By Christopher Foulds
She was standing in front of the Coca-Cola vending machines outside the front doors of Wal-Mart.
It was raining, as has been the normal weather pattern this summer, and shoppers were jogging in and out of the perpetually busy box store.
I was rushing out with some shopping essentials when I first noticed her rounded belly stretching the fabric of her light blue shirt.
Then I noticed her arm rise and fall like a slow-motion axeman in the woods.
She wasn’t wielding steel, of course; she was enjoying a cigarette while waiting for something.
A ride, perhaps?
The rain to stop?
A delivery of some Nicorette?
I ran past and out to my car, all the while looking back to confirm what I had seen was true.
Yep. There she was, inhaling deep enough to almost kick start, deep in the recesses of my soul, a craving for the du Maurier regulars to which I was wedded back in my misguided youth.
Grocery bags secure, I drove to my next stop and was amazed at what I next saw.
While leaving the parking lot, I saw a car drive right past me, with a woman smoking in the front passenger seat, the window rolled up to ward off the rain, and a kid about nine or 10 in the back seat, directly behind her.
Puffing while pregnant?
Hotboxing in a car carrying a kid?
Did I time-travel to 1970 while in the Wal-Mart checkout?
Now, I have never been an anti-smoking zealot on a crusade to ban butts in all corners of society.
I smoked and enjoyed it immensely, but decided to quit when my first child was born.
I have no problem with smoking sections on patios and I rather enjoy the smell of a freshly lit cigarette.
Cigarette smoke does not bother me.
My mom, bless her naive heart, was fond of telling the tale of how she remembers watching live CBS coverage of Robert Kennedy’s assassination on TV – specifically because I kicked the ashtray off her pregnant tummy that June day in Burnaby in 1968.
As an older brother of mine is known to quip: Our first words, all six of us, were ‘cough, hack, cough’.
Such was life back then, when having a drink and enjoying a smoke was something done anywhere and everywhere.
Not surprisingly, my mom succumbed to self-induced lung cancer 11 years ago this summer, so I have no love of tobacco.
However, the libertarian in me continues to believe people should be able to do to their bodies what they wish.
But to other bodies? To that baby in the belly? To that kid in the back seat? Not so much.
This month’s Human Reproduction Update in Britain summed up with shocking clarity the brutal reality of the risks posed to babies from mothers who smoke: Limb defects, club foot, heart disease, oral clefts, stunted growth – the list goes on.
According to a 2010 survey conducted by the School of Kinesiology and Health Science at Toronto’s York University, 10.4 per cent of pregnant women in Canada continue to smoke, with an average of seven cigarettes wedged between the lips of moms-to-be each day.
It’s 2011. We are well past the stale debate on the effects of second-hand smoke.
We no longer have Joe Camel shilling cigarettes. We no longer open magazines to find full-page ads for Player’s Light.
We do not see commercials boasting that four of five doctors prefer Marlboro.
We used to witness all that, until we inhaled a carton of common sense, which is what that pregnant woman and that car passenger need in spades.
Christopher Foulds is editor of Kamloops This Week, a Black Press newspaper.