Wednesday, November 16, 2005

a smoker's rant

okay, so i am a smoker. i have been an every-day smoker for . . . oh god, it is so appalling to say it, but ten years. going on eleven. ouch. literally and figuratively. i quit for a summer - the summer of 2002, actually, when i popped zyban, which worked - i didn't want to smoke because i didn't want to do anything, which included working, eating, talking, or caring. don't give an anti-depressant to someone who isn't depressed. it takes all of your moods - good and bad - and irons them out flat. i missed smoking, i missed drinking (couldn't on the meds) and i frankly missed myself. so i bought a pack on september 10, 2002, knowing full well that the next day would be spent sucking down camel lights in quiet introspection, and that is where i have stayed. i am a lot more poor than i would be if i had never started, and i would most likely be healthier (though i feel too young to really notice yet) and i bet i would smell better (not that i smell, unless i've been out to the bar, thanks). i never would have fractured my ribs in college (from coughing, due to smoking while having bronchitis. yes, it is possible). i wouldn't be slowly but surely breaking my mom's heart if i hadn't started smoking. but i did, and i haven't stopped yet.

i am torn about this. yes, I KNOW it's bad for me and it'll probably kill me (i like to point out that no one will say "she shouldn't have smoked" when i get hit by a chicago city bus or, more likely, catch avian flu). yes, I HATE the tobacco industry. no, I DON'T want to bum you a cigarette (but i always do). what can i say? shabby excuses, i'm still a smoker.

but this website pisses me off. "my rights as a smoker," sponsored by rj reynolds. nice evil corporate last-ditch effort to retain smokers: appeal to the NRA nut in all of us (my tinfoil hat is picking up the signal that you want to control my life). sure, you have rights: the right to smoke if you want to. but not the right to smoke wherever you want to. is it a drag to have to step outside for your smoke because of bans in bars and restaurants? when it's cold, sure. but shut up. rooms smell better when there isn't smoke in them. non-smokers hate cigarette smoke (and i hate pipe and cigar smoke). complain that it has never been proven that second-hand smoke causes cancer, but you can't rule it out, and, let's face it, it's a pretty logical conclusion. they have linked second-hand smoke to lots of bad things, especially in children (SIDS and asthma for starters. which reminds me, i have a really horrific joke for you that sf heard on the radio - Q: what's a foot long and makes women scream? A: crib death. that's just terrible). you don't complain that you can't light up at your desk, in the grocery store, or at the movies, do you? you can still smoke in your car, in your house, or, like me, on your back porch. if you have kids, you should probably stick to the back porch. i'm not thrilled with cities that try to ban smoking on sidewalks and such, but sometimes it makes sense - like in front of a school or near a building's entrance. they're not trying to PUNISH smokers, they're just trying to protect non-smokers, and that's fine.

as a drinker, you have rights, and with those rights come responsibilities (to not drive under the influence, to not be drunk at work, to not be a loud jackass in the alley outside my apartment when i'm trying to sleep). being a smoker has responsibilities, too - different ones (like not forcing your smoke on someone else) - but it's more about being a rational and nice person than screaming about how you have rights.

they have a point about the taxes, though. i can get a pack in some states for around three bucks; i pay about $5.75 in chicago. mad tears for the first pack i ever bought: $1.19 marlboro lights when i was 14.

from the website:

Illinois's excise tax per pack of cigarettes: $0.980
Illinois's excise tax collection for the fiscal year ending June 2004: $744,402,000
Sales tax on tobacco products: 6.25%
Tobacco products sales tax collection for the fiscal year ending June 2004: $189,078,000
Local tax on tobacco products: $94,252,187
Federal excise tax per pack of cigarettes: $0.39
Total federal excise tax collections in fiscal year 2004: $7,778,569,117
Number of six-packs of beer that must be sold in Illinois to produce the same state excise tax revenue generated by one carton of cigarettes: 94.2
Number of bottles of wine that must be sold in Illinois to produce the same state excise tax revenue generated by one carton of cigarettes: 67.8

but no one has the right to be preachy and self-righteous (especially ex-smokers). i am still pissed about the man that walked up to me, three kids in tow, as i smoked outside of the sucksville mall during my break from the record store when i was in college: he marched up and said/yelled, "you ought to be ashamed of yourself! smoking will kill you!" i'm sure that he was trying to make a point for his kids, but learning by asshole example is no way to raise children. i just looked at him and said, "really? i've never heard that before." he gave me a dirty look and went inside.

ps i took these photos in ireland this summer. i would say that our surgeon general is a pussy in comparison for his lame warnings on american cigarette packs, but i heard him speak last april and he is actually a total badass - former street kid high-school drop-out purple-heart vietnam vet. you should read about him - i seriously loved him.

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