Looking Back on… Smoking part 1: Where’s my revolution? (Commentary, 8/02)

Smoking part 1: Where’s my revolution? (I’m skipping a few weeks of older content, mostly because The Truth is annoying the ever-loving fuck out of me, and I don’t even smoke cigarettes anymore.)

So, anyway, the other day I’m sitting outside of my place of work, enjoying one of the few pleasures left in my life, that being smoking. (That sounds morose, but to be fair, I worked in retail at the time.) Now, I don’t know about you, but I personally enjoy smoking, as it’s a reasonable way to relieve stress, a lot less time consuming than playing video games or writing, and less illegal than masturbation (in public) or murder. (Eh. Logically at this point it’s mostly the fact that, once you get addicted to smoking, a lack of nicotine causes stress attacks, and you develop an oral fixation that needs filling, so really, it’s better not to start.) I imagine some of you thinking of a mental picture involving at least one of, if not BOTH simultaneously, of the following ideas as I were to enact them. Please keep in mind, while I do feel bad for your suffering upon imagining that, I have to LIVE with this body, so trust me, you’ll live. You’ve probably imagined Grandma naked, trust me, I’m not the worst thing you’re imagined. (These days the internet has created and archived so many terrible things that a fat dude jerking off in public is probably on the bottom ten worst things most of us have seen in this lifetime.)

ANYWAY, I’m sitting outside having a cigarette, and a woman walks by with her child. Noticing this, I do what I always do; I move the cigarette away from them, as I do not like exposing children to my smoke; partially due to the fact that it stunts their growth, and partially because the little fuckers can buy their own packs if they want some, I’m not sharing. (Well, one draft of second-hand smoke isn’t going to make a child into Peter Dinklage, so realistically, I just did it because no one wants their kids exposed to that, and I’m not a dick, writing on this website notwithstanding.) Mostly the growth stunting thing, though. Anyway, as they walk by, the woman turns to me and says “Thank you” and goes about her day. Basically, she thanked me for moving my smoke from her and her child’s path.

I was all about shit-shocked.

As I thought about it, I felt good that someone had made an effort to say something about my dislike of exposing their children to my habit. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I felt good, not because someone had said something nice, but because all too often I get shit on for my habit, as if I’m some sort of second class citizen. (You would think that this would be the part where I’d apologize for this comment, but nope, I still agree with it; smokers are treated like human dog-shit because they picked up an extremely addictive habit, so much so that in many cases we treat drug addicts better. Come at me.) Think about this for a moment: I have a separate dining area and bar area, and some establishments don’t cater to me at all (Almost all of them don’t these days.); some STATES have passed laws stating it’s ILLEGAL to cater to my kind in any fashion (Almost all of them at this point.); people make rude remarks and give me rude looks because they don’t approve of what I do (These days we make ads that shame people for having an addiction to something. Think about that a moment; if you made an advertisement that openly mocked people for having an alcohol or drug addiction, you’d be burned at the stake. Smoking though? Fuck ’em, they’re smokers.); some STATES have passed laws stating I can’t do what I do in public, PERIOD (Very few, and it’s more that you have to go to very specific places to do it.); the government taxes me oppressively because this is my fault (Yup; a pack of cigarettes in the state of New Jersey, assuming it’s something like Marlboro or Newport, costs around $7.50, of which about $1.01 is federal taxes, and $2.70 is state taxes, meaning an actual pack of cigarettes costs about $3.79. Oh, but smokers are paying for SCHIP and stuff, so hey, light up America, think of the children.); the TV portrays my kind as evil, horrible people (Smokers are generally the bad guys these days, though the bad guys generally tend to be the cooler characters so it doesn’t always work out.); and health and life insurance companies charge me higher rates because of what I do. (That one I can at least understand.)

I feel like I need some sort of public revolutionary. Y’know, the crusade against segregation had Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, the crusade for gay rights has GLAD, I’ve got Russel Crowe. (I once watched that man go through a literal pack of cigarettes in about two hours. Long story.) I had Dennis Leary, Dice Clay, and Bill Hicks, but two of them quit smoking and the third one’s dead, so I guess it’s up to me. (Bill Hicks is kind of an odd duck, insofar as his death goes; the logical choice is to blame the smoking, but Hicks died at thirty two, which is a fairly uncommon age to develop the cancer. It could’ve been hereditary, it could’ve been a combination of his weight and smoking, it could’ve just been a fluke, or it could’ve been smoking-related exclusively, but we’ll probably never know. I mention this because I guarantee you Truth counts him as a death due to smoking, because that’s what they do.)

Okay, I understand why I sit in other parts of bars and restaurants; no one wants to be exposed to smoke unless they ARE a smoker. Fine. I also understand why some restaurants wouldn’t want to cater to me; they’re a tad more upper-class than most of the establishments I eat at these days, frequented by the upper-class dicksmacks of whom I will never be a part of. (That’s not really true so to say; a lot of restaurants that banned smoking were also family establishments that just didn’t want to cater to it.) Fine. I don’t get the rest of this shit, however. I mean, there’s a fine line between public interest and discrimination, and the rest of the shit here all about JUMPS over the line, bar none.

First off, who does the government think it is to outlaw smoking in public places, or worse, OUTSIDE? (Public places, I get, to a point. Outside is some shady-ass shit, though.) Alcohol is addictive, can cause cirrhosis of the liver and kill your kidneys, is abused on a consistent basis, AND impairs your motor skills, something tobacco doesn’t do, so why not ban IT in bars? Sound stupid? So does a non-smoking bar. (Now, that seems kind of dumb as a concept, but it bears noting here that Pennsylvania’s smoking ban offered concessions to bars based on set requirements. New Jersey just banned smoking outright, and that caused a whole lot of business losses. I’ve seriously seen three restaurants around me go out of business in the past several years, as well as a couple bars, and while I can’t really drive around all of Jersey to compare, general research implies this is a consistent trend state-wide: bars and restaurants with smaller clientele bases lost their shirts post-ban because smokers stopped going to them. The state can laugh in the face of strippers, which by the way, fuck you Richard Codey for mocking the career choices of your constituents, you’re a giant scumbag, all they want, but when your entire justification for doing something is “Eh, some places will go out of business, but it’s fine, someone else will make it successful,” you are saying that it’s cool to cost one person their life in favor of saving another. Go fuck yourself Solomon.) You want to cater to that sort of clientele, you do that, the government has no right to make it mandatory. And don’t give me that “Alcohol is more acceptable” crap, drunk drivers take more lives per year than smoking drivers, there’s stiffer penalties involved in underage possession and sale of booze than tobacco, AND the age limit for booze is higher, so blow me. (I believe the taxes are also higher, though alcohol significantly impairs your ability to do, well, anything, hence the stronger restrictions. It’ll kill you a hell of a lot faster if you get addicted to it, though.) Okay, first off, to make this REAL simple for all those of you following along at home, let’s take a simple example: you walk into a bar, you order a drink, you sit down to relax, maybe pick up women. First, this defeats the dating process, as most people will commonly look for others that do or do not smoke, and gravitate towards those they are like. So, if two people meet up in a non-smoking only bar, hit it off, walk outside, and one lights up, that’s an hour pissed away on nothing right there. (Realistically speaking, I’ve met plenty of non-smokers who are perfectly fine with dating smokers, but while cigarettes themselves stink to high heaven while burning, it’s not always easy to smell a smoker. This is a stupid argument, don’t get me wrong, but it comes from somewhere sound.) Second, when I drink, I like to smoke. I sure as HELL am not going outside every time I need a smoke, especially if I’m drunk. (Well, he says, ten years wiser, then don’t get drunk in a bar, moron.) And if it’s in a bar with a COVER, oh, fuck you! I’d sooner sell myself to a hermaphrodite crack whore for bus fare than pay ten bucks every time I want a cigarette. (No, ladies and gentlemen, I didn’t understand how cover charges worked.) In other words, bars and restaurants lose some patrons, bars mostly. I’m SURE business owners LOVED that. (No, they protested, in fact.) As far as smoking outside goes, I’d LOVE a cop to pull me over on that one:

Cop: “Do you know why I stopped you?”
Me: “Um, no, officer, I don’t.”
Cop: “You were smoking with your window down.”
Me: “Of course I was; do I look Jamaican?” (Oh, casual racism.)
Cop: “Er, right… that’s illegal in this state.”
Me: “HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Oh, that’s funny. Seriously, do I have a taillight out?”
Cop: “I’m not kidding son.”
Me: “Is this going to turn into a scene from Deliverance?”

And after I got out of the hospital, I’d write rants from prison for the next three to five years. (I have, in point of fact, been pulled over for smoking with my window down since that point, because ashing out the window is considered pollution. I shit you not.)

And as far as you righteous anti-smoking fucks are concerned, you can take your second-hand smoking, poor health, cancer fearing, pollution complaining, corruption of our youth diatribes and ram them… wait for it… RIGHT UP YOUR ASS! (I don’t know why I had to wait for that punchline.) Seriously, though, what do you think you’re proving here? That you paid attention in Health class while the rest of us were laughing at the pictures of the human anatomy and the deformed people? (Be mad if you want, teenagers do that, fuck off.) Get a fucking clue! I know full well what’s in cigarettes, I know what they do to me, and I know I can die from them. But as Solid Snake said, “You know a lot, but you don’t know how good a cigarette tastes in the morning.” Nuff said. (To be fair, he got super-fast aging disease because Hideo Kojima hated dealing with him, so smoking was the least of his problems.)

And while we’re on the subject, for god’s sake, don’t treat me like some kind of fucking criminal. I mean, a friend of mine went out of town for a family function and ended up staying in a hotel for a brief period of time in transition from place to place. He specifically booked a non-smoking room, and after checking in, went outside for a cigarette. The staff basically swooped down on him like some sort of demon creature in a John Carpenter movie and said “You can’t smoke in your room, if we smell smoke we’re charging you”. (This legit happened, and his response was, “I’m fucking outside now, assholes.” Unrelated side note: e-cigarettes pass the smell test with hotels, in that I’ve used them twice now and never been charged after the fact, so, if you were curious, there you go.) Now, I’m sorry, but we’re smokers, not mentally retarded. We KNOW when we go into a non-smoking area, we CAN’T SMOKE. It’s not a new concept. To remind us is one thing, to warn us of punishment is QUITE another. I’m sorry, if some asshole did that to me, I’d basically say “Yeah, funny thing about that, I CAN READ, so that’s why I’m doing it OUTSIDE. Next time I’ll make sure to announce when I’m going outside and why, just for you.” And I’d do it, too, just to piss them off. After all, they can’t charge you more for being a dick. (Well, technically they can add all kinds of charges after the fact, if you want to be pedantic about it. That said, I’ve never had that problem even when I did smoke regularly, so I’ve never had to test it out.)

And speaking of the whole anti-smoking crusade, what’s up with TV making us look like the anti-christ? Smokers are portrayed as general scumbags and dregs of society, with no sense of their own filth or bad attitude. (Y’know, I kind of wish that television producers would get together on something like this and say, “Hey, we should advocate internet security,” or something actually useful, instead of making Spike a smoker, which helped no one because half of the Buffy fandom wanted to fuck Spike, smoking or no.) Bullshit! I know how much of an asshole I am, and I am fully conscious of what’s coming out of my mouth at all times. I just don’t give a fuck what you think. I mean, come on, Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, basically said the the only characters he has smoke in the show are the EVIL vampires, and that there’s a reason for that. (Because he has no cognitive ability to understand that no one cares if Angel or Spike are smoking, because they’re hot and tormented, which is, at this point, one more thing to add to the pile of things he doesn’t get.) Yeah, if I could live forever, I’d smoke too. (To be fair, you live forever. Why wouldn’t you smoke at that point? Seriously; you can’t get addicted, you fucking kill humans to survive, why not just do everything you were afraid would kill you in life? You’re already damned and more or less immortal, fuck it, go all out.) Sorry, there’s something funny about doing something that can kill you when you’re already dead. Oh, and by the way, Joss, I love your show and all, but fuck you, you’re gonna die, just like me. Nice thought, but I think you missed the point; Spike and Angelus are the COOL characters… emulation is the sincerest form of flattery. Sleep tight with that in mind. (Yup, and that’s a common problem people fail to understand; if your character is cool, it doesn’t matter how evil they are, people will want to have sexual relations with them, and giving them a bad habit only encourages people to pick it up. If The Principle had smoked, that would’ve worked, though.)

And the whole “commercials against smoking” campaign going around is flat out bullshit. These pieces of crap range from stupid to absurd to flat out disgusting and insulting. Okay, three kids living together in what would be something akin to if a bachelor pad EXPLODED, the whole lot of them are some of the ugliest fucks on god’s green earth, we’ve got the cook there digging food FROM THE TRASH, and the one kid goes to light up a smoke and gets a “Dude, that’s gross” from the one moron, and a dirty look from our chef extraordinaire over here who just picked food FROM THE TRASH. (Yeah, can we talk for a minute about how fucking insane some anti-smoking commercials are? The one above was a very special kind of disgusting that my own mother couldn’t stand, and she hates smoking. There’s also the tongue piercing one, where a kid gets his tongue pierced in what looks like the most unsanitary place ever, then the person doing it says, “Join me for a cigarette.” I just… have so many issues with that. Is this kid getting an illegal back-alley piercing? Because if he is it’s probably fucking infected anyway. Is this supposed to be a sanitary place? Because if so, the person running it would not encourage smoking around their tools. Oh, and who in the fuck says, hey, I know I just made an open hole in your mouth, but have a cigarette, it’ll be GREAT. That’s not even a “I’m crazy enough to get a tongue ring from one of the Cenobites, but not enough to smoke,” commercial, it’s just fucking insane.) I’m sorry, I’ve NEVER been that hungry. And we’re supposed to take this as a sign that smoking is REALLY disgusting. Yeah, great, I’m sorry, ask 100 people which is worse, trash picking for food or smoking, and almost ALL of them will tell you eating a penicillin omelet is by FAR the worse choice. And this is supposed to motivate me to NOT smoke? Um, yeah… (I’m honestly not even sure how you COULD encourage people not to smoke, but most ads on TV aren’t doing it.)

And the government… big government, trying to make up for years of basically helping the tobacco companies get rich, are now taxing the hell out of tobacco sales to make the non-smokers feel better. Gee thanks, Congress, just what I needed, MORE money taken from me and given to you. Enjoy that gold-plated toilet seat, it’s my gift to you for all your WONDERFUL years of servicing me, your faithful servant. And by servicing, I mean if you substitute “servicing” with your favorite euphemism for forced anal intercourse. (To be fair, I completely understand why the government taxes Philip Morris and such, and they DO deserve it. I would also understand if the taxes smokers paid on their cigarettes went toward things like smoking cessation programs or paying into insurance agencies for the long-term care of smokers, but nope, that doesn’t happen. The Federal Government uses it to fund programs, like SCHIP above, and New Jersey in specific just puts it into the treasury for “general use,” which means literally anything. While I completely understand that the government is in no way beholden to smokers, it seems rather mean-spirited to look at someone who is addicted to a product and say, “Oh, hey, sorry you’re an addict, we’re just going to punish you for that now, because it’s your fault it happened.” You’re being punished for a choice you made, and it’s not even going toward educating other people not to make that mistake for crying out loud.) I mean, don’t get me wrong, I understand WHY I pay my taxes, and I pay them, every year, but for God’s sake, does the government need MORE money? This is a vanity tax, plain and simple, and their rationale is simple: “You brought this upon yourself, you can quit when you want”. Okay, then provide me something like AA. And before you say that there’s support groups, that’s not what I mean. I mean, something that will allow me to quit with a whole lot LESS pain involved. I mean, in AA, they basically say you should take up, what else, SMOKING to ease the transition. (I don’t know if that’s still true, but probably not. Though I will note that we’re finally at a point where insurance providers will cover smoking cessation methods, which only took almost a fucking decade.) And please don’t bitch to me with the specifics about what they say and don’t say, because I know enough former alcoholics turned smokers to know that it’s suggested, if nothing else. (Three, in fact, of which two indicated they were advised this.) There is not a comprehensive support group for tobacco smokers that covers all the bases like AA, and the fact that prescription devices designed to help you quit cost $50 or more, and cannot be claimed on your insurance plan, is bullshit. (They can now, fortunately.) The government will either fuck you on taxes or on quitting, but is willing to do nothing but educate and blame Big Tobacco, because, after all, they’re such an easy target, much like when you blame Microsoft for your computer not working, when most times it’s your own fault. (Sorry, but that’s kind of true, you guys. You need to actually run an AV program sometimes.)

And speaking of prescription coverage, let’s talk about health insurance. Insurance companies will charge you significantly more for being a smoker, because you’re more of a health risk. Okay, first off, if you’re so worried about my big health risk, LET ME CLAIM QUITTING DEVICES! (They do, finally, after the government started chipping in.) I mean, it’s not hard to fathom, they’re worried about my health, help me quit. Well, actually, they’re worried about my MONEY. They should just come out and say so instead of lubing my ass up so they can fuck me. Just tell me I’m a dollar sign, I can take it, believe me. (They still, hilariously, pretend that this isn’t the case, to which I say, after the horrible sequence of events my disabled mother has gone through with her federally provided insurance, fuck insurance companies. They’re greedy scumbags, one and all, and it’s only because of the policies in the US and the support of people who don’t understand the benefits of not needing them that they continue to exist as-is.) Second, why am I a big health risk, specifically? People who go through AA or drug rehab don’t get a higher premium, do they? (If they report it they probably do.) And saying that they rehabbed, so they’re okay is bullshit, as a strong portion of them go back to using right after they get done rehabbing. (About 60%, according to the US Government. Also, can we just note that the government treats fucking Meth addiction as a chronic illness, but smoking is your own poor choice? I’m just saying.) That’s a double standard. And why not raise the rates of people who, say, live in Compton, Washington DC, Brooklyn, or other high death count cities over those that live in safe neighborhoods? (Once again, according to the government, they can totally do that. It’s based on regulations and cost of living, though, so it’s possible that those in low-income areas might pay less than high-income areas, which is reassuring to residents of Camden, I’m sure.) Logically, they live in unsafe neighborhoods, so they have a higher change of, say, walking into a hail of bullets while taking out the trash than I do. I’m not saying I DON’T possibly have that problem, but that’s why I wear a flak jacket in my front yard. (You shit in a gang member’s car one time…) I AM saying, however, that raising the rates on smokers without discriminating against other potential high risk candidates is basically saying “We’re pissing all over you because we can”. (Which is still an argument I feel has merit. You can’t pick and choose what you deem to be a risk scenario that has a cost associated to it without looking like an asshole.)

But perhaps the single biggest offender in all of this just came about recently, and that’s The Truth. The Truth has single-handedly turned a fairly simple anti-smoking campaign ugly, using blatant smear tactics, grotesque imagery, shock value, and insulting references to push their campaign against “Big Tobacco” using any means necessary. (Honestly, as much as I acknowledge that tobacco companies are the fucking Devil, Truth is even worse, as often as not, and it’s constantly a battle not to go back to smoking just to spite their efforts whenever I see one of their ads on TV.) They are the single biggest example in the world today of “The ends justify the means” and frankly, I’m getting a little tired of it. Fine, smoking is bad, WE GET IT. But they keep shoving self-serving facts in our faces that are, at best, factual inaccuracies, and at worst, blatant lies, all while telling us the chemical composition of something we already KNEW was bad for us. They’re beating a dead horse with a spiky steel dildo while wearing backless leather chaps and nothing else, all the while telling us the horse raped our parents and would have raped us had we not killed it, and that’s just disturbing, folks. I’m sorry, it’s time someone told the truth about The Truth. (To the extent that I was able a decade ago, anyway.)

But that’s another rant.

The world needs an enema.

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