Yesterday I came across another smoker in a T station. I've ranted about smokers before and their willful ignorance of posted restrictions. Smoking is an inherently selfish act, just as drunk driving is—both put others at risk who have no direct involvement in the acts—and smokers are invariably the most selfish people I encounter.
This guy was on the Orange Line platform in State Street station. He was a full-on Jersey Shore caricature: tank top, synthetic basketball shorts, shoulders and one foot against the wall. As is my practice, I stopped in front of him and asked in a civilized tone of voice, "Would you put that out, please?" His response was immediate and flippant: "You wanna call a cop?"
I thought to myself, what would be the point? Yes, there is a law, and supposedly a smoker can be fined, but it's a joke. There's no enforcement of it that I am aware of. I've never seen anyone receive a summons for smoking in a T station, because the T doesn't have the resources to police the stations in that way.
There was a young woman standing next to him; I hadn't realized they were together, but she also chimed in: "Whyn't you move? Go stand somewhere else."
So there wasn't going to be any reasoning with these two. I could only respond, "It doesn't matter where I stand, I'm still going to have to smell it" and then continued down the platform. There was some residual mouthiness from them, but I'd moved away quickly enough that I couldn't make it out clearly.
Smoking inside a subway station is one of the rudest, most insensitive things a person can do. But the other factor at work is the behavior of the other people waiting. All the other people standing there are victims of one asshole's bad behavior, but no one does anything about it. Shame and peer pressure should matter more than a theoretical, unenforceable fine.
What are the chances of getting a law passed that allows behavior like this to be answered with a punch to the face?