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A one-act play about smoking outdoors

A man stands at a bus stop smoking a cigarette. A woman approaches and frowns.

Lady: Excuse me, sir. You can’t smoke here.

Dude: Why?

Lady: Because it’s illegal and harmful to others.

Dude: How so?

Lady: Because you’re smoking!

Dude: But we’re outside.

Lady: It’s still harmful.

Dude: No, it’s not. The great thing about outside is that it’s outside.

Lady: Studies show secondhand smoke still kills outside.

Dude: Which studies?

Lady: A whole bunch of studies!

Dude: I didn’t ask how many, I asked which studies.

Lady: There’s lots of them. Look them up yourself.

Dude: I have. One study in 2009 showed a 0.1 percent increase in cotinine levels after six straight hours of exposure. But even after that many hours, it’s still only one-fourth of the minimum level needed to cause harm. Another study from 2007 showed exposure to PM2.5 from outdoor smoking, but unless the subject was literally standing within two feet of a smoker, the exposure was inconsequential.

Lady: I wait for the bus here multiple times every day. It adds up!

Dude: No, it doesn’t. Neither study is relevant for bus stops.

Lady: Well, I still think it’s harmful.

Dude: Good for you. I look forward to your lengthy blog post.

Lady: You’re going to get a fine. Up to $1,000. I read it in a Duluth News-Tribune article.

Dude: I love that article! Especially the batshit crazy lady at the end who’s afraid cigarettes will cause the bus stop to spontaneously explode. Good times, good times.

Lady: It won’t be such a good time after you get a $1,000 fine.

Dude: Meh. The cops won’t enforce it unless their boss forces them to with a quota. They know it’s a lame nanny law passed only because Duluth’s city council is too cowardly to balance the budget properly themselves.

Lady: Smoking is still bad. I think it’s horrible of you to be so selfish.

Dude: It seems more likely that you’re being selfish. The facts go against you, yet you remain on your self-righteous crusade to rid the world of anything that you personally don’t like. That’s how alcohol prohibition started: False entitlement through peer pressure and social politics.

Lady: Social politics? I’m not some hippie liberal! I’m a centrist.

Dude: I’m not surprised. Anti-smoking isn’t really a liberal thing anymore. It’s become more of a stuffy suburban anxiety thing, like some minivan mom who constantly carries around Purell and forbids her kids from using the toilet at anyone else’s house.

Lady: Wait. What happens if her kids are playing at a friend’s house and have to use the toilet?

Dude: They run home and use their own toilet instead. Then they run back to their friend’s house to continue playing.

Lady: That’s not a real story.

Dude: It is. My friend’s mom was like that when I was a kid. Every time he had to go number two, he ran home to use their toilet.

Lady: Did his mom let you use their family’s toilet?

Dude: Oddly, yes.

Lady: That makes absolutely no sense. Why on Earth would she allow… look, we’re getting off track here. Stop distracting me with interesting stories about toilets.

Dude: Sorry. That’s what I normally entertain people with when I’m not preaching about social issues.

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