley if there is no smoking area. I am sensitive to the fact that people don’t want to breathe in smoke. I stay away from them.

I don’t smoke at work. In fact, most people don’t know I smoke, I never smell of it. People are often shocked.

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A total smoking ban though? That’s banning vulnerable people. Smoking is an addiction, there are people who are addicted to it and with that are riddled with the guilt they feel every time they light up. Quitting smoking is just like giving up any addiction, it takes time. Understanding. Patience.

I’m not saying you should feel sorry for people who are addicted to smoking, or who like myself use it as a coping mechanism.

What I am asking is that you give us a thought when you ban us from an entire CBD.

Sure, there are thousands of smokers who aren’t as mindful as I am, who put vulnerable people at risk with their second hand smoke. But by banishing them, you are banishing a lot of people who are just trying their best.

Surely there is another option? Designated smoking areas, harsher fines for littering?

Why are we so quick to ban people for something that likely, they themselves are struggling with.

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