How To Start Smoking

Turn 18. Coincidentally, you are also in your first week as a freshman studying photography/ creative writing/ what-have-you at a private liberal arts college. Now is the time to think about your image and how you want to be portrayed for the next four years. Buy into the whole “young 20s’, don’t-give-a-damn-about-my-health-attitude.” Immediately run to the gas station to buy your first pack. Squint, stare and be intimidated by the never-ending rows of mysterious color-coded societal coolness behind the counter.

What brand should you get?

Your dad smokes Marlboro Reds, so maybe you should too. But your dad isn’t cool. Your college roommate smokes American Spirits (the teal ones, right?). Strain your memory to remember what you smoked your senior year of high school — and by smoking, you mean taking a few light puffs in the parking garage after prom — was it menthane? Methadone? Oh right, menthols. Aren’t those worse for you though?

End up with a pack of Camel Lights.

Walk quickly back to your dorm housing, lean effortlessly against the wall—but make sure you are still in plain sight of everyone when enters and exit the building. You are now a smoker and want the world to know it. Pretend you’ve always been a smoker.

Light up a cigarette and wait for the guy you have a crush on that lives on your floor to come outside. He smokes too. This moment will forever be ingrained as your gateway into the world of smoking forever. You did it all for a boy. But, that’s ancient news.

Four years later, college has whirled past you and you barely remember the drunken nights at house parties where all the pretentious art majors were sticking their heads outside windows or sitting on porches smoking their cigarettes talking about pseudo-intellectual bullshit, the random conversations you had with strangers you met outside bars while you were smoking, and the boy that asked for a light and whom you ended up taking home (and later sharing your last cigarette in your pack with after making love). You barely remember the time you bought two packs of cigarettes and drunkenly smoked them both in one night, the time you projectile vomited outside your favorite dive bar and then proceeded to light up a cigarette, and the time the boy you had been living with for two years broke up with you in your car and after he left you crying and you commenced to have the best goddamn cigarette you have ever had.

In the end, it is always about a boy.

Smoking is living your life a little desperately every single day. But then again, so is dating. For some unbeknownst reason, you just can’t stop. Your friends glorify smoking, but what would happen if you quit? You would lose the social aspect of it. You would miss the conversations, the plan-making and the juicy gossip that goes on outside of bars and parties in the smoking section. You already lost your dignity and self-respect years ago—you just can’t stand the idea of losing the few perks that come with smoking. You’re still young, right? You’re barely 25, your lungs can deal with another few years.

Recognize that this rationale is all bullshit. Now recognize that you are bullshit. Quit smoking.

Go out for drinks the next day. Get tipsy. Take some more tequila shots with your girlfriends. Get drunk. Remember the boy that you desperately loved once upon a time, your senior year of college, your first real adult relationship. Miss him desperately. Miss living with him. Miss coming home to him. Wonder what he is up to these days. Miss smoking even more. Bum a cigarette from one of your friends. God it has been so long since you’ve smoked. It’s been two whole days after all.

Realize that smoking has been the one stable relationship in your entire life. Now wait for the post-graduation years of your life to go by—another endless repetition of your college days where you were outside smoking of bars, house parties, etc.

One day, light-years and ballparks from the day you bought your first pack, you’ll wake up next to someone. Realize that you aren’t the same little shit that you were at twenty-one. Your hair is longer, your career is stable, you’ve paid off the majority of your student loans, your circle of friends aren’t the same as they were six years ago, you’ve dated half the population of Seattle, you’re thinking of going back to graduate school—and you think you love the person sleeping quietly next to you. For once in the six years that you started smoking, feel self-conscious of your vices. Stroke his hair gently and make your first real adult decision since you turned 18.

Quit smoking for real this time. Of course you did it for a boy. You are so predictable. But this one is actually worth it this time. TC mark


More From Thought Catalog

  • KP

    “End up with a pack of Camel Lights.” How do they do that? Oblivious non-smokers cig of choice.

  • El puto

    turkish gold ftw

  • Alison

    Since when is smoking directly related to boys? Fuck that. Oh wait. 18 years old and Camel Lights? I get it now.

  • A.

    I will never forget my first pack, a friend bought it for me so I could start. I quit smoking when I'm poor but always manage to have back up cigarettes on hand. To be fair, I would be a lot less social in public situations if I wasn't smoking. I'll answer to “do you have a lighter” over “what's your name” any day.

  • Jonathan Hart

    Not very much on how to stop smoking but more why. I'm sure you know that though and nevertheless I enjoyed reading it.

  • nicole

    and you think you love the person sleeping quietly next to you. For once
    in the six years that you started smoking, feel self-conscious of your

    And six months from now, that guy will be gone, which is the very reason why smoking is the most stable relationship you've had so far.

    Starting for a guy and quitting for a guy are both stupid. As is pretending the “adult” thing to do is just be mindlessly risk-averse.

    And KP is right. Camel Lights are for nonsmokers.

    • Briana

      thanks for this, nicole. i agree re: the guy will probably be gone soon, as hazy and wonder-lovely as it seems now, and cigarettes will again be right there to comfort the author.

      also: am i the only one to be annoyed by the use of “boy” over and over again? i've never much liked girls who use “boy” to describe their paramours, especially when girls refer to their boyfriends as “the boy” or when they say things like “a boy broke my heart”. it's a weird pet peeve, whatevs.

      i mostly liked this piece though, don't get me wrong.

      and i smoked camel ultra-lights for five years. /ultimate smoking poseur

      • anon

        Boy=Girl. They're both the same level of respect, in terms of nicknames. There's nothin wrong with it. What're we gonna call our boys? Men? Then start calling us Women.

        (I just noticed your name is Briana meaning you're probably a girl. Whatevs; you get what I'm saying.)

      • Alison

        Has anyone ever called you Mrs. and you thought “no, that's my mother?” That's how I feel when using the terms man/woman. Those belong to my parents and their cohort. Sure I want respect and to be taken seriously, but not sure I'll ever be ready for my perceived emotional weight of the term “woman.”

    • Duke Holland of Gishmale


    • anon

      Neo-feminists, sit down.  Interactions with someone you like, no matter how strong or liberated you are, sometimes leads to bad decisions.  Cynicism does not flatter anyone.  This piece represents the cautious optimism and self reflection of a person in her 20s.  Didn't you ever make a bad decision based on someone you had feelings for?   Everybody plays the fool sometimes.

  • vveneziani

    You forgot Parliaments and I assume the college you're referring to is “Camden.”

  • anon

    I started smoking on my best friend's birthday when she became old enough to smoke. I had been old enough for a few weeks. Now we're enemies, and I pretend I started on my own birthday. It makes me slightly uncomfortable, but it's too late to fix it.

  • Alex Thayer

    drunk smoking is the best

    other than that, the idea completely repulses me

    • Emily


  • JEAmaty

    This is like two success stories in one!  I could never get addicted to smoking in college, but I wanted to badly so I could lose weight the easy way on a diet of Ramen and cigarettes.  *wistful sigh*

  • Dan

    Starting for a social reason may just be the dumbest reason I've heard for smoking. Hell, there's no real good reason to smoke, it's just teenagers and 20-year olds trying to seem cool, when in reality they're destroying themselves and smelling awful. It seems obvious enough to me, and I'm 18. I don't get why other teens don't see it my way.

    • Kia Etienne

      dan, thou art wise.

    • Cady

      when i was 18 and smoking all of the weed i could get my hands on, i still thought cigarettes were stupid. a waste of lung damage, you don't even get high! they smell gross, they cost money! then i got drunk and smoked a couple, then i made friends who smoked american spirits when the weed was through, then i went to college and started taking cigarette breaks during finals week to regain some fucking sanity. then i found myself buying my own packs of cigarettes for the car rides with the windows down and the study breaks and the drunk nights.  this isn't a glorification, these are the actual reasons in my head as i'm handing over the 5-10 dollars for my pack of cancer sticks.  what i'm saying is, you don't know shit at 18. i'm 20 and i don't know shit. life happens and you make bad decisions and don't act like you know better and don't act like you won't make them too. we are young, we are stupid, don't pretend you know otherwise.

  • Susie Anderson

    aw. bought my first pack o camels last week yo

  • Alex

    oh wow, so much of this perfectly articulates my own attitude to smoking – especially the part about how terrifying a prospect losing the social aspect of smoking is.

  • Shani

    this is fucking brilliant!

  • vintagelace

    *prepares to be blasted*

    This article makes me want to take up smoking.

    • Diddly

      Do it pussy.

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