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Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Here's looking at you, cig

Yes, I am part of the dying (quite literally) group that society likes to prefix labels to such as 'dirty' and 'filthy'.

The group that will under any form of weather condition, still find a way to get their hit.

The group that in the past decade has been shunned from our typical haunts and went from 'cool' to...'not cool'.

I am a smoker.

Not only that but I am a regular smoker.
Not one of you cool 'casual' smokers who only smokes 'when I'm really drunk, yeah'.

So why with all the health warnings, the social stigmatism and the smoking ban do I and my fellow smokers continue to partake in this habit?

Even more to the point, with all the general knowledge around smoking, why do these 'casual' smokers smoke at all?

Let's look at some of the social history of smoking.

We all remember when smoking used to be cool.
Up until recently, films have been telling us this for decades.

The tough-as-nails cop. The loose cannon in his department who arrives at the crime scene of a murder, hat tipped low and surrounded by a haze of smoke. He pops the collar of his trench coat and takes a long draw from his cigarette.

If a police officer tried doing that nowadays, he'd probably be reprimanded for smoking in the workplace and contaminating a crime scene.

The stereotypical 'bad ass' character who would wake up in his dingy apartment and throw on a grubby white vest and beaten leather jacket, emblazoned with a society defying patch like 'rebel' sewn onto it.
He would swagger downstairs to his Harley Davidson motorcycle where he would pop on his shades and spark up a cigarette as he wheelspinned and roared away, leaving bystanders in a cloud of dust with the smell of exhaust fumes and danger.

If you saw someone do that nowadays, you would think they were a complete arrogant arse but in the 50's, he was one cool character.

None of these stereotypes are deemed 'cool' anymore because of how 'cool' changes throughout the generations (however for some reason, the 00's appear to think the 80's were the best thing ever, whereas the 90's laughs at them whilst dancing to Take That in their neon legwarmers and crimped hair. Very cool.)

Smoking appears to have gone down on the same neon ship.

Somewhere around the turn of the millenium, smoking started to disappear from the movies.
I assume it had something to do with the large amount of press that cancer and it's links to smoking was receiving that finally stubbed out the Hollywood cigarette trend.

So smokers aren't lighting up because it's cool anymore, so let's look at the health aspects.

It wasn't until 1950 when Richard Doll first published his findings in the British Medical Journal showing the first evidential link between smoking and cancer and it wasn't until 1971 when the first health warning's were put on cigarette packs in the UK.

Smoking has been attributed to heart attacks, strokes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, and most notably, cancer but despite our knowledge of all of this, we still smoke.
Smokers are constantly being discouraged to stop smoking due to health reasons.

The first anti-smoking campaign was started in the late 1920's in Nazi Germany, with Hitler himself even deeming cigarettes 'a waste of his money'.
The message never crossed the border of Nazi-Germany due to the Second World War and was eventually silenced at the end of WWII by American cigarette companies illegally smuggling tobacco into Germany.

The biggest tackle on smoking so far has been the public smoking ban, enforced in the UK in 2007, due to research generating evidence against the harmful effects of second hand smoke.
Conveniently, the NHS started up the 'SmokeFree' programme offering free nicotine replacement products and support and supermarkets everywhere had 'special offers' on items such as 'Nicotinell' for a good few months.
It was recorded that 164,711 UK smokers quit after the smoking ban came in.

We all know smokers who have quit. Most have had their 'last cigarette' for about the 400th time.
Most smokers and non-smokers will put this down to nicotine addiction.

Although I regularly smoke up to 5 roll-up cigarettes a day, I do not consider myself to be addicted to nicotine. I am addicted to smoking.
When I don't smoke I don't suffer the 'typical' nicotine withdrawal symptoms.

The only time I smoke is when I am at work or if I am out and unless either of these things occur over the weekend, I won't smoke then either.
This is probably more likely due to a matter of convenience as I am not permitted to smoke in my flat, whereas in our old place I would smoke all the time.

I particularly liked partaking in the stereotype of 'the smoking writer' because I like the glamourisation of the old black and white flicks of the man at the typewriter in a haze of smoke; stabbing out another cigarette into the overflowing ashtray as he takes a gulp of his coffee; black of course.

I enjoy smoking.

For quite some time I was under the impression that all smokers enjoy smoking; this is why they do it; but after talking to a lot of friends and co-workers who I have watched quit and complain about the 'gritty' nicotine gum and useless patches, each one returning to smoking a couple of weeks later, every one says that they don't actually like smoking and spark up just to quench the craving.

The group of smokers huddled outside under a dark cloud, complaining about their addiction with each drag of their 'cancer stick'.
There is a sense of camaraderie. A shared burden.

Is the social side what casual smokers like about smoking?

After all of this, I'm still not sure why there are 'casual' smokers, probably because I have never been one.

Us smokers are stuck. We're hooked despite it not being cool, healthy or socially acceptable.
You casuals have a choice.

Plus it's really irritating when you're always bumming cigarettes off of us.
It appears we've got enough problems.

1 comment:

  1. Casual smoking has to have a lot to so with lower inhibitions when drinking and wanting to live on the wild side of life.

    Most 'casuals' as you put it (why not call them plains or borings), want to at least try smoking or will smoke exactly to try and get into the group of people who are smoking.
    It's just like any other drug, people want to try them because, well why not? they'll feel they're part of a group and considered (well, a waster junkie by some), but still considered cool and dangerous. They have however been told these things are bad for you and consequently stay away from them...until they are drunk, when the drugs are flying. You also can't ignore basic human neophobia that will come with anything that is new and considered dangerous, but overcome with lower inhibitions.

    You said you enjoyed smoking because of the way it made you look, 'the smoking writer'. Why wouldn't other people smoke purely because they want to look cool? At least for one night anyway.
    Hollywood may have taken smoking away from the heroes and anti-heroes but bad guys still smoke.

    Why wouldn't you want to be the bad guy?