A funny thing just happened to me.
Having just spent four pounds that I do not have on a pouch of tobacco, and nearly being rumbled trying to steal some eggs, I returned home and happily rolled a cigarette. I then spent quarter of an hour desperately searching for a light. Bear in mind I have stuff to do. I rifled in drawers, scrabbled on my knees under desk and bed and cursed empty matchboxes with a venom I usually reserve for advertising and traffic wardens. Having scraped up twenty pence in my search, I returned to the shops and bought some matches. Now I'm sitting with a rollie, sated but concerned, as ash drops softly onto my keyboard and my lungs protest, that maybe this habit is becoming a problem.
I have always been a staunch believer in smoking. I enjoy it, I usually smoke between four and six a day, no great shakes in the cancer pool, and I use it productively. 'You use it productively?!' I hear non smoking brains enquire. Or perhaps my own tiny, objective brain-voice is what I'm hearing. But yes, smoking provides moments of respite and focus that often bring with them some form of inspiration or review. If I've been writing for an hour and good things are happening, a cigarette takes me away from the process, allows me the space to return and critique my work. Stepping outside for a fag brings with it a change of scenery, a conversation overheard, a new person to engage, sometimes just that moment of quiet that allows for simple reflection on the day.
All of these things can be achieved in healthier and cheaper ways, but I love smoking. I love people who smoke, I love smoking with them. I often wish my non-smoker friends smoked. Is this a gang that I've created in my own mind? Is it just my desperate need to find things in common with other humans that powers my vice? I certainly hope not.
There is a romanticism though, a residue of the iconic smoker, that I'm sure we grip with our stinky fingers. And now that less people seem to be smoking, we're probably gripping that much harder. Every smoker I know thinks about the detrimental effect it has on their health, the money they spend and how stupid they would feel if they got cancer off it. But we enjoy it, and Bob Dylan is fucking cool, Bill Hicks is fucking cool, the kids from Stand By Me are fucking cool. And even if those examples are all iconic, wonderful fatalists, and we are not. And even though they are either 'washed-up' or nutty or dead. And even though they were all sexy whether or not they smoked, their fatalism and charisma rubbed off on cigarettes. It's lame to say but it's true. And that is one of the reasons, I believe, that some non-smokers are such massive douche bags about it. They're jealous. Yeah that's right. Jealous. Jealous of our yellow fingers and puny lung capacities, jealous of our smelly rooms and furry tongues. Jealous of our scrabbling around on ashy floors and eyelashes burnt off the toaster. Jealous.
Until a generation comes around with more distance from the aformentioned characters, viewing them as historical figures not relevant cultural icons, smoking is going to be cool. I'm OK with that. Smoking forty bensons a day and having skin like crepe paper is never going to be a hot look. The nineties are done and dusted, we're all a bit more health-concious, moderation is fine now. I smoke in moderation and I think I've just talked myself out of trying to quit. I'll probably have a fag as I edit this piece. So I will continue my life as a smoker. I just need to be a bit more dignified in the way I go about it.