Smokers Needed

14 08 2009

I was thirteen and young and rebellious.  And I had just been diagnosed with asthma.  My doctor, the USN doctor of the moment at the military facility my mom had taken me to mockingly said I would never be able to smoke.  Prior to that, I had never wanted to smoke.  My parents weren’t smokers, but they had friends who did.  And when those friends came over and had their cigarettes, oh the smell was horrendous.  I gagged and choked, oft times dramatically, and I hated the chore of emptying their ashtrays after these folks left our home.  That sticky brown that would never quite leave the glass ashtrays marked with logos of hotels across the states that my parents had visited at some point.  The black charcoal that would stain the wash rag for good.  Oh it was awful.  But that day, when that doctor said that to me, man I wanted a cigarette so badly.

My first cigarette was one I had lifted out of a pack of Virginia Slims my mother’s boyfriend had left downstairs while they went about their business behind closed doors.  I had taken two and a lighter from the drawer in the kitchen that held everything but nothing related to the kitchen.  I had my yellow pullover sweatshirt that had the pocket at the stomach and I set out for the park.  My first light up was on the middle swing in that park, under the cover of darkness.  It was fall in Virginia, so the air was brisk and even though I choked a couple times, that sharp taste of the menthol on my tongue was amazing.  I loved the way just resting the butt on my lips made them tingle a bit and how breathing it in deeply seemed to awaken my insides with its cold.  I practised and failed miserably at smoke rings and blowing out the cool jets of smoke against the darkening sky.  Mostly I exhaled wide mouthed with a large pluff of smoke, sputtering like an exhaust pipe.

My mom’s boyfriend was my dad’s best friend, but since neither of them were terribly secretive nor ashamed of their actions and my dad was an OTR truck driver who was rarely home, sneaking cigarettes from this guy wasn’t going to be something I could do for long.  He was a sharp old man and as a detective for the fire department, he seemed to notice little things.  I soon found a new source for my cigarettes in our neighbour, Ray, who was in the military and often out to sea.  I knew how to get into his house, it was the same way I had been getting into my own home as a latchkey kid for years.  And his freezer was for some reason the storage place for cartons of smokes, Marlboros, but not menthol.  I slipped a few packs out and worked on those at the rate of about two cigarettes a day for about a month before I decided I couldn’t smoke them any more.  They didn’t have that tingle, that zing that the menthol ones had.  They didn’t awaken my insides in the same way.  Eventually I had my boyfriend start buying them for me at 2.18 a pack.  It wasn’t that he was of age, we were both 14 by this time, but he wasn’t afraid of buying them.  I however, was petrified of the idea of being carded.  So David would get my cigarettes for the next several months.  Then my mother found out and at the risk of that ‘good kid’ getting in trouble because of me needing him to buy smokes, she started buying them for us instead.  She wasn’t the brightest bulb.

Twenty years later, I still love to smoke.  I have taken three breaks from smoking, once each for my pregnancies and one other time before I left my husband.  I don’t think that quitting for good would be difficult, if I had a reason or a cause.  It’s not that I am jaded into a belief that I am not addicted to them, I simply know that in the past when I have walked away from smoking, I have done so with ease when I had a reason.  I think that that is all anyone needs to quit, a reason that calls out more strongly than the desire.  But see, I enjoy smoking.  When I wake up in the morning I have my breakfast of nicotine and coffee.  I still enjoy the burn on my lips as I lay the butt on them.  I still like the feel of the cold wave washing over my esophagus and down into my lungs.  I like how it tastes and feels.  That’s just me.

Yesterday a Florida jury awarded a ninety some year old man a fortune, over a million dollars, because his wife died in her seventies from lung cancer that was related to smoking.  And that pisses me off.  It makes me mad because number one, no one forced her to smoke.  She chose to buy those cigarettes, just like she chose to light them up and smoke them.  Her weakness of will to quit is her own problem, not that of the company making the cigarettes.  But even moreso, number two, is that I have been smoking for twenty years and for the entire course of those twenty years I have heard every line about how bad it is for your health, the risks of cancer, the risks of emphazema, the risks in general.  It isn’t some big secret that this wife of his had no idea of.

I’m certain she encountered people like I do every day.  The random stranger who quit five years ago but can smell the smoke on you a mile away and feels compelled like some bible toting minister to save you from the path you are on and tell you how you smell, how much money you waste and how your body is a temple that you are polluting without the permission of the Lord your saviour.  Or the doctor who wastes no time in blaming every ailment you have on the cigarettes you smoke while turning a blind eye to diagnosing your problems until you come back clean from your evil addiction.  And worse yet are the family members who have either led such pure lives that they never enjoyed a drag off of a cigarette or are reformed ex smokers who likewise want to help you quit.  The overly dramatic gagging sounds as they bring you in close for a hug, the waving of the hand by the nose to ward off the scents they are inhaling.

The push by governments to ban smoker friendly establishments and increase tax on tobacco is a great effort, I applaud them, I do.  I believe that it should be left to the business to determine if they choose to ban smoking, but I also agree with the need to make havens for non-smokers.  Non-smokers shouldn’t have to sit beside smokers in a restaurant as they enjoy their meal with smoke skirted away by some ceiling fan or vent.  I don’t argue against that at all.  I do have concerns as to where the new tax dollars that fund public health care and our schools are going to come from when these monies are no longer coming in.  In Florida, the state tax on a pack of cigarettes is 1.339/pack.  New York takes in 2.75/pack and Rhode Island tacks on 3.46/pack.  South Carolina is only .07 cents/pack, the lowest state tobacco tax in the nation.  And the federal rate of tax on cigarettes in addition to the state tax is now sitting at 1.01/pack.  These are generally passed into place by promises of redirecting the income from the tax to medicare programmes and schools.  But in the case of the SCHIP (State Children’s Health Insurance Program), there aren’t enough smokers at this time to balance the budget.  The plan promises $35 billion dollars over five years, funded by the federal tobacco tax, but to make that work there would need to be over 22 million additional smokers buying cigarettes by 2017. *

On one hand the government is damning the use of cigarettes, but what they fail to publicly acknowledge is the need for people like me to continue smoking.  If smokers quit buying cigarettes to appease the vocal masses who are all too concerned with our health and well being, states would be bankrupt in their budgeting.  The state of Florida depends on their tobacco income to fund over $900 million in programmes.  Rhode Island draws in an income of over $13 million a year from their tobacco taxes.  Daniel E. Smith, president of ACS CAN, stated that “raising the cigarette tax is good health policy and a proven way to reduce smoking rates among adults and especially youth,”  but if the government truly wanted to reduce smoking rates, they could push to ban it entirely by making it illegal.  They avoid this step though because the loss of smokers would devastate the economy.

So thank me, fellow Floridians and Americans alike, as at over 4.50 a pack I fund the means for this government to survive financially while I enjoy a nice long drag after this little babbling session.  And while you and my government leaders tell me how much you long for me to quit, just know that if your ruse worked effectively, you would be left with a multi-million dollar gap in the budgets of your state and country.

*Data provided by Heritage Foundation




7 responses

11 10 2009

As a Newbie, I am always searching online for articles that can help me. Thank you

14 10 2009

Hello from Russia)

18 11 2009

Dear Author !
I congratulate, what words…, a magnificent idea

30 10 2010
Team Roster

Maybe you could edit the post name title Smokers Needed Mundane Excogitations to something more specific for your blog post you create. I liked the blog post all the same.

23 11 2010

Greetings awesome page on Smokers Needed

22 06 2011

Reformed smokers are the equivalent of born again sinners on a mission from god. They’ll try to convince you to quit, put you down, shun you, and damn you to hell all the while saying how they are there for you and understand what you are going through. No one ever quit because some random no body told them that smoking is bad for them, expensive, stinks or whatever.

2 07 2011

I don’t know that smokers are necessarily needed to fix the budget, and I think that sends the wrong message to the youth that we need to prevent from ever starting. Your approach encourages them to pick up the habit for the sake of our government’s financial security. We’ll find the money elsewhere, don’t pick up a nasty deadly habit to do it for us.

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