Why One Should Feel Sorry For Smokers
I recently came across a curious piece in an online publication called ‘Broadly’ (26 February 2019) written by a smoker, one Brandy Jensen. Rather than being an apology, justification, or excuse for smoking, it seems to be a defiant declaration: I’m a smoker and proud of it!
We are off on the wrong foot from the very title: Smoking Is Bad, But So Is Everything Else. So there! Now, if the little word ‘but’ were replaced with ‘and’, her line of reasoning might, just might, make some sense, but she falls into the logical fallacy of implying that because, she says, everything else is bad, smoking is not so bad by virtue of being comparably bad with everything else. One can only guess that she means to refer to problems such as eating McDonald’s or the car exhaust-polluted air that city dwellers breathe.
She does at least tell us in unmistakable terms just how bad she thinks smoking is:
It is a filthy and demanding habit that will imperil your health and demean your sense of will. But the truth that lies at the…hearts of every smoker is that we [expletive] love it.
No mention of the fact that smoking-related diseases kill nearly half-a-million people every year in the US alone. And note the ‘habit’—I’ll have more to say about that at the end.
She goes on:
I love sitting on my fire escape on a crisp fall morning, drinking coffee and having my first cigarette.
What about the other seasons of the year, or when the weather isn’t crisp? She smokes with her morning coffee, I would suspect, whatever the season, rain or shine. And are we non-smokers, forgoing the fire escape and drinking coffee sitting in our kitchens or dining rooms, missing something?
Now we get into detail of why she [expletive] loves it:
I love sneaking away from parties to spend more time smoking cigarettes with [other people who smoke].
What a shame! She can’t even enjoy a party without smoking, and if she sneaks away she feels, perhaps, less foolish, because other smokers are doing the same thing. I suppose you can’t blame her: these non-smokers—what a boring lot they are!
She goes on:
I genuinely—and this is humiliating to admit, but nonetheless true—love the structure it adds to my day, as someone who often works from home.
Perhaps a more realistic interpretation is that rather than smoking adding structure to her day, her day is structured around smoking.
Next, we have the illusion of smoking being, she tells us, ‘soothing’ and ‘a coping mechanism’. Is Ms Jensen’s life really so stressful that she needs to be soothed and have a coping mechanism at hand twenty times a day—or whatever is the number of cigarettes she smokes daily, once we subtract the ones she smokes because she [expletive] loves it?
A glimmer of misunderstanding, as we might call it, creeps in when she refers to ‘healthy coping mechanisms and unhealthy ones’. This line of thought rambles on until we come to the point:
Why do we demand that people cope with an increasingly infirm world in healthy ways at all?
Why does she say this? Because the end of the world is nigh? It may be, but is that a reason to feel it’s pointless to cease poisoning yourself with tobacco fumes? Evidently she thinks it is:
I think being a smoker is just the right amount of cynicism for our moment: neither wildly optimistic that I should want to be healthy enough to enjoy a retirement unlikely to come, nor defeated enough to say [expletive] it and take up something harder.
It’s enough to bring tears to your eyes—and not only because of her cynicism. But because she is deluded as well:
I’ll probably quit smoking eventually.
And by the way, dear Ms Jensen, smoking isn’t a habit: it’s drug (nicotine) addiction.
Text © Gabriel Symonds