Tuesday, November 28, 2006


I'm no scientist, but it seems to me the numbers and categories in the study referenced in this article are bizarre. How is is that you could basically be smoking a cigarette about once every waking hour all day, and still be considered a "moderate" smoker?

Some of my friends already know this story:

I tried smoking when I was 16. I was in an outdoor education class, and our little group of 11 or 12 students was on a rock-climbing trip. It was a sunny weekend in mid-October. We ended up having two vaguely connected campsites -- one for the teachers to secretly drink at and get a break from us; and one for the students to secretly smoke at and get a break from the teachers.

The outdoor ed class had a king and a queen, two clever, laid-back, sneering and charismatic teenagers, in full, raging rebellion against everything. I adored them. They were total assholes. For a little while we were close friends and would get drunk together with her older brother and his friends when the parents were out of town.

Raised by healthy non-smokers, but still wanting to keep up with my pals, I compromised by taking drags of their cigarettes and not inhaling. I liked blowing smoke rings, and I was pretty good at it. I told my smoking friends that I didn't really inhale, and my candour was respected. I had a more sarcastic sense of humour then than I do now, and that seemed okay with them too.

Truth be told, I liked (and still like) unlit cigarettes -- I think all the sweetness of tobacco goes sour in smoke.

So sitting around that campfire one night, perhaps emboldened after a day of climbing up and rapelling down a lakeshore cliff, I decided, what the hell, I'll properly smoke a whole cigarette. We were sitting in the warm dome of firelight cracking jokes and being idiots in the otherwise perfect silence of an autumn night, the loons already gone south. I smoked the whole thing, carefully suppressing the impulse to cough.

Then I got up, saying I had to pee, and walked trembling into the woods with my headlamp on, looking for some place to get down on my knees and vomit. My whole dinner came up, and I covered it with leaves. I stopped by the shore on my way back to splash water on my face and try to shake the nausea.

Returning to the fire, someone offered me another cigarette. "No thanks, maybe later," I said, all the while thinking "Holy shit. How do people do that?"


At November 28, 2006 4:24 p.m., Blogger Slinger said...

I can totally relate. I used to smoke a few yrs ago, but was never a heavy smoker, more casual. Well the last time I had a cigarette I just about passed out! I was at work, and had people telling me I looked pale and I was sweating terribly. it finally went away, but I thought I was gonna die!

At November 29, 2006 12:29 a.m., Blogger sgazzetti said...

I can well recall the secret shame of nicotine nausea. You want to be liked by the 'cool' kids, and your body is all, "what the fuck, why are you poisoning me? UNCOOL!"


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