by Andrew Ford

So, at midnight, I sat, ready to write. I had to pluck an opinion from my mind, plaster my horrible thoughts onto paper and send them spinning through the jittering electronic landscape until hopefully they would infest newspaper pages. What did I pluck – stupid smokers.

Walking the campus, I dodge throngs of smokers smoldering on black metal benches, blowing their cancerous clouds a rebellious 29 feet from buildings. After countless middle school health classes and ads spread across buses, the sheer number of smokers astonishes me. Why hold burning paper inches away from your face? Why char such a necessary organ as the lungs? Why consciously embark on a mission of self-destruction, choking yourself with black tar until you cough it up? Why gulp the River Styx, purging health from your gasping body?

Because you should try new things in college! So, buy your cigarettes by the gallon. Smoke buckets of tobacco a day!

You may die wishing for air, carting life-support everywhere you go, clutching two canes to support your frail rasping body, but at least you’ve devoted a lifetime to experiencing the addiction of smoking two packs a day.

Smoking, I will admit, harbors an image – Humphrey Bogart wooing love-torn damsels in Casablanca and angst-ridden teenagers with greased-back waves of hair. I imagine idolized writers such as E.B. White filling their New York skyscraper offices with smoke to whittle away the uninspired daylight, occasionally pecking old typewriters. But black cigarette ash clogs even the most durable typewriter keys. Typewriters, unlike lungs, may be shaken over a wastebasket to free the accumulated grimy black ash.

Fire is fun. I enjoy fire. A liar may claim otherwise, but primeval instincts prevail. I’ve considered smoking simply to play with those classy Zippo lighters. I could teach myself all sorts of tricks – spinning it with my toes and lighting my hair on fire.

Unfortunately, people glare suspiciously at those with an innocent desire to toy with open flame. Produce a cigarette, prove your lighters are carried in reason and fears melt to sympathetic water.

At an institution of higher learning and bursting with bright scholars, I find it doubtful that many fall into the “smoking is cool” ditch.

In middle school it may have been cool to smoke. Rebel against the institution! But the institution, the system, it wants you to smoke. It wants to burn your pocket-money and disease your body to fuel a mammoth industry dedicated to evil. Smoking supports “the man.”

Aided by shoddy meditation and Talking Heads on my headphones – late at night, of course – I discovered a truth! Smokers are not the seemingly mindless pawns of the big tobacco industry. They are sophisticated freedom fighters battling a lost war from a smoke-filled ditch, dodging capitalism’s wicked mortar shells. They have merely reached a higher plane, a plateau, of rebellion. They have admitted the futility of the fight. Vonnegut called smoking Pall Malls a “classy way to commit suicide.” But it’s more than a noble suicide. It’s a kamikaze attack. Smokers are pilots – smoke billowing from their damaged planes, intent on sinking mammoth industry. It’s the ultimate protest. Immediate suicide wouldn’t do. Lingering long past health, smokers are smoldering totems. Smokers are ceaseless martyrs.

So, if you aren’t a smoker yet, join the army. At least, make a contribution. Start out slow with a few packs a day. Purposeful addiction has never been easier. Cremate your body for a just cause. What is your life anyway compared to the support of a whole system, a whole industry or even one company that employs and feeds thousands? Every time you don’t smoke a cigarette, Camel lays off a worker and a child starves in Connecticut. And if you’ve been smoking for the wrong reasons, just pretend. No one will know the difference.

Ford can be reached at aford@campustimes.org.



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