Smoking and Other Infamies: Part I


The first time I took a drag off of a cigarette was when I was twelve years old. It was something my way-cool-older-cousin introduced me to. Camel unfiltered: the shit the tough guys smoke. Granted, you guessed it right; I coughed at least half a lung and it tasted like something from a camel’s ass, but still; I felt freaking cool. Of course, four years later, when it was pointed out to me that I wasn’t inhaling, well then, I felt like a douche, but as youngsters do, I started inhaling and feeling like a bad ass once more.

Since then twenty-six years have passed. A part of me would like to think that if I were to travel back in time to that day when young Mark was about to take that first puff that I would run up to that dumb kid, smack the cigarette out of his hand and delve into an anti-smoking-health-sermon, complete with the threat of dragging him to a cancer ward to show him what will be the end result of his youthful transgressions. Of course, that part of me is probably full of shit. Most likely if I got to make that leap back in time I would run right past that young Mark, lighting up, and head straight for a gas station to buy as many cartons as I could to take back to an overtaxed future. Am I stupid for this? Sure, but it’s also my stupid life, which is one I have enjoyed thus far. Don’t get me wrong, I have no doubt that the second the cancer or emphysema verdict comes down that my tune will change to “how could I have been so stupid,” or “damn that cartoon camel’s appeal to my youth!” Still, this doesn’t really bother me. In my present frame of mind, I would rather keel right this minute than spend a decade in the slow decay of an old folks home, even though I know I might feel differently once the Grim Reaper shows up to test this theory.

Now, where my hypocrisy really shows itself is that I try to somewhat hide my filthy, smoker activities when I’m around my nephews and nieces. When it’s concerning their lives, I envision some ludicrous future where they live out long and happy lives devoid of the trials and failures that I’ve known in my time. Where the hypocrisy comes is that those trials and failures that I speak of have, in retrospect, become very colorful and in some cases even cherished pieces of my past. Not only the good but also the bad has contributed to my experience as human, and yes, I feel there is a value to it all. Even the cigarette smoking fits in here. I can remember sharing a cigarette with the first girl I ever kissed, and I can also remember discovering the pain of trying to smoke with Bronchitis. But despite these sap-filled-reflections of a teenaged Mark, I still would never encourage any of my nieces or nephews to start smoking, even as several of them crossover into the idiotic, wonder world of adulthood. How can I live with this hypocrisy? This is how, by making myself the promise that the second they become adults, if they should so choose to smoke, they know they can always bum one from uncle Mark. Because once they’re adults, they’ll know what is right for their lives far better than I ever will. I may want my loved ones to make healthier choices than I have, but even more than this, I want them to experience the absolute joy of making personal decisions, the feeling of having control of their own lives. For people like me, the best way to find out the stove is hot is to touch the damn thing. And even for the more prudent mind, the exercise of discretion and abstinence is the same act of freedom.

But in both cases the choice must be available. Though I dislike the idea of any of my nephews or nieces choosing to engage in an activity that is harmful to their bodies, in the end I will stand by any decision they make as adults in pursuit of their own happiness, as long as it does not infringe upon the rights of others. The course towards each person’s happiness is their own to plot, and even if they fuck it up they’re still the only one who can fix it. Our happiness is our own. As for my nieces and nephews, if smoking cigarettes would contribute to their happiness than I would at least be proud that they pursued their happiness. This would be a much better fate than if any of them were ever to wind up in Congress trying to pass laws prohibiting others from pursuing their happiness.

To be continued…

About Author

Mark Leake

Mark Leake is the writer of the independent films Isle of the Damned and Pleasures of the Damned. He is a former member of the bands Animatronics and The Federalists, as well as a current member of the band AV Anxiety. He is also a student and a guy who thinks it is time for a political change.

  • I’m a smoker and I agree. I’ve made my fair share of bad decisions but never hurt anyone doing it. Too many people have forgotten what freedom means in this country. Making a bad choice is the very nature of liberty yet we write a thousand laws to make some choices illegal and a thousand more to save people from others. It’s immoral and it seems it’s only getting worse. It’s a sad day for our country

  • Nice right up, I didn’t start smoking till I was around 20 but am now 32. Three years ago I started using an e-cig. The first one I got was a shitty cheap one that didnt even have nicotine but it was enough for me to see that the concept might just work for me. So I did my research and bought a quality American made e-cig and just a couple months later I was smoke free and became a full time vaper. I have been vaping for 3 years now and couldnt be happier. The way I feel now is like night and day, I still obviously have an addiction but for me it’s all about harm reduction. The studies are slowly coming out showing what common sense would tell you, that vaping is a healthier alternative. Unfortunately the FDA is doing everything they can to squash it with propaganda and scare tactics, (Big Pharma, Tobacco Lobby). They have already tried to make an outright ban on them, but luckily we have fought to keep that from happening. It all goes back to personal choice and it makes me sick that the government thinks that it can make that choice for me. Anyways, if you ever want to check out e-cigs feel free to hit me up. Its a bit more work than smoking but the benefits far outweigh the cons in my book.

    • search66

      Being an owner of a manufacture that makes ‘ejuice’; the FDA is really putting the pressure and unrealistic expectations on us AND the community. Insane.

  • Meg Ruggles Hosler

    Agree, agree, agree. I began smoking at 13, pack of menthols a day by 15, quit at 27 because I was trying to have a baby, babies born/breast fed back to smoking at 33. However, it’s only a pack a month now. I would absolutely grab my teenage self by the throat and show her a picture of myself now and all the hideous smoker wrinkles around my mouth. I have always been vain, so I know this would have been far more effective than the threat of lung cancer. So all that being said, it just would have been another choice, smoke and look like this or stop and never have to see those wrinkles staring back at you. Then again, they may also be the result of drinking from straws 😉

  • kderpder

    the only reason you don’t feel like quitting is because you are a tobacco addict and that’s what addiction does; makes you not want to quit the drug. Also, you are no longer making a choice to smoke rather you are being controlled by the drug. there is no longer free choice there Mark.

    Another point i make with my fiancee is that you are supporting one of the worst corporations in history. Cig companies literally hid the ill effects of cigs and marketed to children, among other horrible and immoral business practices.

    Sure when you get cancer (and surely you will) you might regret it, you might look at your nieces and nephews and wish you had more time with them as i wish i had more time with my many relatives that succumbed to cancer. but what you should regret today is that you are supporting an evil corporation.

    All that said, i still support people having the right to choose and i think the gov’t is evil for implementing high taxes and making money off of a drug on one hand while saying how horrible it is on the other hand. Hypocrisy at its worse. (the gov’t is evil for lots of other things too)

    • kderpder

      *i should say nicotine addict because i’m not sure that there is much actual tobacco in cigarettes.