I don’t know if it is a good thing or a bad thing that these days when I am speaking with people online or in real life they respond with more moral outrage when they find I am a smoker than they do when they find that I’m a pagan and a practicing witch! Well I guess that in some people’s opinion this post is going to be as morally and politically incorrect as can be. I always have a little rant when new restrictions and regulations are placed on smokers and smoking. Recently yet another piece of anti smoking legislation came into effect in the UK which will mean that larger shops and supermarkets are not allowed to display the cigarettes which they are still allowed to sell. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-17626133
This follows legislation that has forbidden smoking in most public areas and has raised the age at which people can legally buy cigarettes from 16 to 18 although you can of course have sex, get married, earn a living or die for your country in the army before that. Smokers also have to endure disgusting pictures of people dying of throat cancer on the backs of cigarette packs and pay £8 ($10) for a packet of 20. And soon to come will be plain packaging, where all cigarettes will come in the same generic box where the health warning and disgusting pictures will be much bigger than the name of the brand, and possible bans on smoking in cars or even in your own home.
And smokers are portrayed as being weak and feeble drug addicts who are actually glad that the government is taking all these measures to help them stop smoking.
Well I say it has gone too far. I don’t want to be an apologist for the tobacco industry and I don’t want to minimize the health risks that may be associated with smoking. But neither do I want to feel like a social leper or a bad and weak person just because I smoke. I don’t want to feel I always have to apologize for being a smoker and accept being treated like a second class, weak willed citizen.
I smoke because it’s my choice and as an adult I claim the right to make my own lifestyle choices. I also accept the possible consequences and responsibilities that go with the choices I make. For that reason I don’t smoke around children or anybody who doesn’t like cigarette smoke. I can always wait a few hours for a cigarette. Being a smoker does not make me inconsiderate.
I started smoking when I was 15. There were not so many restrictions around then as there are now, but even if there had been I would still have started smoking. I doubt that things are much different for young people who start smoking these days. Some will and some won’t, irrespective of what government restrictions are in force. People talk a lot of baloney about peer pressure and the influence of advertising or media personalities. Well those things do exist in regard to smoking as they do in regard to every other lifestyle choice we make. During adolescence we are carving out our adult personalities, we are defining the person we want to be by the choices we make and there are thousands of influences on all of those choices. They start with simple things like what we want to wear, what music we want to listen to, what people we want to hang around with, what subjects we want to study, what work we want to do, what sports or hobbies we want to do in our free time, who we want to date, and so on. Some of the choices we make will be bad in other people’s eyes. Some, with hindsight, will be bad in our own eyes, but we will learn and we will become ourselves. In all those decisions there will be an element of risk. “If I study this, I may not be able to do this…” If I get a tattoo or a piercing I could get an infection…” “If I go hang-gliding I might crash and die…” “If I date people of my own sex my family might disown me…” “If I start smoking I might get addicted and then in years to come I might get a smoking related illness…” “If I don’t insist he wears a condom I might get pregnant…” In context, deciding whether we want to smoke or not is one of the least far reaching decisions we make about the person we want to be and yet there is far more “public concern” about that than there is about sex education or careers advice for example.
Then as adults the decisions we have made and continue to make become a part of us and part of the way we are perceived by other people. Some are more obvious than others. There are some aspects of ourselves that are easy to hide or which are very private. Other things are more obvious and there are certain aspects of our persona that we wear like badges. Tattoos come in that category. The thing with tattoos is that “we” know what they mean to “us” but other people might have quite different ideas about what they mean; however the fact that we have tattoos which might visible to everybody says something about who we are. It is making a statement. I think smoking is similar. Yes despite all the warnings we have heard, we still smoke. So it is a statement of some kind, it is another badge.
But I am aggravated that one of the badges that I wear is progressively portrayed as being unacceptable in many parts of the world despite the fact that it is no more dangerous to society as a whole than a good many other things which are not portrayed in that way. Moreover I am annoyed at the implication that I should happily accept a modification to the badge which says “I am a poor weak woman who foolishly decided to smoke cigarettes and now I need the big brother government to step in and put me right.” Being rebellious in spirit, I feel like fighting back.
Almost all smokers are portrayed as people who would quit if they could but they are just too addicted to that demon nicotine. Even if they think they enjoy smoking, that is just an illusion created by nicotine. They are poor pathetic people who need “our” help to become good, clean-living, upright members of society. Bullshit!
I smoke because I want to, because I enjoy it. I like the taste of tobacco (admittedly an acquired taste). I like the kick of nicotine. I like the feel and sensation of smoking. I like the combination of tastes and affects with cigarettes and coffee, cigarettes and wine, cigarettes after food or even after sex. In certain situations it can also be calming and relaxing and I’d rather smoke a cigarette than take pills to alleviate the symptoms of stress. Am I addicted? I don’t know. But if I am, I actually don’t care. Certainly nicotine must be part of my normal body chemistry by now… However, If I want to stop, for example when I get pregnant, I will stop. No doubt. No question. No hesitation. Maybe there will be some unpleasant side effects or withdrawal symptoms but so what? My will power is strong and I actually think most people’s will power is stronger than they think, certainly stronger than the anti-smoking lobby encourage people to think.
Smoking cigarettes is not good for your physical health. If your priority in life is to stay in pristine physical condition for eighty years or more, then smoking is one of many things you should avoid. Smoking is associated with many illnesses and if you have a particular fear of some of these, or a family history that indicates a tendency to those illnesses maybe is is wiser not to smoke.
But here is the rub. No matter how clean living you are, no matter how healthy your lifestyle is; you are going to die one day anyway. And there is no guarantee that the diseases associated with smoking won’t happen to you even if you don’t smoke.
So for me the real question is how to live while we’re here. And I wish the surgeon general, the health fascists, the anti smoking mafia and the government would trust us to make our own adult choices and respect the decisions we make.