Cigarettes kill, but still taste good

by By Philip

Liggett Group Inc., one of the big five cigarette makers, recently admitted what the rest of the conscious world has known for at least a few decades: cigarettes are addictive and can kill you.
This revelation was followed by a stream of editorializing, most of which ultimately makes the argument over cigarettes into a David vs. Goliath affair. On one side are the cigarette companies, the Goliaths, with their advertising blitzes and campaign contributions and long-standing claims of smoking’s safety. On the other side are the Davids, all of us dupes who’ve been subtly coerced into smoking and can’t give it up.
The pundits seem to think that now, suddenly, all of us who smoke will realize we’ve been had. We’ll be disgusted by the revelations that Liggett Group Inc. targeted not only teenagers with its advertising and promotional material, but specific minority groups, too, like urban blacks and Hispanics.
Fed up with being manipulated, we’ll do as the feminists did with their bras before us — we’ll throw all our cigarettes into a pile and burn them, chanting “hell no, we won’t smoke.”
Don’t bet on it.
Sure, cigarettes are addictive. I can personally attest to that. And yes, some people become smokers despite their intentions to the contrary; that’s what happened to me. But the voice we never seem to hear amid the argumentative din surrounding the issue of cigarettes is the one of the smoker who — hold your shorts — enjoys smoking.
It’s so much more noble to rail against corporate power run amuck (again, I can attest to that) or come to the aid of poor, defenseless folks who’ve been coerced into an addiction they can’t quit.
It’s not very chic to launch into long soliloquies about the joys of smoking (though it is chic to appear in Hollywood movies with a cigarette dangling from your lip; the difference is you don’t have to defend it, you can just look sexy doing it and not be questioned).
Don’t get me wrong. I support a ban on all cigarette advertising. I think cigarettes should, as an addictive drug, be regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. I think cigarette taxes ought to be higher, with the proceeds going to offset health care costs caused by smoking. And I think the cigarette companies ought to dip deep into their corporate profits to repay society for their years of deception and for targeting teenagers and minorities.
But, as a smoker myself, let me tell you what I also support.
I am absolutely, 100 percent in favor of smoking a cigarette after sex (it’s been quite a while, but if I remember correctly it’s extremely pleasurable).
I am all for smoking a cigarette in the morning while drinking a hot cup of coffee and watching the sun come up.
I am a fanatical supporter of smoking a cigarette after eating spicy Thai or Mexican food.
I wholeheartedly endorse smoking while driving on long stretches of desolate interstate highway.
I highly recommend smoking before, during and after the funeral of a loved one.
And I don’t see how, frankly, anyone could drink a glass of the finest Bordeaux Medoc without the accompaniment of a cigarette.
This is, of course, where I feel obligated to insert a HUGE DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT URGING ANYONE TO RUSH OUT AND START SMOKING.
I started smoking by accident. I was hitchhiking from Minneapolis to Seattle five years ago when a trucker picked me up outside of Fargo, North Dakota. He told me I looked tired, and said that smoking cigarettes would help keep me awake.
He reached in his carton of Marlboros and gave me three packs. Since then, I have never quit for longer than a month.
Smoking is a complicated thing. Some days I’m disgusted by my habit, by the filthy ashtrays, the rotten breath, the smelly fingers.
I am disgusted by the brazen deceit of the big cigarette companies and their glossy, glamorous marketing campaigns. Other days, I’m thankful for the wonderful gift of tobacco.
When all else has failed me, when everything has broken down, when I suffer from writer’s block and just can’t make the words come, I reach for that trustiest of friends; the cigarette.
And sure, like so many others before me, I’ll quit someday. Maybe.
Philip Connors’ column originally ran in Friday’s edition of The Montana Kaimin at the University of Montana.