At some point in our lives we were pressured by peers to try smoking or had stayed inside the bathroom to breathe in concentrated colloid of carbon monoxide, nicotine, tar, and thousand other substances that we know will cause our premature death or would let us experience freedom for the first time, depending on how we look at the ritual. But definitely, the first time we smoked and imitated the way adults hold cigarette sticks or the appropriate way to take in the smoke compound and to exhale with an affected I-do-not-care-about-norms-because-I-am-now-an-adult are two of the important milestones in our lives.
I first tried smoking when I was eleven. I would steal sticks of cigarette from my father and secretly smoked them on the roof of our house or went to the nearby pineapple plantation and smoked to my lung’s content under mid-afternoon sun until I got sunburned or could hardly breathe. But since I had frequent asthma attacks, I thought smoking would cause me painful death. I stopped when I was about to turn twelve.
When I reached college, smoking, for me, was empowering. All the popular upperclassmen in UP then smoke. The ban against smoking was still being drafted that time, so if one was brave enough, he could even smoke while inside the classroom in the middle of a lecture, that is, if the professor did not object. I caught on the habit in my second year. It lasted for two months.
I then realized it was uncool. These same upperclassmen I looked up to who smoked in the strategic locations of the campus as if they were doing a theatrical presentation for everyone to see turned out to be mediocre students inside the classroom. That’s as far as my experience was concerned. None of them impressed me. The nicotine might have caused their brains to atrophy that it scared the sh*t out of me. Smoking triggers dumbness.
Not to mention it was expensive for a student like me.
After observing people who smoke every moment they’re not working, after lunch, while driving car, drinking coffee in Starbucks or just letting time pass, I’ve made up this non exhaustive list of the reasons why people smoke.
1. They have not gone past the oral stage (remember Freud) so they have a compulsion to stick anything elongated inside their mouth to fill in the void. A cigarette stick was cleverly invented as an response to this desire.
2. They have parents who are smokers and who inspired them to literally pass on the beacon to the proceeding generations.
3. They are stressed. Period. They easily panic when they don’t smoke; they’re less efficient, irritable, etc. They give all reasons imaginable – the traffic, sloppy work, strict boss, death of Michael Jackson, war and starvation in the world – all because they were deprived of a smoke.
4. They think they’re cool when they stand in a hallway and a stick is between the index and middle finger. After all they’re busy yuppies having their precious break from a day’s work of giving direction to the world economy. And smoking is their only consolation for heroically keeping the economy afloat. Come on, they deserve a Marlboro.
5. It’s a way to mingle with people they would normally loathe in a normal office setup. The smoke allows them to reach an artificial high that shrouds their better judgment. So a pesky office mate that blocks the way in the promotion ladder all of a sudden is perceived differently. Smoking humanizes that person, making them friends, at least during that five minutes of communal drawing of carbon monoxide.
And the list goes on. I’ll add one every now and then. Feel free to add your reasons.