Cigarette smokers receive a much worse reputation than they deserve. The amount of judgment they receive compared to people who frequently partake in other vices (like alcohol or marijuana) is honestly a little ridiculous, but not completely unfounded.
Lung cancer is expected to kill approximately 160,000 people this year alone; of those people, 90% of men and 80% of women will develop lung cancer from smoking. These numbers are scary, it doesn’t take anything special to understand that. So then, why do people smoke? It’s this manner of thinking which I consider to be at fault for the majority of crude stereotypes smokers are so frequently labeled with.
I tried smoking my first cigarette the summer I turned 17 and hated every second of it. From the burning sensation in my throat, to the asphyxiating panic that accompanied the thought of putting tar in my lungs—that first cigarette was truly the worst experience for a first time smoker like myself. And at the end of a coughing fit that drew tears from my face, it was obvious to me, after just one drag, that smoking cigarettes wasn’t something I had interest in.
My second cigarette, smoked just 8 months after that very real nightmare, was a completely different experience. Why? Imagine my surprise when I found myself half way through my second cigarette in the blink of an eye. How much could have really happened in the last eight months that, all of a sudden, I was looking at the end of my second, cough-free cigarette? Eight months; that is all the time it took for a cigarette to go from intolerable to relaxing. In that blink of an eye, what I once regarded as unhealthy and torturous, I now found to be the perfect six minute escape. One on which I would end up relying.
No two people are ever going to react to an identical situation in exactly the same way. Reason being that no two people in existence are wholly identical. The overwhelming odds point at the possibility that you’ve probably been offered a cigarette, to which most of you probably replied no. Schools and media do a phenomenal job in convincing people that saying “no” to tobacco is easy. Truthfully, it is—I did it once.
What isn’t taught in schools is how much easier saying “yes” becomes in the appropriate situation. To those who have consistently chosen to not be involved with tobacco, kudos. Seriously, not everyone can do that. Having that strength in character, however, doesn’t put you above those who smoke. Smoking cigarettes doesn’t make anyone any less of a person.
So, why then the putrid looks when someone is standing 20 ft. in front of a building smoking a cigarette? Don’t you think smokers know that cigarettes are bad for them? Why the casual quickening of pace when walking by someone who’s smoking? Worried that the second hand smoke is going to affect your health?
The point is, no one starts smoking with the intent of becoming addicted. Everyone is dealing with their lives in the best way they can, with whatever is available to them. If taking a step back for the length of a cigarette allows you a moment of peace, you sure won’t be catching hell from me.
There’s no guarantee that smoking will be a life-long habit. So, don’t let the fact that someone smokes keep you from getting to know them. For myself, as of late, I’ve been feeling life shift in a different, exciting direction.
It’s about time I quit. Yet I can say with absolute confidence, that once I quit, there is a pretty good chance that I’ll find myself pacing in the street with cigarette in hand, freaking out about some impending situation.