My favorite smoking section is located outside the Barnstable County Superior Court on Cape Cod. Across the street from the entrance, there is a lone sign amidst the weedy grass of the parking lot median. “Smoking Section,” it declares. Smokers are not welcome to stand on the sidewalk in front of the court. No, they must walk across the street, where all can judge them.
Everybody witnesses smoking, and everybody reacts in their own ways. Some ignore it. Some cough artificially. Some announce the health hazards of smoking, as if the graphic warnings on the packs didn’t tell us enough.
Why submit oneself to such ostracization?
It’s simple: smoking, whether it’s a cigarette, a cigar, or a pipe, is soothing. It’s social, invigorating, and recreational. It doesn’t matter how high taxes are or whether the MPAA rates a movie because of smoking on screen; some people just want their fix.
Society can blame large corporations like R.J. Reynolds and Altria Group for injecting more nicotine in cigarettes. I myself detest the flavor of Marlboros for the same reasons that I reject Coors Light.
However, when it comes to the pure tobacco of American Spirits, pipes, or cigars—these provide unique sensory experiences that advance human interaction.
The smoke break enables discussion. Nicotine focuses the mind. It can help you finish writing a piece or debating an ideal. It is a hobby that is more enjoyable with others; solidarity unites the minorities who defy the general culture of anti-smoking.
Nicotine also imparts a sort of tunnel vision. This helps balance the mind while drinking alcohol and increases productivity in the workplace. Some of the West’s greatest leaders and thinkers smoked: John Adams, C.S. Lewis, General Ulysses S. Grant, and William H. Seward, to name a few.
Heck, even President Obama bums a few cigarettes in the White House!
With all the grand proclamations from nanny-state liberals about how smoking kills, the joy of lighting up is forgotten. The peace of walking under the orange leaves of fall with a cigar in one hand and a biography of Abraham Lincoln in the other. The smell of a grandfather’s vest to a child bouncing on his leg. That moment of sharing a light with a homeless man because you don’t have any money in your wallet.
Smoking presents a special type of connection that many abhor in an age of health paranoia. Yet when we obsess over our vitamins, minerals, and carbs, we also lose the amusement of the shared table.
Smokers participate in a pseudo-secret society these days. In some ways, their communal bonds are even stronger because smoking is now a counter-cultural act.
In all things, temperance. Let us all recognize that there is good and bad in all material substances.
But it’s time to reclaim the good of smoking.