Tastes Like a Cigarette Should

 

I’ve picked up a lot in my storied life. Some knowledge of foreign languages, a taste for good wine, and a bit of a cigarette enthusiasm. Which is to say that I both believe I am horribly addicted and that it is within reasonable limits and under control. All at the same time knowing that no medical authority on this planet would recommend inhaling a burning plant. Of all the burning plants in the world though, tobacco is definitely my favourite. Simultaneously my most hated.

The origin story for this habit isn’t so complicated or difficult. I saw some people doing it and thought it was ridiculous. Some people offered me one and it tasted horrible. Later on I tried others and they got better. I was pretty sure I could control it, being a man of will. Turns out, it’s a nasty little thing and it kind of works its way into the deeper recesses of your brain if you aren’t careful.

Sometimes I feel a cigarette voice in my head. It pleads and bargains for more when I’ve tried to quit. Just one more. It also shouts down my desire to stop sometimes. You just bought a pack! It’s not very logical and sometimes isn’t very focused but what did you expect, Ritalin brain? I’ll get on with the origin story.

Eventually, friends got tired of just giving them to me whenever. I had started asking instead of just being offered. And then I was cut off.

It makes sense, cigarettes are expensive. As with so many other products, too, they are undergoing “shrinkflation”. What you’re getting gets smaller but the price stays the same. It’s the natural intersection of marketing and rising production costs. People have a limit to how much they’ll pay for something, so in order to reach that limit, products get worse. At any rate, the cigarette makers and shops have all the power here as you can’t exactly haggle for cigarettes. This left me in a delicate situation.

My choice was pretty stark. To smoke or not to smoke. See, the difference between 0 and 1 is infinite. This is true in mathematics and in smoking. The difference between 0 and 1 cigarettes is far larger than the difference between 2 and 20.

Still, I bought a packet. I figured I was different.

This is the crazy thing about people who smoke: we can find so many justifications and reasons not to be bothered about it. Enough people have grandparents who smoked for 90 years and then got hit by a bus to permanently raise the life expectancy a good bit. Truth be told, I think we’re all terror-fatigued. We’ve been taught about it at school, there are loads of adverts in all kinds of different settings, the prices have always gone up, there’re warning labels on packets, it’s banned indoors, and we’re consistently told it’s the worst thing and we’re horrible people for doing it. There’s a reason cool people in movies still smoke: it is the pinnacle of not caring. Maybe people need to reevaluate their choices, and policy makers need to rethink how to reach everyone. Selling the “cigarettes are super heroin” campaign doesn’t work when people who smoke are good at justifying and reasoning away all the issues. At any rate, current plans to cut down on people smoking have been moderately successful but are struggling to reach below 20%. Part of the reason is that those 20% think they are irredeemable.

Truth is, there are various thoughts on how real addiction is. The way I see it, it is totally fightable. It is not a disease, it is a personality flaw. Once you notice that you regain some agency. People who’ve done it all their lives find the strength to quit. I’ve found that I do care a bit too much to keep it up. I’m not like a cool guy in a movie. I’m not one of the different people who live to a hundred years old on rare steak and sniffing whiteboard pens. Chances are good that I’m just as fragile as 99% of the rest of this planet and therefore I made a deal.

The cigarette voice keeps it down and stops shouting and whimpering and I throw it the occasional. I always preferred it more as a social thing anyway. Sometimes you just need a good excuse to go outside and get a few minutes away from everything. Sometimes it’s good to get away from a 15-person conversation and break off to chat with a couple of people. The negotiation with the cigarette voice has been difficult and fraught with breaches. At least I know that I’ve beaten it down to about 1 or 2 a day on average. With the occasional ‘extinction burst’ where I get a whole pack and tan it in an evening.

I’ve tried to be honest here. Truth is, cigarette smoking is this crazy thing that I think everyone who does it hates, loves, and hates in equal measure. That’s definitely how I feel about it. On the one hand, it made me get out more and got me into loads of conversations I’d never have had otherwise, on the other I have sometimes spent a ridiculous amount of my monthly earnings on it with no lasting effect. It is the definition of consumptive. It’s good that it gives me something to do in my free time, everybody needs an occupation, but it’s bad because I could be doing almost anything more productive with the time. It’s nice that it provides milestones of the passing day: wake up, cigarette, breakfast, cigarette, going to work, cigarette, at work for four hours before coffee break, cigarette, back to work until lunch, cigarette, finish day, cigarette, pub with the colleagues, cigarette cigarette cigarette cigarette, home, cigarette, dinner, cigarette, sex, cigarette, Netflix, cigarette. On the other hand that’s an insane way to measure time, and that’s on a below average day. It’s terrible, it’s great, it’s terrible.

In conclusion, the writer of this piece cannot be held accountable for any desire to try tobacco. In fact I’d say it’s a pretty bad idea, hence why I’m cutting down and fairly happy with the result. Then again, can non-smokers try not being dicks about it because it’s really very unhelpful when you make out like having one of them ever will make you into some kind of degenerate. Nothing has that much power unless you give it that much power and claiming it has some insane amount of power makes it seem irresistible. It’s my dirty little occasional habit. It’s kind of gross yet kind of sexy but mostly awful.

Just to reiterate the message we all must stick to with my own flair: If you don’t smoke; don’t start. If you do it occasionally; probably best to keep it limited. If you smoke hundreds a day; hope you have fun with it but maybe eat some fruit from time to time.

Seriously, apparently eating carrots stops lung cancer. Maybe take it with a pinch of salt.

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