Nate Berg, in The Atlantic, writes about a new social phenomenon: the stigmatization of cigarette smokers based on how they smell. Excerpt:

These olfactory politics create a separation between the smokers and non-smokers that’s both ideological and physical – a segregation that some researchers have gone as far as calling a “spatial apartheid.” And because of the invasive unavoidability of smell, the presence of cigarette smoke or its odor results in an inevitable “sensory appraisal” by others, according to Tan.

… The influence of smell, Tan argues, is perhaps one of the strongest determinants of how people interact with or avoid one another in the public sphere – whether it’s cigarette smoke, days without a shower or the undeniable stench of vagrancy. How exactly cigarette smells shape the use of public space is likely different from place to place. But this research argues that smell and personal habits can be a major force in shaping city life.

I have always been amazed by how little smokers seem to understand how strongly the smell of cigarette smoke clings to them and their clothes, and how unpleasant it is to many non-smokers. This is not a moral judgment, but an aesthetic one (I don’t have any strong moral views about smoking). I’ve always hated the smell of smoke, and have all my life had to fight off headaches because secondhand smoke. But I hadn’t realized how accustomed I’d become to it until laws banning smoking in bars and restaurants took effect. Now, with daily life being almost totally smoke-free, and many fewer people smoking now than did when I was younger, on the occasion when I am around smokers, it strikes me as even more unpleasant.

Though I think anti-smoking ordinances sometimes go too far (e.g., banning smoking in public parks), the stigmatization of smoking, and its retreat from public life, has been one of the better social changes in my lifetime.