Is the car the cigarette of the future?

(Photo: eutrophication&hypoxia / Flickr)(Photo: eutrophication&hypoxia / Flickr)

How would you feel if you were shunned in the not-too-distant future for doing something we do every day now and don’t think twice about?

What if playing golf, going to a restaurant or mowing your lawn meant you would be treated as a pariah?

One man says it could happen if you drive a car.

The man is Jaime Lerner, described as “a visionary architect and urban planner” and former mayor of Curitiba, Brazil’s eighth largest city with a population of more than a million and some serious inner city population density.

Our car culture is going to become a thing of the past, he says. Car exhaust, he says, is the new second-hand smoke, and “the car is the cigarette of the future.” People will still use them, he concedes, but those people will be like the smokers huddled awkwardly outside of office buildings or restaurants and being frowned upon by the multitudes passing by.

CityFix’s Luis Gutierrez sees Lerner’s vision this way: “Imagine standing in a 50 square meter room with one person smoking a cigarette. Now imagine standing in that same room with 50 people all crammed in tight together, all smoking cigarettes, and you can’t leave. For Lerner, that might as well be the experience of being stuck in traffic: jammed in with no escape, forced to steadily breathe in exhaust fumes. But he predicts that the public backlash against increasing traffic is not far off.”

With the Olympic Games and soccer World Cup coming to Brazil, the country’s notorious big-city traffic jams aren’t going away just yet, and No Smoking signs won’t clear the air.