Monday 7 April 2008

Smoking- Strange Comfort of the Damned

It is a curious habit, when you think about it.

Quite how the first smoker got the idea, seems hard to imagine.
'Oh, look. These leaves smell good when they burn. Let's try burning them in a pipe.'

The first cigarettes date to the Napoleonic wars. Some Turkish soldiers were smoking their water pipe on the city walls, when a French cannon ball ruined their moment of leisure.
Undeterred, they rolled their tobacco in the touchpapers used for lighting their cannon. The idea took off.
Indeed, the nineteenth century saw the cigarette advance to become one of life's simple pleasures.

Until we suddenly learned, mid twentieth century, that actually, smoking tobacco is really not a healthy thing to do.
A point James I had made in one of those many books he wrote. But since he also wrote books on witchcraft and thought he had been appointed by God, the wisdom of the ages had tended to ignore his occasional bouts of sense.

We've known a long time that smoking doesn't do us, the smoker any good. There are few cases were you can point to a positive health benefit.
Yet one in three of the adult population still smoke.

I smoke.


It's not as if it's confined to the stupid. At every place I've ever worked, smokers are the majority (that's possibly due to character type, as I shall come to). Most of my friends smoke.
Every packet we have ever bought has contained a happy little message to cheer us up as we have pulled away the cellophane, ripped away the gold wrapping and slide out that friendly white stick.
'Smoking Kills' 'Smoking may cause a slow and painful death' 'Smokers die young' 'Smoking when pregnant may harm your baby'
Well, I guess the last one never really worried me.

It's a daft habit in many ways. Even at my age, I know it's doing me no good. In the winter, my morning coughing session often produces blood. I can't run very far without getting short of breath.
We have to stand outside in the rain, feverishly dragging in as much as we can, as quick as we can, to get in out of the cold.

Indeed, the smoking ban in pubs, hasn't really been good for the health of smokers.

Could I ever give up?
I couldn't conceive of not doing it. There are so many, many reasons. But firstly, if you are a smoker, it does literally become an additional bodily function. It's a pernicious addiction. You can go on about drugs all you like, I only know one which from my experience, is something you cannot do without.

I can remember in time gone by, having no cash till I got paid and borrowing a tenner.
Did it go on food?
A day without food, doable. A day without fags? No.

You eat a meal, you smoke afterwards, in fact, you can't conceive of NOT smoking after eating. To me, it doesn't feel right, if you can still taste the food. Smoking, finishes the meal. It is the last course.

Going to sleep. Can't sleep if cigarettes are on my mind. Sex. A cigarette afterwards is a MUST.

What's the first thing I do when I leave a building?
Light up.

Like all smokers, spotting an opportunity for a quick puff, has become a key survival skill.

The funny thing is, when I meet someone, I'm always keen to see if they smoke. And I'm faintly reassured when they do.

The strange thing is, stupid as smoking is, often the best people do it. Highly intelligent, really nice people, fun people.
This might seem to make no sense. But there is a twisted logic to it.

I guess when you're a teenager, the simple fact that smoking is frowned upon, makes it attractive. It's what the rebels do. You want to be one of the ones hiding behind the sports block. You're 'hard', you smoke. It shows a certain contempt for authority.

And I suppose, really, when you meet someone, you want to know what type of person they are. A non-smoker, never rebelled against authority as a teen, they are a sensible, follow the rules type, with a pension plan, never gone overdrawn or got into credit card debt.
Or if they did smoke, they never got hooked. They never really embraced the danger, really dragged it in, till one day, they couldn't NOT drag.

Smokers LIVE a risk, they have and display, a certain two-fingered salute to mortality. It's shrugging your shoulders and saying 'Yeah well, it's stupid, but I don't want to live forever.'

For what you get out of it, it's nothing earth shattering. The joy is in the first couple of drags 'Damn, that's good, needed that.' In some ways, I think it IS like sex in that respect. It's more you DON'T enjoy going without, than that you really derive a huge amount of pleasure from it.

And, just like sex, give it half hour, you'll be thinking about it again.

I now smoke about thirty a day. But average twenty a day over 15 years, I've smoked about 5,500 packets- or 110,000 cigarettes. When I started, it was £2.40 a packet- now they are £5.60 a packet. If we average that out as £4 a packet, I've spent £22,000 in my life on tobacco.

And yet, partly, that's why giving up seems a waste. When you've wasted all that money on it, doesn't going for Nicorette make you a quitter?

There was an anti-smoking poster once, which was withdrawn, because psychologists said it had the reverse effect. It had a picture of a person sucking a dummy. It had the reverse effect, of course, because one of the attractions of smoking, IS the fact that it is a comforter- and far more acceptable than going round with a dummy in your mouth.
And I'll admit, for me it's partly that. I used to always carry a Kinder Egg toy around with me as a child. I'd dismantle it and re-assemble it when I had nervous tension. Now of course, I smoke. In fact, when I'm wound up, I do literally put one out and light a fresh one up, sometimes up to four or five in sequence.

They'll never stop people smoking, they'll never stop them starting. Because even now, there IS, whatever anyone says, something visually sophisticated about it. A woman with style, can make it look sexy, a man can make it a gesture of character, a Clint Eastwood gesture.

It will always be seductive, it will always allure and unless you really want to escape from it with all your heart, you won't.

Why change the habit of a lifetime?
That's what it is, you see. Smoking really does control you.

Depressing, isn't it?

Think I'll go for a cigarette.


Anonymous said...

I've nothing against smokers myself. To be honest I don't really care.

But romanticise it anyway you want, there is nothing attractive, sexy or appealing about kissing someone who tastes like an ashtray and coughs up blood for breakfast.

Anonymous said...

I'm gonna have to agree with oestrebunny on this one, Crushed. I do understand the ritual is an important one for many a person, but hearing my grandfather's constant rasping cough takes away all the glamour for me.

Anonymous said...

I'm alays nice towards smokers - they are ppl too, just not that long ;)

To be honest, I have never quite grasped the concept of ppl smoking and why anyone would like to do that.

I have never smoked and i doubt I would ever do that.

And at the moment, smokers arent my best pals due to the guy living in my apartment used to smoke and now everything stinks.. yuck.

sorry mate, but i have to agree with oestrebunny.

Anonymous said...

Well, that post ended well ;-) Yup, if you’re not in control of your own life, there isn’t much you can do to control / influence anyone else’s….. ;-)

Oestrebunny has a good point that I hadn’t noticed (not having met many smokers) – the bad breath, and the coughing out blood. Gets in the way a bit…hehehe ;-)

Hmmm… how do you feel about a woman smoking? Do you prefer it?

Anonymous said...

I have never smoked other than to experiment a bit when in High School and to dole them out to bullies. Both my parents smoked and two of my brothers smoke. My wife and I are virulent anti smokers, but go right ahead as long as you are not near us.

I have a hard time understanding how some people can afford to smoke. It really is a ridiculously expensive habit.

Anonymous said...

I smoke, I don't cough my lungs up , there is no lingering cough. Not that this is a recommendation to take up the habit. If someone tastes like an ashtray then they obviously never heard of a toothbrush. Haven't always been a smoker so I do know the difference.

Anonymous said...

I smoked on and off for years before I fell pregnant at 24. Then, because I had someone else to consider, I stopped. In our home smokers were always smoking outside, and smoking was banned in our vehicle. Smoking is now illegal in vehicles carrying children here in Australia and you will be fined if caught.

I used to smoke when I drink and now I don't smoke at all.

I despise the smell that smokers give off and would not date, or kiss a smoker. None of my friends smoke.

My daughter is also an anti-smoker and I hope she maintains this.

Anonymous said...

I haven't got a problem with smoking although I don't myself. I think it was my Dad's pipe smoke hanging in a thick layer across the room and wafting up my nose, that put me off!!!

He did give up BTW - nearly 30 years ago, so it is possible ;-)

Anonymous said...

Depressing? Yes indeed.
You're right, how on earth did someone think of smoking tobacco?

But now we do all know its evils healthwise and it's not only lung cancer, for nicotine has an effect on the heart and blood vessels as well as lungs. I know a cardiologist who will not take on a smoking patient unless they give it up.

I am very grateful that North America has become so non-smoking over the last twenty years for it wasn't always so.

When I was young starting to smoke was a rite of passage, leave school start to smoke and of course I did too. But after about five years I gave it up. What a waste of money it was and luckily I married a non-smoker and managed to have two non smoking children.

Now don't you lot be smoking around D's baby. My Italian son-in-law finally gave up smoking when his daughter was born.

Anonymous said...

Blinkin' hell, Crushed, you think non-smokers never rebelled against anything??! I am [almost] speechless. I can't take cigarette smoke because I am asthmatic and, as I've often said, my way of unwinding is to have a g & t [or 3]. But everybody would go mad if I did that in my workplace!! "To each his own" - as long as you don't harm anyone else.

Anonymous said...

Thats it Welshcakes, as a smoker myself, I will not light up in front of people I know who don't like it and even at my own place, I ask if they mind if I do, am not offended if they say yes.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the comments.

It's interesting the note the different counties reprsented and the views expressed.
I think North America is more anti smoking in it's culture than the UK, where where wholescale hosility to smoking is fairly recent.

When I was 18, you could smoke anywhere, even trains had smoking carriages.
Over the time I've smoked, it's became rapidly harder, and wildly more expensive in real times.

In thise, pre minimum wage days, an hours work paid for a pack of twenty, and a pint.

Now the minimum hourly wage, wouldn't get you a packet of fags.

But I take Oestrebunny's point, and I can understand why Ms S feels the way she does too.
And Colin is right, it's a killer financially. If I didn't smoke, I'd be a couple of hundred a month richer.

I can hear the speechless of Welshcakes, and I take the point, it's a generation thing, I think. There was nothing much us for us to protest about, or we'd bern conditioned not to, so we just got pissed in the park on cider, took up smoking and had sex young. That's was teenage rebellion a la 1990s.

I think that's about the size of it. That's why so many of my generation smoke. Probably, if you worked out the percentage of people born in 1978 who smoke, it's probably higher than those born in 1968.

For Eve's point, I've been with both. Sometimes it's been an issue, as with Claire, somtimes not.

Anonymous said...

I can't argue with you really. I prefer a woman not to smoke - it didn't put me off my wife and she gave up to preserve my lungs (I didn't ask her to).

The level of persecution against smokers annoys me and I think the detrimental effects have been overstated - certainly passive effects (though I prefer the environment now I admit.) I know people who are truly ancient who've smoked all their lives.