Let me start by saying I am a former smoker. I quit 24 years ago because my cough from a chest cold was so intense that it kept blowing out the lighter I was trying to use. I took it as a sign. I should also tell you that if there is ever a report of a planet-killing asteroid heading for Earth, I’m going to the store… for cigarettes.
I’ve been lucky… spared the righteous scorn, the rude comments, glares, the affected coughing and frantic fanning, the downright meanness directed at smokers today. I admit I started as a teen, to look cool, to be defiant. I kept on because it felt good and I’d become hooked on the nicotine. I liked how the cigarette felt in my hand. I remember I could not start the day, talk on the phone, end a meal without my cigarettes.
That was a lifetime ago.
Today you can’t smoke in offices, bars, restaurants, on busses or trains, even parks and beaches are smoke free — all places I could light up at any time. There’s even a public housing project in Massachusetts that’s about to ban smoking inside individual apartments, one of many intrusions it’s okay to make into the smoker’s world. Of course banning smoking inside just brings it outside… by the door… so that we all get to enjoy a nice, thick lungful of smoke as we enter a building.
Talk about second hand smoke, that’s a full day’s dose.
Second hand smoke stinks (lame pun intended), it’s dangerous and supremely unfair to those who don’t want to smoke but have no choice but to breathe in that air. I know people who have suffered lingering health issues because of that exposure, so make no mistake, I’m not defending smoking. Despite what I said earlier, I’m never going back. I made my choice, with my own free will. Let the smokers of today make theirs and stop treating them like something you’d wipe off the bottom of your shoe.
I think people need smokers. It’s good to have someone it’s safe (approved, even) to belittle, especially if they can’t fight back. Who better than this group of people who know full well what they’re doing is dangerous to their health. I knew, and I did not care. No smoker cares, warnings go ignored, commercials are dismissed. You can make it as hard and expensive as you want to pursue this habit, and still a smoker will find a way to light up.
The only thing I truly miss about smoking is the camaraderie of sharing a light or bumming a smoke. I loved the people who were a part of my world then — already we were feeling the disapproval, though it was not nearly as bad as it is today. Smokers are an ever-shrinking but truly unique group of people, united in their habit and giving each other the kind of access and insight that only comes from time spent around an ashtray.
Everyone has their addictions people, a smoker’s just happens to be to a substances that’s 100% legal, readily available and highly taxed. Government makes a lot of money off the lowly smoker, and I can’t help but wonder if all the smokers stopped tomorrow what would happen. Tobacco growers would have no one to buy their crop, cigarette makers would go out of business. No income from the cigarette tax. Ouch.
We need smokers, let’s not kid ourselves. But let’s stop picking on them — smoking is their choice to make, just like you make your choice not to smoke. And in paying for the pleasure of lighting up, the smoker may be harming his own health, but he’s putting money in other pockets that can’t be replaced.