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 V.16 No.22 | May 31 - June 6, 2007 

Commentary

Too Punk to Smoke

The New Mexico State Legislature recently made it almost impossible to smoke anywhere beginning June 15.

In light of this and numerous other realities, I am jumping ship.

Let me begin by saying that I am not a nonsmoker but an ex-smoker. And, yes, there is a difference. I do not feign a coughing fit when I walk past someone puffing away outdoors nor do I complain about the stink when they come back inside. I have crawled through the bleak, smelly underworld of nicotine addiction and emerged triumphant if not even more jaded. It’s sort of like that military thing, you know, when a veteran tells you that “you wouldn’t understand” in a gruff and grainy voice.

Quitting just seemed like the logical thing to do, since the ability to smoke freely seems to get rolled back a little more each legislative session and may soon become a felony. That and I decided I want that extra 20 years to hate on the world. And I have developed a fairly virulent strain of hatred toward tobacco companies. As far as large corporations go, they are the worst. If you add up all their bodies, they make Ghengis Khan seem like a real sweetheart.

Reasons not to smoke are everywhere. But the straw that broke the camel’s back came in the form of breathlessness. I was pacing in the parking lot at work one day, phone in hand, railing about something I cannot remember to someone whose name I forget.

As I was doing this, it dawned on me that I was getting winded. Just walking and talking and I couldn’t breathe. I got dizzy.

I took one look at the cigarette in my hand and said, “Fuck this, I quit.”

Actually, I went and bought nicotine patches and another pack of smokes. I went home and smoked like a forest fire for the rest of the evening. Truth be told, I love smoking and didn’t want to quit but could no longer rectify being a genius with smoking (because it is so stupid). That, and I calculated the expense and was incredibly dismayed to find out that one-tenth of my income goes to hacking and wheezing. So I smoked the two packs and put the patch on the next morning.

It hasn’t been easy.

First of all, the nicotine patch system amounts to quitting four times. Each subsequent drop in nicotine levels produces an emotion I like to call “Juan Oso es dos Diablos,” which lasts about 48 hours and terrifies children and small animals.

Two, I have shot up at least 10 pounds. This is due in part to a metabolic change but also because I just found out that all food does not taste like cardboard.

There is a big, gaping hole in my personality. I foolishly billed myself as John Bear, smoker, for the last 10 or 12 years. Now when I say my name, there is a big, long awkward silence following. John Bear ... ?

I am now enemies with former smoking buddies. I find their crackling voices and calm, collected attitudes infuriating.

No longer do I have any reason to take 23 breaks per work day. I still do, anyway, but it seems kind of pointless now.

Did I mention the Satan thing?

Yes, it ain’t easy being an ex-smoker. But it will be worth it in the long run. As I said before, I want the extra 20 years that would otherwise be taken from me. The way I see things, you only get one life and to piss up to a quarter of it away for the false privilege of feeling relaxed is just plain dumb.

For those smokers who say, “But, John, you only lose the crappy part at the end,” you are, as the Irish would say, a “feckin’ eejit.” I, for one, am looking forward to being a grumpy old man. I’m a grumpy young man so it seems like a perfectly logical progression.

Saving money, life and lung capacity notwithstanding, my No. 1 reason to quit lies in my desire to be a true nonconformist, recalcitrant (I’m so smart--I used recalcitrant in a sentence) pain-in-the-ass, rebel type.

That’s the thing about cigarette companies that pisses me off the most. They have hijacked the rebel thing. And they’ve made a killing off that little aspect of their product.

But it’s a lie. Smoking cigarettes makes you a sheep, not a rabble-rouser leftist rebel. All you smokers out there who think you're such unique snowflakes, stop being suckers to the man. (Angry ex-smoker, anyone?)

Sorry to be such a sanctimonious know-it-all, after having smoked a million or so cigarettes and written lengthy diatribes against antismoking organizations I deemed fascists. It’s just the way I feel.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

 

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