Why I Smoke, and Why I’m Quitting

Smoking is a bad habit. In fact, it’s one of mine. I remember years ago,when I first mentioned to my parents that some of my friends smoked, their first question was: “In this day and age, why would anyone do that?” They didn’t mean just anyone; they meant anyone young, anyone who wasn’t already addicted, and still had things to lose from it. Years later, I’m smoking somewhere between 1/4 and 1/2 a pack a day, and I still don’t have a definitive answer.

There are a lot of individual reasons as to why I smoke, and I figure they’re similar to other people’s justifications. I smoke because it’s social. It’s a conversation starter, and ‘cool factor’ aside, on average I’ve found that smokers tend to be more interesting than non-smokers. Of course, being ‘interesting’ doesn’t make them good friends or responsible people, but they sure are fun to talk to. I also smoke because it’s a huge stress release. There are many times when I’ve weighed the detriment to physical health from a cigarette against the detriment to mental health of a potential panic attack, and the cigarette always wins. Smoking calms me down, it distracts me, and generally seems to fend off mental demons, for a moment anyway. Of course I’m sure that’s 90% placebo effect, but hey, whatever works.

I smoke because it’s beautiful. That sounds really silly, but there’s something I just love about seeing curls of smoke emitting from someone’s mouth or nose. It’s like they’re breathing fire almost. My inner art historian is just a big sucker for iconic imagery, and I think cigarettes and smoking definitely fall into that category. It’s not that I smoke because I want to be like James Dean or Carrie Bradshaw, but I see it rather to an homage to the huge cumulative history of great people and great characters who smoked, most of whom knew it was bad for them and just didn’t care. That isn’t reasonable or logical, but I think it’s a big part of what’s generally perceived as smoking’s ‘badass’ reputation.

The bottom line is, I really, really enjoy smoking. It’s one of those small pleasures that can sometimes make me so very happy in a time of need. However, I also spend a good chunk of time feeling bad about smoking. I think every real smoker has had that moment when you first hock up a big lump of grayish phlegm and realize, “Shit, that stuff they told us in health class was true.” When I was kid, I hated smokers, and I often wonder what kids think of me now when I walk by with a burning cancer-stick in hand.

I’m not sure if other people smoke for these reasons, but I have a feeling that some do. These are the appeals that I’m going to have to fight against soon. In less than three weeks, I’m quitting smoking. I set the date a while ago, I’m enjoying my nicotine now while it lasts, and soon I’m going to go pick up a box of Nicorette to have ready and waiting. I’m quitting for my health, for my lifestyle, and for my friends and family. I don’t blame my fellow smokers who have no plans for quitting; in fact, I really envy them. But this is my plan, and I’m sticking to it.

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