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EDITORIAL: Smoking. But Do I Have An Opinion?

By LC Van Savage

Smoking. Itís disgusting. Filthy. Stupid. It makes everyone, those who do it and those who are forced to sit in its nebula, stink. It rots out not only our lungs but our entire insides, turns our teeth golden-yellow and in a few short years, a nice, earthy brown. Smoking turns skin grey, wrinkles it like tinfoil, and when smokers laugh, itís a deep, wet and gross bubbling roar.

When a non-smoker kisses a smoker, it tastes rather like cleaning a dumpster with one's tongue. Smoking kills the smoker slowly, and also slowly kills the ones who hang around him or her, and that includes kids and family pets. Smoking, in short, is a pretty nasty business.

Do I miss it? Oh, you can count on it! I havenít smoked in twenty-six years, and that myth about the desire to smoke eventually leaving you? Fuggedabowdit. Iíll tell you, if "they" invented a stench and smoke-free, healthy cigarette, Iíd be first in line.

Did I smoke a lot? Well that depends. To people with pink lungs, any amount is "a lot." To people with grey/black lungs, no amount is. I smoked maybe half a pack a day, but what I did was butt out my cigarettes half-way through and come back later to relight them. Ah, the smoke from that wonderful chunk of pure charcoal at the cigaretteís end felt so great ripping and scraping into my lungs, like a ball of ground flowerpots as it rolled on down. Heavenly.

Back in those days, a butted out cigarette was called a "roach," a name that took on new meaning when the sixties rolled around. But thatís another story. (Yes, once. Thirty-three years ago, and I did inhale.)

But back to smoking. Tobacco. I remember clearly when I started. I was in college in the fifties, it was my first week and I really wanted to be one of the cool girls, quickly discovering I was in no way even remotely close to being one. I didnít dress cool (still canít/donít,) didnít look cool (hair not long, silky and flippable,) didnít drink (still donít, but did it anyway back then to be hip, if barfing into my purse after three sips of anything alcoholic was hip) didnít talk cool (I was the prototype dweeb and held that title straight through graduation) didnít have a car, and of course, worst of all, didnít smoke.

A non-smoker. What a hick. What a nerd! It was time, those young college ladies decided, to bring LC into the real world.

It happened in the girlsí lounge. Someone named Jeanne offered me a cigarette. A Pall Mall.

"Oh," I said, with a small casual wave, "just finished one. Thanks Jeanne, maybe later." "Right," said Jeanne. "Liar. Take one."

"Oh nahh," I said. "You wanna get into Tri Delt sorority?" asked Jeanne. "Wellll, yeah, butÖ" "Well then, you gotta smoke. No one pledges Tri Delt unless they smoke. So just take one. Iíll teach you." "OK, if you think I should." "Yeah, I think you should. Itís good for you. Help you study. Keep you calm. And, donít forget--óTri Delt! Rah!"

How could I resist? I didnít. I put the Pall Mall to my lips. Jeanne lit it, told me what to do, and I pulled that smoke down to the bottomest parts of my lungs and coughed up a sound the likes of which I hadnít known I could make from my own innards. And hurt? Ugh, the mother of all pain. I tasted blood.

So what was left for me? Another drag. And another. The lounge spun wildly, the cool girls applauded when I hurled my semi-digested lunch onto the linoleum floor of blue and white squares, (school colors,) and I was hooked. Hopelessly. And, not only hooked, but within the week, a proud new member of Tri Delt. And I was just so cool. Stupid, but cool.

LC Van Savage is a regular columnist for Pencil Stubs Online with her "Consider This."

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Reader Comments

Name: lc Email: Unlisted
Comment: Thanks Mary---what an honor!! lc



Name: Clara Email:
Comment: I tried one out of curiosity when I was 18. My girlfriends, who saw me as a docile "goodie two shoes," couldn't believe their eyes. But I liked it, I really liked it. Quit to have a baby and didn't smoke again until he was weaned, but then it was back to smokin' as usual. Maxed out at two packs a day and then quit "cold turkey" on New Year's Day 1987. It wasn't easy, but it was one of the smartest things I ever did. Cigarettes occasionally still smell good to me, but I know that if I had even one, I'd be back to two packs a day in no time. Remember Andy Garcia's smoking tracheotomy in "Dead Again"? And then there was the lovely older lady I saw at a restaurant enjoying a meal with her family while wearing a nasal canula for the oxygen tanks she has to take with her everywhere . . .



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