Just Breathe

by - February 11, 2016

In... and out... In... and out... In... and out...
Such a simple thing. We don't even have to think about it. 
We just do it. Like it's the most normal thing. 
And it should be.
We need it to survive. To live. To enjoy our time being.
In... and out... Easy. In... and -
Wait. Something's wrong. The air is... dirty.
Smoke's filling my lungs. I turn my head.
A girl is blowing her poison into the environment.
I can't escape it. The wind is getting it all over the place.
That's alright. Just keep doing your thing.
In... and out... In... and -
NO. It's not working. My muscles start cramping.
Not enough oxygen. Okay. Don't panic. You got this.
Please, I say, put out your cigarette, I beg.
No, she says putting the cigarette back between her dry lips.
She takes a deep breath - I can hear her cells coughing... no, that's me choking -
she puffs the gray, tarfilled, airtaking, lifestealing clouds in my red face.
No escape.
In... and out... Not so easy anymore. In... out...
Air everywhere, nowhere, air, where? Where are you, air?
Not in my lungs. Smoke. That's all there is.
I just can't breathe.
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You know what really pisses me off? Smoking. You can drink, you can take drugs, as long as you're the only one affected, I don't give a fuck. But for heaven's sake, do not smoke anywhere near me.

Why does it piss you off so much?, you might ask. Well, my dear fellows, one reason is that you can't really smoke without affecting others. Whenever you smoke in public there are almost always people around who have to inhale your smoke if they want to or not. But the much more important reason is that I have asthma. About 300.000.000 people do, actually and the frequency is increasing. Approximately 250.000 people die of asthma every year1. So, if you do smoke in public you never know if someone with asthma or a related disease is standing next to you. You could actually very much influence their health for the worse. A lot of smokers I've encountered tried to justify their smoking by saying: 'We all have to die eventually.' Well, yes. But I for one, would like to put that as far away in the future as possible. And choking to death isn't my number one on the list of 'How I'd like to die'. Of course, there's also the part where I decide about how I wanna influence my health, not you. Now, to make you understand my anger about smokers a bit more, I should maybe explain asthma to you (in detail).

According to our friend and helper, Wikipedia, 'asthma bronchiale is a common chronic inflammatory disease of the airways characterized by variable and recurring symptoms, reversible airflow obstruction and bronchospasm. Common symptoms include wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath.' Basically meaning your lungs are cramping and your muscles block your airways. This all sounds very medical and boring, so let me describe to you just how this amazing phenomenon feels. Imagine a not so warm autumn day. Your PE teacher tells you to run two rounds to get warmed up. After about half a round (depending on how bad your asthma is) you're starting to make a very loud whistling noise. The cold air stings in your throat and your legs go numb and prickle at the same time. By now, your whole lungs are aching and the numbness spreads over your body. You feel your eyes tearing up while trying desperately to pump air into your lungs. As you're starting to panic due to the lack of oxygen your breathing is getting more irregular in turn making you panic even more. It's a circle of pain that you can't seem to break out of. In the meantime, your teacher or class mates should have noticed you're struggling. They're coming up to you asking what's wrong. Still catching your breath, you can't answer. (DUH). If you're lucky, one of 'em knows you're an asthmatic. 'Do you need your inhaler?', the person might ask. You nod. (DUH). While he / she is getting your inhaler, the others will probably tell you very helpful things like: 'Just breathe.' If you weren't so concerned about dying, you'd slap them. Just breathe. If it was that easy, don't you think I would have already done that? I don't wanna blame them though. They don't have asthma and are just trying to help. But it's just so annoying to be told to just breathe, when you're doing your best to calm down and get some air into your body. Finally, the person returns with your inhaler. You use it immediately but the relief takes its time. After a few more minutes of just breathing you can finally feel your lungs fill with oxygen again. Slowly, the numbness diminishes and you realize you survived this horrific situation once more.

This is the reason I hate smoking. I know how it feels to literally be choking and you're standing next to me puffing your breathtaking smoke into my throat like it's the most ordinary thing to do.

1https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asthma#Epidemiology

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