Voth: Take that and smoke it

Adam Oliphant

Did I ever tell you about the time I set myself on fire? It was a dark and stormy night in New Orleans, and I was in a bar drinking with a few friends. I was holding a cigarette for one of them while he did something or other, and things went terribly wrong with disturbing speed. It was so smoky in the bar I couldn’t see a thing, but I began to feel a bit warm. The next thing I know, my arm is ablaze; I’m running around and flapping my arms like a crazed ostrich as people are throwing beer and God knows what else on me. Finally, someone finds the fire extinguisher and put out the blaze before any real damage was done, though my shirt will never be the same again, Oxyclean or no Oxyclean.

Now, I may have embellished things a little, a lot, but the point is cigarettes are dangerous to everyone. There is, first off, the obvious: the smoke. I have never really understood smoking or its positive attributes. Personally, it seems contradictory to common sense to smoke; burning things and inhaling the smoke generally has negative effects.

You don’t get all excited when it’s leaf burning time and stand over the pile taking deep breaths, now do you? Didn’t the fire department ever come to your school on Fire Safety Day? And what did they tell you? The number one cause of fire-related death is not the fire itself, but smoke inhalation. There are signs everywhere that it is bad, but people just don’t seem to see it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those Truth.com advocates running around with huge blown up photographs of withered, blackened lungs. In fact, I think that sort of tactic is a bit ridiculous. The other day I saw one of their commercials where some guy was dressed in a giant rat suit rolling around on the sidewalk; until their logo came up at the end, I thought I was watching “Jackass.”

People know the truth, most people realize smoking is bad for you, but continue to do it. Why? I really have no idea. The image? Most deny that it’s simply for image, but there are those people who claim to be “social smokers.” What is a social smoker? Someone who smokes only when they have the opportunity to annoy the maximum number of people? Does it make you look cooler to have a cigarette hanging out of your mouth? Maybe, maybe not. I do not think so. Will it make someone want to kiss your more? My bet would be no; kissing a smoker is akin to licking a chihauhua. How my source knew about the latter I don’t know and didn’t ask.

Then there are the people who are addicted to that sweet sweet nicotine rush. That should be a clue right there. People who smoke crack are also addicted to the rush, albeit a more intense rush, but still the same concept is present in both. And while smoking won’t make your teeth fall out (they just turn a charming yellow-brown) or lead you to pawn your possessions the basic addiction is there, and is the same.

I’ve even heard some people say they smoke because they have an oral fixation. You know, I can think of about a million better things to put in your mouth than a cigarette, gum for instance, or a peppermint or some other hard candy. Why a cigarette?

Smokers wonder why non-smokers get so bent out of shape about the issue, but it’s because smoking isn’t an isolated vice. If you could smoke, and I didn’t have to smell your smoke at a restaurant or bar, I’d be all for it. “Light another,” I’d say. But that’s not the case. The inherent properties of smoke, the name even, suggests its wonderful ability to permeate throughout the air.

My point really boils down to the fact that smoking affects everyone around the smoker, not just the person who chooses to smoke. Secondhand smoke can be just as harmful, if not more so than the inhaled smoke. In some aspects, it’s simply a matter of respect.

And it’s not just the smoke that is dangerous. Tell me if you’ve been here: you’re out at a party enjoying a drink, talking to friends, and someone brushes by you and suddenly it feels like there’s a searing needle thrusting into your arm. Oh wait, no, it’s just a cigarette. If you’re going to smoke, at least learn to handle the things. More likely than not, you’ll get the obligatory, “oh, sorry;” but if you’re really lucky, you’ll get the, “Oh my God, I’m so sorry. Are you okay? It’s so crowded in here … blah blah blah … ” and maybe even a conciliatory arm touch.

It almost sounds sincere, most likely because this is the fourth time they’ve gone through the routine that evening.

What do you do? Just smile and nod; but not because you appreciate their apology, no, because you’re imagining putting that cigarette out in the person’s eye. Ah, now that’s smooth and refreshing satisfaction.