Take a deep breath with a smoker

2009-06-03 00:00

SO many bad habits and things our teachers and parents tell us not to do are socially accepted these days. The question of what defines a bad person or behaviour brought a certain vice to mind; cigarette smoking. I often wonder what I will say to my children one day when they ask why smoking is bad for you. Other than that it is very unhealthy, what is so wrong with it?

This is a touchy subject for many of my friends who have been smoking since before they even fell in love. Being the gullible one in high school who repeated teachers’ assertions that smoking kills would earn me a response like, “So does that drink you’re drinking!” or “Who won’t die one day?” Why are certain things permissible in society and others not? But it is worth i questioning some things about it. And is a vice like smoking linked to being a good person?

Some of the greatest men in history smoked, and there are famous photographs of them with a smoke dispensing thing hanging on their lips. Sir Winston Churchill smoked like a chimney. So did Nelson Mandela, who I always hope wasn’t forced to quit while he was on Robben Island. That would have been harsh because I remember how my late uncle Malum’ Thozamile, who quit drinking “cold turkey”, would feel as if he was losing his mind if he couldn’t access cigarettes.

It sure looks appealing, classy even. If it didn’t hit my throat in an unpleasant way I might be a cigarette smoker myself, because my smoking friends often tell me to try. I prefer other vices. The allure of smoking is just how cool it looks. Nothing beats the scene in which Clint Eastwood’s face has smoke coming out of his mouth after he wins a shoot-out with some cowboys in those old movies. I was quite young when they were banned but I do remember seeing advertisements for cigarettes when people were driving luxury cars and flying on private airplanes. It is funny how the mind works. We want to do what successful people do, whether or not we are successful.

Smokers are the kindest people with the most courtesy I have ever seen. You might agree if you have ever seen one smoker ask another for a light, or even for a cigarette. They bow to each other like kings and even light each others’ cigarettes. They seldom refuse to share. I would say it is an icebreaker, as it leads to conversation, but it is not just that. There is a sincere camaraderie. Maybe it is the understanding of how the addiction affects the body and how that puff relaxes more than the urge. Take a few successive deep breaths and you will know what I mean.

Breathing deeply is the best way to relax and smokers take a walk outside to do this a few times a day. They have more “peace moments” than a lot of us, which could be the one advantage they have over non-smokers. That peace moment is precious for sorting out your thoughts, regardless of whether or not you use it to smoke, and it is utterly ironic that it is usually accessed while practising a bad habit.

So, we will have to have intense negotiations with the children when trying to explain why smoking is bad for one. There is definitely a real reason smoking in buildings has been banned around the world. The fact that something foreign to one’s body becomes so indispensable has to be problematic. The warnings on the packaging are fact, but it is ultimately the individual’s choice — a choice that hopefully one makes when one’s body is at least fully developed. Morally, I really cannot say, but I’m not a parent yet so I have time.

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