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Admitting it’s cool, and other smoking confessions

by Diane Miller | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Editorial | March 1st, 2012

After all these years I have finally figured it out. I have finally figured out why people are drawn to smoking cigarettes.

Before you start to think this is some promotion for smoking, know this: I still hate smoking. For reasons too obvious to discuss, I hate smoking’s non-existent guts.

Yet, after years and years of never truly understanding a smoker’s attraction to a habit that robs our health, I now think I know the answer. So here is an attempt to help the majority understand the minority … because, although most may not agree with a person’s choice to smoke, it is definitely possible for one person to both understand and disagree on a matter at the same time.

From pure observation I would estimate that 99% of smokers started smoking because they were influenced by someone else – a friend, a parent, an idol, what have you – who smoked before them.

Back when I was an athlete, I’d rate my desire to smoke on a scale of one to ten at negative ten. I even have a memory of me at a party in college taking an acquaintance’s cigarette and breaking it in pieces in front of him to show him my distaste. Obviously, I was three sheets to the wind, but that’s a different topic.

Now that I am a musician, however, my desire to smoke has skyrocketed. Why? It’s not because I want to mold into a stereotype. It just so happens I play in a band with six other members who all smoke and I want to mesh better with those closest around me.

That’s it. Breaking news, right? Nope.

Think about it. We all do it. It shows up in our clothes, our language, our mannerisms. Does it mean we are lame? No. It means we are human. Therefore, anyone who gives into the temptation of smoking further proves that they are earth-dwelling citizens, vulnerable to “following the herd.”

I guess that means I am not your average human because I have not given in to my heightened desire to smoke. Not so fast.

Given my background – eight years of being surrounded by athletes who did not smoke – I have a considerably easier time resisting the act of nicotine inhalation than, say, someone who grew up with parents who smoked, friends who smoked, co-workers who smoked, etc.

So let me share with you what goes through my head when I think about giving in to the dark side: I’m an edgy chick who doesn’t follow rules or conform to the modern, boring Abercrombie and Fitch type of girls out there. I’m standing outside some dignified establishment, blowing smoke out of my mouth and holding a slim, burning white stick in my hand without a care in the world. People wouldn’t have to get to know me to figure out what I’m really like – they’d just see me smoking a cigarette and they’d know.

I am not trying to say that I think everyone who smokes is cool and hip. And, granted, I am not saying all smokers get these super weird, imagined thoughts before they light up … but believe me, as awkward of a fantasy as that is, the temptation is very real. I didn’t have to think hard to write the previous paragraph.

So am I just writing this article to brag that my smoker friends are really cool and attractive? Well, they are, so technically I could. But that is not the point I am trying to make here.

I could preach to the choir all day about how bad smoking is for people but I wouldn’t be doing anyone any justice – I’m just a writer. I’m just some athlete turned musician who sometimes thinks smoking looks cool and who relies heavily on my past semi-jock-stardom to keep me from putting a “fag” on my lips.

FYI: If us non-smokers want to try to get smokers to quit, continually telling them how bad it is for their health does absolutely nothing to help. If anything it probably just damages their optimism. All we really can do is empower people by reassuring them that they are capable of taking the initiative to make such big and bold moves on their own.

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