Close your eyes. Inhale. Pause. Exhale.
Repeat this exercise for about three minutes and you’ll re-enter the world slightly more clear-minded than when you began.
Some people would refer to
that practice as a form of meditation.
Some prefer to listen to recordings of babbling brooks or smell
burning patchouli incense during meditation to help them separate.
I prefer my meditation with a side of nicotine that comes from the puff from a cigarette.
Yep, I’m a smoker.
The effect is soothing — it allows for a few minutes of solitude to develop thoughts and ideas and I can soak in my surroundings.
These fleeting moments of self-reflection are, unfortunately, often abruptly interrupted by the commentary of random passersby as they spot me smoking.
“You know those things will kill you,” a skateboarder shouted at me the other night while I was standing in a secluded corner on campus.
Wait, did he mean to say cigarettes aren’t actually full of nutrients that will prolong my life?
Gee whiz, what a lifesaver that young gentleman was for informing me about the general harm of cigarette smoke inhalation.
Except he didn’t intend to inform me about anything smoking related.
He was being self-righteous and elitist.
There are likely very few Americans who are unaware of the dangers of smoking.
Who hasn’t seen commercials of that woman who smoked a cigarette through a hole in her throat to demonstrate the dangers of addiction?
We’re continuously made aware of the dangers of smoking through school anti-drug programs
like D.A.R.E., and via commercials and advertisements.
It’s no hidden secret these “cancer sticks” are bad news.
The ads and programs may have proven effective in their efforts to dissuade some from smoking.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported in 2010 that an estimated 12 percent of Californians smoked cigarettes, which has decreased from 2000 when the smoking population was about 17 percent.
Even though the number of smokers has
decreased, the CDC reported that cigarette smoking is still “the leading cause of preventable death in the United States,” and causes approximately 443,000 deaths in the country per year.
These facts are not baffling.
What is baffling though, is the amount of strangers who approach me and feel the need to blurt out those statistics with an indignant tone and a judgment-ridden glance at my carcinogen-filled exhalation.
What exactly do these individuals hope to accomplish?
Do they honestly believe their stray comments will fill me with enlightenment, or overwhelm me with enough concern over their disapproval to the point of cessation?
Probably not. More than likely, their aim was to somehow fill me with shame and provide them with a momentary false sense of superiority.
For the love of my blackened lungs, I beg all you anti-smokers to hold your sharp tongues.
Nothing outrages me more than witnessing (firsthand or otherwise) someone belittling another for an act that has zero
effect on anyone but the individual.
Now, if someone spotted me holding a newborn baby inside a hospital with a lit cigarette hanging between my lips I’d understand (and would expect) some sort of public backlash.
But I would never do that, because I am not the scumbag that some strangers misguidedly see when I smoke.
Would you ever walk up to an obese person in a McDonald's and tell them not to eat the meal they just ordered?
No? Then what makes it acceptable to spew judgment about smoking?
Plain and simple, it is never OK to judge another’s choice to manage their body as they choose.
The aforementioned skateboard heckler, who was too cool for a helmet, could have easily crashed in the dark and cracked his concerned little skull open, but I didn’t give him a lecture about the importance of safety gear.
It was just as much his choice to skateboard as he saw fit with respect to his personal safety as it was my choice to smoke in a respectful area away from other people.
The freedom to control our own bodies and lives is one that should not be infringed upon or judged. Ever.
So please, next time you spot a respectful smoker either ignore them or casually nod. We are human beings, too.
If all you can provide is rude commentary, just butt out.