I used to love smoking. For years smoking allowed me to take longer and more frequent breaks at work, was a good excuse to get off my ass and go outside, and frequently allowed me an opportunity to start up a conversation with another smoker. Taking a drag on a cigarette was a nice natural pause in every conversation. I was a better listener and, perhaps, a better person when I was a smoker. I could happily engage anyone for hours over coffee and cigarettes. The sky seemed a brighter shade of blue and I spent more time alone with my thoughts.
When I quit, it was largely by accident and I didn’t notice a sudden surge of vitality. My teeth didn’t get whiter, my penis didn’t get bigger, and my lung capacity remained unchanged. My apartment did not unexpectedly become filled with workout equipment and I did not acquire a bunch of healthy new friends. I have tried numerous times to get re-addicted but it has been so difficult. It’s almost as if I have lost my taste for it entirely. I’ll get a halfway through a cigarette and find myself with a headache or waking up the following day with mild sinus congestion. I also cringe at the thought of the tobacco industry’s decades of upsettingly aggressive marketing, despite cigarettes getting us through both World Wars and being at the center of America’s most prosperous period in history.
It’s a lot to think about and I’m not suggesting that everyone go out there and buy a pack of smokes this instant. While they may stop Parkinson’s, they cause a laundry list of other harmful diseases. They probably won’t kill you right away, however. You’ll likely have plenty of time to have a career, start a family, or even become President before your habit finally forces you into an early grave. And, when you do die before all of your loved ones, you’ll have a big funeral with lots of people showing up and talking about how great you were. They’ll cry and remember you forever and you’ll never have to see them get sick or pass away. You will have left the party early, probably because you were so much cooler than everyone else in attendance.
America has banned smoking nearly everywhere and cut its smoking population in half over the last couple of decades. It was the number one health awareness campaign for years and it seems to have worked. But, in a world where you can tell a dangerously obese person that they are prefect just the way they are, we should be willing to commend smokers for possessing that little bit of extra flair. One of the best photos I’ve ever seen is that of a dog wearing sunglasses with a cigarette hanging out of its mouth. It was the kind of picture that made you want to learn how to skateboard so you could teach that dog.
Who was with me when I had some of my best ideas? Cigarettes. When I was broke and only ate enough canned food and coffee to keep myself from starving to death, who gave me that little extra bit of energy? Cigarettes. When I was depressed and found myself alone in a two story pre-war in Detroit, what was the one thing that got me out of the house? Cigarettes. When someone insulted me and I needed that extra two seconds to deliver the perfect comeback, who always had my back? Cigarettes.