Everybody’s always talking about how bad cigarettes are, that if you’re a smoker, you need to quit, or at least you need to move it outside, down the block, no seriously, even further, yeah I don’t care how cold it is, just keep walking.
And John Oliver made a big splash this week by slamming Phillip Morris’s aggressive legal tactics in pushing its agenda overseas. Good for you John Oliver, that was very funny. But is smoking such a big deal, really? I don’t think so. I know, I know, the past several decades haven’t exactly been good for smokers. “Smoking kills!” all right, enough, we get the picture. But it’s all such a one-sided message. I actually think we need more people to start smoking, for a variety of reasons:
1. Smoking is cool
I can’t believe how often we overlook this simple fact: smoking isn’t just cool, it’s super cool. Whenever I see someone smoking a cigarette, the first thought that pops into my head is, damn, that person is cool. The way you take the pack out of your jeans, and the pocket has that permanent outline of a cigarette box. Or have you ever seen someone with a pack rolled up inside a shirtsleeve? Man, now that’s really cool. And then if it’s one of those old-fashioned soft packs, an especially cool smoker knows how to simply give the bottom side a soft tap, causing a single stogie to slip effortlessly out, right to the lip.
There’s something authentically rustic about a smoker lighting a match and bringing a tiny little handmade flame to the tip of the cigarette. Or maybe you’ve got a really expensive Zippo lighter, and maybe you know that trick where you can simultaneously open, ignite, and light up, all in one swift flick of the wrist. Either way, we’ve barely even gotten to the actual smoking, and this is already almost too much cool for me to bear. Then there’s that first inhale, the orange glow of the ember that shines like man’s dominion over the elements, that stream of smoke jetting out of the mouth and down the nostrils, it’s like that cloud adds a layer of mystery, it’s concealing a hidden secret only smokers are in on. Don’t you want to know what that secret is? Doesn’t that look cool? Trust me, it is. Smoking is just really, really cool.
2. Smoking is good for the economy; smoking helps the government
You want people to stop smoking? Yeah? Well what do you think is going to happen to all of those people who work for the cigarette companies? Huh? Yeah, that’s right, they’re all going to go out of business and everyone’s going to lose their job. Do you own a big corporation? Can you rehire all of Big Tobacco’s laid off work force? No? You can’t? Oh, so you want all of those people to be out of work? Because that’s what’s going to happen, a whole sector of the economy would collapse, the same sector of the economy that single-handedly built North America. That and cotton. And slavery.
And what about all of those cigarette taxes? You stop smoking, the next thing you know, the government doesn’t have enough money to function properly. In turn, they try to raise income taxes or property taxes to offset the loss from tobacco revenue. But people get pissed off and they start a populist revolt. Do you seriously want another Tea Party? Because that’s exactly what would happen, you’d get another Tea Party.
3. Smoking is good for science
If everyone stopped smoking, smoking-related diseases would drop accordingly. Which, you might think that would be a good thing. But that’s because you’re not thinking big picture. If all of those doctors and scientists suddenly found themselves with less cancer to treat or fewer fingers and toes to amputate, we’d find ourselves in short order with a diminished medical community.
Right now smokers are giving thousands of people a reason to get up and go to work every day. Lung cancer specialists, chemotherapy nurses, even the people that manufacture the oxygen tanks that long-term smokers need to breath, they all depend on treating sick smokers to make a living. Maybe it’s even tens of thousands. I haven’t looked at any numbers or anything, but I’m thinking it’s got to be a lot of coughing smokers, and an equal amount of doctors. If you don’t want to see tobacco workers losing their jobs, you shouldn’t want tobacco scientists and pulmonologists out of work either.
4. They’ll find cures for smoking-related illnesses eventually
How far away can we really be from curing lung cancer or emphysema or peripheral artery disease or congestive heart failure or COPD with chronic bronchitis? With the pace of medical technology advancing more and more rapidly every year, it won’t be long until all of those nasty smoking side effects are a thing of the past. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if at least one of these diseases isn’t already cured by the time you’ve finished reading this article.
Just go ahead and light up, smoke without any worries. Have some faith in science, in humanity. I personally indulge in whatever I want, confident that by the time my vices catch up to me, science will have already caught up to my bad habits. I’m envisioning a future in which I can lie down in one of those healing beds from Elysium, or maybe they’ll clone some fresh lungs for me and beam them directly inside my chest. My point is, just don’t worry about it, OK? You’ll be fine. I promise.
5. Quitting builds character
If none of these arguments have moved you, if you still insist that it’s for the greater good of public health that people stop smoking, just think about this: if you never start smoking, there’s no way for you to quit smoking. And that’s one of the toughest, most character-building trials you’ll ever face as a human being.
Plus, statistics regarding smokers who’ve quit is one of the greatest indicators society has as a tangible measure of public health. Once people stop smoking, they’ll stop quitting, and all of those annual gains in smokers who have quit will eventually start to dwindle. Don’t you want those numbers to keep going up? Well then, you have to keep smoking. It’s simple mathematics here. So keep smoking. If you don’t smoke, at least give it a shot. Try everything once, that’s what I always say. Seriously, just one puff, you think one cigarette is going to kill you? Come on, stop being such a baby, all right, everybody smokes. Your grandfather probably smoked. You think you’re better than your grandfather? That’s not cool. Smoking’s cool. Smoke for your grandfather.