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Why Smoke? Some memories, anecdotes, and musings


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No one smokes these days. When I was back in junior high, all the older kids would gather in a circle around the smoke pit at lunch. At the beginning of lunch, the circle would be small - at most three, four kids. As lunch progressed, other kids would straggle down to the pit. By the end of lunch, the circle would expand to around twenty kids. The pit would be covered in smoke - You could barely see the hair of each kid through the smoke. As the wind blew uphill, the sweet aroma of tobacco would waft into the playground. This always brought me a quiet, dreamy pleasure. I never joined these kids - for one thing, I didn't know them. For another thing, I didn't own cigarettes. I didn't know you were allowed to buy smokes off other people.

 

When I was sixteen, I went back to Beijing with a friend. We smoked sheesha every night before we hit the bars. Each night, I would order a different drink. One particular drink was called Persian Night - It was dark blue, with a hint of cream floating on top. I took a long drag of sheesha and slowly exhaled the smoke into the glass. I loved watching the smoke drift around the edge of the glass. I thought it looked like a snow globe, but with smoke instead of snow. My friend looked at me in disgust. He thought I was rude.

 

One time, a street peddler was selling cigarettes outside. On a whim - perhaps because I was reluctant to end sheesha experience - I bought a huge box of cigarettes. We were en route to a club. I offered my friend a cigarette, but he refused. He was afraid of getting addicted - O that dear wimp! I lit the cigarette with my brand-new lighter. (I bought the lighter in a flea-market in the Russian district. It had a marijuana icon which lit up in rainbow colours whenever you opened it.) I slowly savoured the rustic flavour of the cigarette. That wasn't the first time I smoked (which was probably when I was eleven or twelve), but it was the first time I enjoyed smoking.

 

The night sky was clear. The stars twinkled en masse, while techno music could be heard from clubs from a distance. I looked around - There were girls everywhere. I knew it was going to be a magical night.

 

***

 

After I got back to Vancouver, I polished off the remaining cigarettes. At first, I decided to ration the cigarettes - only one a day. But then the cigarettes proved too fun. I devoured the entire box (which had many, many cartons) within a week.

 

I didn't want to spend money buying cigarettes in Vancouver. So I stopped smoking for a while after that. (But I would always smoke at parties when other people offered me cigarettes.)

 

***

 

Some people say that smoking is addictive. That has never been true for me. I'm one of those rare breeds which can start and stop smoking at will, and remain completely happy. For me, smoking is like eating ice-cream. I love eating ice-cream, but I don't have to eat ice-cream.

 

For me, smoking is just fun. It's something to do while you're relaxing in the park. We humans are afflicted by our overactive minds. Our overactive minds dull our lives and make us tired. When you smoke, you get to watch the smoke twist and turn in the air - almost like a dancing serpent. For once, your mind rests, and you tune into the lovely scenary. You also get to pick out your favourite cigarette case and lighter - or matches, in my case.

 

***

 

I have atrocious taste in cigarettes. I used to like menthols. When I was in Hong Kong last time, a bar girl insisted that I join her for smoking. At first, I was suspicious of her girly mint-flavoured cigarettes. As soon as I inhaled the first puff, however, I fell in love with the cool, smooth flavour. Instead of the usual harsh, grimy cigarette taste, her menthols offered an icy, refreshing sensation.

 

These days, I generally smoke out of my dad's cabinet - luxury brands he brings back to Vancouver after each visit to China. (Far more than the West, China is a class-based society, where rich people are very rich, and poor people are very poor. Therefore, there is huge market for luxury items, so that rich people can show off how rich they are.)

 

Some luxury brands taste good, whereas others taste bad. However, all luxury brands are beautifully packaged.

 

***

 

Smoking can make you ill. This is the bad part. You definitely start feeling ill after smoking twenty cigarettes in a row.

 

***

 

Lately, I've cut down on smoking. I wanted to recreate the smoking experience without smoking. Therefore, I bought a large bundle of incense sticks. Whenever I was bored, I lit an incense stick and walked around the forest while holding it in my hand. This satisfied my need both to play with smoke and to enjoy delicious fragrance.

 

Usually, each incense stick lasts for over fifteen minutes. I would sit down on a log and wave the incense stick around. I would think about random things. This allows some quiet time for myself. By the end of the fifteen minutes, I would feel very calm and soft and in tune with nature. This felt good.

 

So if you want to quit smoking, you should try this method. Instead of lighting up a cigarette, light up a stick of incense. Two friendly advices:

 

1. Find a quiet place where you can do this undisturbed. Otherwise, if you walk around downtown while waving an incense stick, people would think you're crazy.

 

2. I generally prefer incense sticks from my local New Age store, because they only use natural ingredients. Natural ingredients really make a difference. If you've only ever used synthetic fragrances, you don't know what a real incense should smell like.

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haha...very poetic. i love the way you romantacize smoking. if i didn't know better...i would say you ARE an addict and in denial about it. but you claim not to be...so i won't push it.

 

personally i don't understand cigarettes. they smell better unsmoked. maybe i haven't smoked the right kind. i'd rather spend a bit of extra cash and enjoy a tasty cigar.

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Yeah, romanticize smoking... then look at this smoker's lung:

 

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Nothing romantic about smoking... you're on the way to addiction the way you talk about it like it's a lover. It's a disgusting, filthy, unhealthy habit that kills millions of people, and their families and loved ones who breathe secondhand smoke.

 

Educate yourself on how dangerous it really is, and the romance fades pretty quick.

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Yeah, romanticize smoking... then look at this smoker's lung:

 

link removed

 

Nothing romantic about smoking... you're on the way to addiction the way you talk about it like it's a lover. It's a disgusting, filthy, unhealthy habit that kills millions of people, and their families and loved ones who breathe secondhand smoke.

 

Educate yourself on how dangerous it really is, and the romance fades pretty quick.

 

you're definitely right. it's easy to romantasize when it's a fresh new exhileration...but once the power of addiction consumes you...the romance is replaced by ever-present guilt.

 

i'm not sure education much matters when it comes to the power of nicotine addiction. it's impossible to deny the damaging effects...but it's equally impossible to deny the addiction when it's got hold of you.

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