There is a great deal of judgement against smoking; especially common is the comment "you can't smoke here! Its church!" Those who do smoke work very hard to keep their smoke to themselves, and to move outside the circle when they light up. Still, passing the peace includes switching which hand is holding the cigarette, and lots of people who volunteer to carry our things first must carefully put out a partially completed cigarette, and store it in a safe pocket before picking up the load.
You actually CAN smoke at our church. In fact, I'm not such a fan of all the criticism of smoking. Sure cigarettes will take weeks off our average life span. If you do get cancer, it will take years off your life. And the people who are coughing uncontrollably between cigarettes must be uncomfortable. I'm allergic to the smoke and have had asthma attacks from being around smokers.
But of all the addictions I see on the streets (and in my life) I'll take smoking any day. The nicotine really DOES help people concentrate. But mostly it is better than crack, and speed, and heroin, and all the other drugs I'm out of touch with, and yes, even better than an addiction to alcohol. Cigarettes may make you sick, but they don't make you angry or violent, or out of control. They don't leave you peeing on the street, or turn you to prostitution, or separate you from your family or your friends.
I told a group at our community meeting last week that I wasn't really opposed to smoking. In fact, I said, if we could get rid of all the other addictions if we would just take up smoking, then I'd take up smoking in a minute.
There was dead silence. Then Alan lit up another cigarette and smiled. "Don't do it Liz," he said. "I don't think it'll work."