Cigarettes are back. They’re in again, y’all. Smoking is trendy again, kids. The boomerang of lung health has finally circled back; I feel now as though oatmeal creme pies and chicken-fed chicken will come back into fashion in a few decades.
For a while, growing up, the only cigarette ads I remember seeing were for Kools and Newports, both of which featured happy-looking early thirtysomethings (clearly adult enough to make informed decisions), giving each other piggyback rides or playing co-ed football on Thanksgiving morning or something. The smoking camel was OK, but made me want fabulous sunnies more than it made me want a smoke.
I smoked my first cigarette at fourteen or fifteen, standing in someone’s backyard, wearing a black hoodie with a band’s name on it. Whoever lit the cigarette cupped the end with their hand, shielding the tiny Bic flame from the chilly autumn air. I didn’t inhale, but I didn’t know that.
I thought I was a complete badass, because I hadn’t coughed–not even once–and I continued to smoke for a little while, having designated one particular hoodie for the ritual, on my little personal balcony. Once a day, maybe, and I always followed up a smoke with a piece of chocolate–I hated the taste.
I’m surprised no one smelled it on my fingers–the tobacco, not the chocolate.
Eventually I smoked another in public, and someone pointed out I wasn’t inhaling. I did, then, and coughed. At least once.
As I continued my deep exploration of the network of what seemed like every remotely age-appropriate musician in town, I picked up Marlboro Reds. ‘What good is smoking a wimp cigarette?’, I asked. I was a huge badass, except for when I’d smoke a bit too much and get sick from the nicotine.
Where did that sentiment come from? Why did I think I’d be a badass for smoking? Was it the smoking camel, the happy piggybacking couples? Was it just that smoking was, and is, trendy, and probably will be until bad boys also go out of style? Was it the Marlboro Man, who might also have jumpstarted puberty for me a few years prior?
No, I don’t think so. No.
I was a serious ballet dancer, and it was common practice among the professional company to puff away, decked in a classical tutu, pointe shoes, and a sweatshirt, during rehearsal breaks, studio door propped open. They were all impossibly thin and impossibly cool to me. Once I started smoking, they thought I was cool, too, and accepted me as one of them. Seriously!
That’s what I thought, at least.
Then I saw this photo, quite similar to the one above, of my favorite model at the time, wearing a pair of casual jeans, Converse, a loose t-shirt, and a blazer backstage, feet up on the makeup table, smiling, a lit cigarette pinched in between the second bones of her pointer and middle finger.
I continued my love-hate relationship with smoking off and on until last year. After many abstinent years, I spent the year before that smoking vehemently, often a pack a day, but, as a dancer, I’d grown tired of being winded after a two minute number. Being automatically drawn to anything electronic and gratuitously techy, though, I picked up e-cigarettes, or, vaping. I started out slow with strongly spearmint menthols and move up to blueberry and caramel. Falling even deeper, I discovered Ms. T’s Bakery, and my ultimate favorite–maple frosted roll.
Maple. Frosted. Roll. Vapor.
I have no other “habits”, aside from compulsive online shopping, so I felt OK about the vaping. Nicotine, after all, is not supposedly the problem in cigarettes; it’s the tar, the chemicals, the smoke, the ash!
Until that one guy’s e-cigarette blew up in his face. I’m completely convinced he’d [poorly] modded his e-cig out and caused a short that enormously backfired [literally], but that quelled no one’s concerns.
Eventually, I ended up retiring the vaporizing, to please O and my mother. I appeared as a saint, with no vices–none!
I hated it.
I got to the point a few weeks ago when all of my activities culminated in one near-breakdown. I was stretched impossibly thin and couldn’t continue at that pace in any real cloud of happiness. I gave up one chunk of my activities, exhaled fully, and ordered more vapor juice. The stress of not vaping was worse on me than vaping would ever be, just as, I believe, the stress of dieting was causing me to retain weight.
Yet when I see a[n analog] cigarette in someone’s hand, I still nearly gag.