Cigarettes are a tricky matter. We're brought up to believe that A) cigarettes are filthy, smelly things that pathetic, pretentious people smoke to harm you, your friends, and your loved ones, and B) if YOU smoke cigarettes, you are a pathetic, pretentious person with a filthy, smelly habit who delights in causing harm to yourself, your friends, and your loved ones. As children, our parents and teachers tell us all about the dangers of smoking cigarettes, and about their destructive effect on your lungs, blood pressure, and libido. Our heads are filled with Lovecraftian images of cancer, heart disease, and erectile dysfunction. Painted for us is a grim portrait of the cigarette smoker as a smirking, yellow-eyed murderer, wreathed in blackened lungs and flaccid penises, his unflinching gaze set mercilessly upon you and everything you treasure in life.
And they are not entirely wrong.
But in the opinion of this generally biased and wholly insensitive pundit, cigarettes are a unique and positive social phenomenon, unworthy of their sinister image, their innocent visage sullied by hateful, prejudiced people unable to see past social branding and indoctrinated stereotypes. Think, if you will, of cigarettes as social punctuation. I understand that this will be a difficult concept for many of you to grasp, so I've taken the time to describe a few situations that illustrate my point, enumerated below.
1) As a period: The night went flawlessly. You picked the perfect restaurant, a silky blend of classy ambiance with rustic old-world charm. You took the liberty of ordering for her, a bold strategy, but it worked out perfectly because you studied the menu and wine list carefully and have been casually learning her tastes for the past few weeks at social gatherings through subtly guided conversation. You trusted your instincts, and she invited you up to her apartment for coffee when you took her home. You learned that you were sexually compatible, and you learned it several times. As you roll over onto your back, clothed only in smug satisfaction, you can imagine only one luxury left unsampled, a delicious finishing touch to a perfect evening of fine dining and soul-rendering sex: A celebratory cigarette.
2) As an ellipsis: You stand by a long table, strewn with red dixie cups, assorted handles of hard liquor and two-liter bottles of generic cola. She came in with some girlfriends, and through a mutual acquaintance you learned that she was not only single, but on, as they say, the prowl. You convinced a friend to tell her about your more charming traits, and now all you need to do is walk up to her and introduce yourself without coming off as a slobbering cretin wanting nothing more than to slime your way into her pre-beaten ironed-on designer jeans. You make your approach, stick out your hand, and everything seems to be going well. But suddenly, disaster strikes. Your tongue seems to swell inside your mouth, your knees turn to jelly and your brain to EZ-Cheeze. You mumble something about your name, forget to remember hers, perspiration pours off your face into her malibu and coke. You're feeling outclassed, outsmarted, and out of time to make a good impression. Your feeble attempt at a joke doesn't even get a courtesy laugh, and soon, you're standing alone in the middle of a crowded room, dejected and humiliated... Go have a lonely cigarette, you'll feel better. Who drinks malibu and coke anyway?
3) As a question mark: You sit alone in your study, pouring over your books, charts, and schematics. You've been working for hours, yet the question remains, with no suitable answer in sight. You're certain that if you could only relax, clear your mind and focus, you could somehow make sense of it all. You need a smoke break.
As you can see, the much-maligned cigarette is not what it has been made out to be by popular media and the medical community. It may give you cancer and heart disease and whatever other buzzwords the narrow-minded majority have chosen to burden it with this week, but it's social benefits are many. You may find the smell and taste unpleasant at first, but I can assure you that with a small amount of perseverance, you can learn to get past all that and move straight on to an exciting new world of social interaction. Good luck, and happy smoking!