Smoking Can Kill You—Or Get You Stabbed
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Smoking Can Kill You—Or Get You Stabbed


When I was in preschool, my family took a trip to Bend, Oregon. My dad’s best friend’s mother lived in the area, and when she picked us up from our hotel she was smoking a cigarette. The first words out of my four-year-old mouth when Mrs. Owen arrived were, “You shouldn’t be smoking. It’s bad for you.” Mrs. Owen was not amused. But I must have been on a mission: a few days later, I preached the same gospel to a stranger in the airport, much to my mother’s chagrin.

But while my self-appointment to chief of tobacco police may have embarrassed my mother, at least I didn’t violently accost either of the smokers. Cigarettes have indeed killed plenty of people, as anyone who’s driven past that billboard off Santa Monica is well aware. Yet nobody expects that their smoking habit could cause them to literally get murdered.

WARNING: Cigarettes Cause Cancer and Possibly Stabbing

That’s what almost happened to a 54-year-old San Diego woman this summer. On July 18, she lit up a cigarette while strolling Mission Boulevard at 10 am and she was confronted by an old man. The man, later found to be 70-year-old Terrance Behan, was furious that the woman had the nerve to be smoking on the boardwalk (where, to be fair, it violates municipal code). Accusing the smoker of trying to kill his kids, Behan seized her and held a knife to her throat—and I doubt it was to dramatize his point about the health risks her habit posed. The woman wrested herself free, but not before Behan attempted to stab her in the chest with the six-inch blade.

Luckily, the smoking woman escaped with only a minor laceration on her chest as well as abrasions on her throat—plus whatever carcinogenic buildup had accumulated in her lungs. As it turned out, the old man’s attack probably caused less damage to the woman’s body than her cigarette addiction.

Terrified Smober?

Police determined Behan was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol when he attacked the woman, whom he’d never met. He was taken to the San Diego Central Jail on charges of attempted murder. The cigarette was not charged. Who knows whether the woman is still lighting up or whether the freak assault scared her smokeless.

As for dear old Mrs. Owen, she died earlier this year after a long battle with lung cancer. Yet despite the cigarette habit I warned her about, she lived to the ripe old age of 90.

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About Author

Erica Larsen AKA Eren Harris blogs at Whitney Calls and Clean Bright Day. Their writing has also been published on Salon, Selfish, Violet Rising and YourTango. They live in Los Angeles with their husband and their enormous cat.