On Oct. 27, a smoker started a fire in a Glendale apartment building, causing damage to the building and contents. Fortunately, no one was killed or seriously injured (“Cigarette starts apartment fire,” Oct. 30, 2007)

We are in a war; not just in Iraq, but also at home.

I call it a war because I think of smokers as enemy soldiers in a battle, who are out to harm all of us.

They didn’t start the war, and I don’t think they have anything against us, personally. Their leaders — the tobacco companies — started it and indoctrinated and drafted these smoker-soldiers; but it is the smokers who directly do us harm, and that harm is just as real if unintended as otherwise. And so first we must prevent that harm, and then we can go after the leaders and total victory.

This war has always been one-sided. We, the nonsmoking human (and animal) victims, are in the great majority — about 87% of California adults (and 100% of the children), according to the California Department of Health Services — but only the smokers are armed. They attack, injure and kill; and all we can do is defend.

Here is how the smoker-soldiers fight: They foul the sidewalks, parking lots, bushes, parks, beaches, waterways and other places with their cigarette butts and packages.

They kill nearly 450,000 of themselves by smoking every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control (Of course, a person may choose his or her own method of suicide).

They kill about 50,000 nonsmokers every year with their secondhand smoke and cause nonsmokers annoyance, irritation and disease, according to Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights.

They start fires outdoors that destroy countless acres of vegetation and trees, destroy homes and their contents and kill people and untold numbers of pets and other animals.

And they start fires indoors that destroy the property of others, and injure and kill innocent people and pets. From 1992 through 2002, there were 30,791 fires in California from smoking materials, resulting in more than $125 million in lost real property and contents, injuries to 236 firefighters and 675 civilians, and the death of 102 civilians, according to the Office of the State Fire Marshal.

By contrast, according to the U.S. Military History Institute in Carlisle, Pa., here are America’s military deaths in shooting wars: Nearly 1.3 million American military personnel have been killed in 13 wars since and including the Revolutionary War. It took more than 52 years of actual fighting to kill that many people.

Smokers do that in less than three years, using the Centers for Disease Control numbers. World War II killed about 408,000 American combatants, and is the only foreign war to come close to killing as many Americans as smokers kill every year. World War I killed about 117,000 Americans; the Vietnam War killed about 58,000. Only the United States Civil War, with about 623,000 deaths, killed more Americans than smokers do every year; and that’s because there were Americans on both sides.

Smokers do no good for anyone — none. They only do harm: Destruction. Disease. Death. All they do is cost people money, property, pets, healthy, enjoyable lives — and life itself.

Every year there are fewer of these smoker-soldiers. Many realize they are on the wrong side, quit and come over to the side of health and humanity. Many others die and are buried — without honors.

As we did with Italy, Japan and Germany in World War II, we must push forward, relentlessly, and rid our cities of the fire and poisonous gas that are the weapons of these smoker-soldiers.

Then, as has happened with our former World War II foes, the smokers (“former” smokers, then) and us can all live prosperous, enjoyable, healthy lives together.

Oh, yes, and the animals can live healthy, full lives, too.

 ROBERT PHIPPS is a Burbank resident.

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