Monday, January 21, 2008

Tobacco

Two of my blog friends have written about their personal history with tobacco this week, so I thought I'd put my two cents in.

A long time ago, when tempers were raging hot about the temperance movement, a politician was asked where he stood on the issue of alcohol, and he said something like this:

"Well, if you're talking about the spirits that warm the soul on a cold winter day, the convivial refreshment that gladdens the hearts of friends, I'm for it.

If you're talking about the demon drink that drives a man to madness, breaks up families and brings a tear to the faces of wives and children, I'm against it."

That is how I would express my feelings on the golden weed.

The aroma of a pipe is sweet and pleasant and it was once good enough for Santa Claus. A good cigar also perfumes the air and conveys a touch of class. And there is a camaraderie among smokers of cigarettes that we non-smokers can't replicate; there is a sultry glamour when a beautiful Woman leans in for a gentleman to give Her a light. And for a certain kind of guy, crimson lipstick on a snow-white filter lights a fire as hot as a cigarette's glowing cherry, creamy smoke rising from soft red lips melts him like butter in a hot pan -- but I've gone on about that before and won't tonight.

That side of tobacco cannot be denied, cannot be ignored, if we would speak truthfully and in totality about it.

But the sight of some down-on-his-luck soul digging through a public ashtray for a smokeable butt; the early aging of a beautiful face; the mounds of discarded butts at every stoplight; the sad stories of people who have lost loved ones prematurely -- this is the dark side of tobacco.

6 comments:

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Smoking does have its allure but it's all marketing hype. I am glad I never picked up this habit.

eastcoastdweller said...

It is a beast of a habit to break, I am told. Thus, Mark Twain:

"It's easy enough to quit smoking. I've done it a thousand times."

chipazoid said...

Heh, I've gone cold turkey a few times for long periods of time. I love it too much to quit though. Love the taste, the feeling, everything. Every time I've quit, it wasn't because I wanted to but more that I had to for surgery or whatever other reason. It's all about self control and discipline.

eastcoastdweller said...

And that's just it -- that's what all the anti-smoking ads and the high school health textbooks completely overlook. And why they generally fail. They show somebody licking a garbage can lid and try to make a comparison that anyone who has ever experienced a cigarette can see right through.

Smoking is a distinct, unique, almost indescribable pleasure. Oscar Wilde said something famous to that effect that I'm too lazy to look up right now.

Other than the mere physiological lift, there's the whole soothing comfort of the routine, the taste, the aroma, the warm smoke in the lungs; there's the stress and daily drudgery relief of getting lost in the smoke, the delightful distraction of shaping rings or corkscrews; and the aforementioned camaraderie between fellow lovers of the golden weed.

I remember, back when I was a news reporter, I once did an article about the homeless population in our city. I rode out with a guy from Social Services and we stopped and sat down with a man for a few minutes.

My guide offered the guy a cigarette and they sat on the sidewalk and smoked together and it was as if they had been friends forever.

Anthony Bourdaine, on "No Reservations," does the same thing in his world travels.

For You, spicy-sweet Adena, I would wish that You could find someone who enjoys the pleasure of smoking as much as You do, whether he smokes too or just loves to see You enjoying it and is happy to light You up and luxuriate in Your fragrant exhalations.

Imagine a guy who not only didn't nag, but who would actually buy You a fresh carton the minute he cashed his paycheck; who would keep all Your ashtrays sparkling clean and make sure that You never left the house with an empty lighter.

But if the time ever comes that you are ready and desirous to give up smoking for good, I wish You every success, too. Some do it easily. Some, like my father, fought the battle of the will for years before succeeding.

Rebecca said...

I quit cold turkey, but only when I was really good and ready to. And since my family tends to develop COPD, I sincerely hope that my son never picks it up. But I can remember thinking it was very glamorous that my mom smoked lady cigarettes, Virginia Slims, and put them in a cigarette case. I was so ritualistic, like everything else about her. She quit at about the same point in her life that I quit...but man wasn't she a harsh critic of those less able or willing.

eastcoastdweller said...

It is too bad that smoking cannot be gently enjoyed on occasion, like wine, with addiction only being a highly remote possibility instead of a near-certainty.

Some people profess to greatly enjoy smoking; so many others consider themselves absolute slaves to it and hate it and themselves every time they light up.

I will not judge a smoker. I will not crinkle my nose or cough or give them a dirty look, not now, not ever. I do not know how or when he or She started, nor am I privy to the internal battles he or She may have fought.

I do things that are unhealthy every day, too, and have my share of habits that I have not conquered.