I have stuffed cigarettes in my face before there was such a thing as a (who in the hell ever heard of a lighter that one throws away when empty?) was invented. I was offered my first cigarette when I was 15 years old. I took a draw and immediately blew the smoke out.
“No, you pussy!” I can’t remember who said, “you inhale the smoke.”
And I did. It hit my lungs like a sledge hammer. I should have listened to my body. But having the normal adolescent brain that knew everything, I ignored my lungs’ thoughts concerning the sudden invasion and continued to light up cigarettes. And, amazingly, my lungs’ protests slowly subsided, finally coming to the point that my duo of body parts enjoyed the company.
Of course, years later these same dependable organs began a hacking cough the moment I woke. In the beginning it was just a little congestion, you understand. But it persisted. And, needless to say to any smoker, it was ignored. Then it seemed I couldn’t even laugh without ending it with a cough or two. But I am not going to lie. I loved smoking. Cigarettes were my best friend, always there when needed. If I was angry, they were there. If I was jubilant, they were there. If I had just finished a task they were there. Hell, they were there anytime the mood required. I can remember when a pack of cigarettes cost 30 cents. I can also remember when I proclaimed for all the world to hear as cigarette prices rose, “When a pack gets to a dollar, that’s it.” Yeah right!
It now seems so foreign that at one time people smoked everywhere. Out in public there were ashtrays at every convenient location. Even at the end of each isle way in grocery stores, for crying out loud! Can you imagine someone smoking today in the confined tube of a commercial airline? No problem back then. Yep, those were the days when smoking was quite acceptable, and it seemed almost everyone did it. Certainly all the movie and television stars did. I mean a lit cigarette seemed a prop in almost every scene. And I can honestly say that as a teenager, I never heard one word about smoking being bad for the health. My parents who both smoked at the time simply said, smoking was something not done until you’re out of school, and have the money to buy your own. I can vividly remember my mother in the summer after I graduated hi-school handing me a pack of cigarettes she found in my room and saying, “I guess you’re old enough. Just don’t smoke in your bedroom. I can even remember the awkwardness of lighting up in front of them for the first time. Of course until then, I swiped cigarettes from them on a regular basis.
I was still smoking when a pack of smokes rose to $6.00. Of course I bought mine by the carton on our local Indian reservation, which came to about $4.60 a pack. Finally, finally, when I was 63 years old, I said enough was enough, and I quit. My wife who is not a smoker was tickled pink. I used the nicotine patch, and I was successful. I went almost two years without a cigarette. Then one day I saw a long butt left by a visitor in an ashtray. I thought, I wonder how a cigarette would taste after this long. I lit it up, and it tasted grand! And sure enough, slowly but surely, I began smoking again. That went on for about two years.
Finally 9 months ago I quit again, now knowing that no matter how long without a cigarette, smoking “just one” is not an option, no more than a hit of heroin or any other drug is not an option. Once more I used the nicotine patch which helped me greatly in that first six weeks. Now I can gladly say, I seldom even give a cigarette a thought. Oh, I am not going to lie. Every once in a while an urge will come out of no where. And I swear if I had a cigarette close by, the temptation would be there. But because I don’t, the urge quickly passes. And there is not a doubt in my mind that in what ever years I have remaining I will never smoke again. But that’s not to say if I were told I had a terminal illness, lighting up a cigarette would not be out of the question.
When one really thinks about it, smoking a cigarette looks weird. To put it in perspective, let me put to words as best as remembered an old comedy skit. It’s a phone call between the explorer Sir Walter Raleigh in the “new world” and his king back in England. It goes something like this.
Hello, it that you Walt?’ How are you?………Good. Good. By the way, did you find riches for me, er, I mean our country, in the new world?……..Okay, what you’re saying is you didn’t find any riches, but you did discover a plant called tobacco. What, pray tell, is tobacco? Is it something to eat?……….It isn’t. So what do you do with it?……… Okay, you first dry its leaves………then you role each leaf up. Okay, I got it………then you stick one of the rolled up leaves in your mouth. I thought you said you didn’t eat it……….Oh, I see. You stick just one end of it in your mouth. Then what do you do?……….What? Would you please repeat that. I don’t think I heard you right……..I guess I did hear you right. You light the other end on fire. Let me get this straight. One end of this leaf is in your mouth, and the other end is on fire……….Oh, the other end is just smoldering. Yeah, like that makes far more sense. Okay then what do you do………..You suck the smoke into your mouth, inhale it, then blow it out. I don’t know, Walt. Back here breathing smoke isn’t that pleasant. You ever stood around a campfire?……….Oh, wood smoke is bad, tobacco smoke it good. I see. I guess the old saying, “Once you’ve gagged on one smoke, you’ve gagged on them all,” doesn’t apply here…….What? You say you can also chew it? I thought you just said you don’t eat tobacco……….Oh, you chew it but spit out the juice. Of course you do! Why else would one chew something only to spit it out. I suppose the next thing you’re going to tell me is you can sniff it up your nose…….You’re kidding! You can put it there too, huh? I tell you what, Walt. You just wait there. A check will be in the mail, and my people will be in touch with your people.
I am now a non-smoker and very proud of it! But I promise I will never preach to a smoker. Lord, how I hated it when an ex-smoker would say to me with a wagging finger, “You know those things will kill you !” No shit Dick Tracey. I would have never figured that out on my own! I avoided those people like the plague.