When I turned 21, I was admitted to the smokers’ pantheon by none other than my father who, casually, offered me a post luncheon cigarette. Both my parents smoked, it was the thing to do in the ‘50s and 60’s, with my mother the more ardent one, clocking in close to two packs a day. And both parents had to give it up, my father under the threat of heart disease and my mother after a bad bronchitis that led her to think she might have lung cancer. She stopped cold turkey.
My love affair with nicotine lasted just about 6 months – being prone to laryngitis and faringytis wasn’t conducive to happy smoking but that short spell was long enough to make me appreciate the taste of tobacco. They say that some people pick up smoking out of nervousness, needing something to do with their hands, which explains why they might end up inhaling menthol cigarettes or any of the “light” brands. Not me. I actually loved the taste of Marlboro or, even better, Camel. Strong, earthy, slightly acrid and nutty, they were a real pleasure.
Over the following 20 odd years since my smoking days, I picked up a fag or two along the way, always a Marlboro or a Camel – after a few puffs, the taste in my mouth turned me off and, were that not enough, a major headache promptly ensued. But I still say that tobacco and coffee could be one of those unhealthy matches made in heaven.
What got me thinking about smoking was the oversize, bright blue envelope that I found at the bottom of my mailbox today. It wasn’t addressed to me but to somebody who doesn’t live here anymore and who, in all likelihood, signed up for it. Inside was brightly printed material of a humorous nature disguising coupons for Camel cigarettes. Not only could the addressee buy a couple of discounted packs but she could also win up to $50,000, “enough to make you resign your job” – or so it said. In all fairness, all over this crap was the usual Surgeon General’s Warning – Cigarette Smoke Contains Carbon Monoxide as opposed to Smoke This and Your Death Will Surely Be Hastened – but I found it in poor taste to hook up young people with the promise of prizes when what is contained inside a filter is already enough to hook them up.
Thanks to my weak throat and the unhappy state of my tonsils, I dodged this particular bullet. It’s a free country and everybody of age is entitled to do as they please, within the limits of a sometime contradictory law. But I don’t see any merit in trying to help addiction along.