Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Benefits of Having Smoked

Back when I was in high school, it seemed important to do something cool to get rid of my nerd image. In the fertile logic of the teenage mind, the obvious answer was to take up smoking. My older sister smoked at the time, so clearly this was a good decision.

None of my friends were interested in joining, and lacking any social aspect it was never particularly enjoyable. This was especially so given that I never really liked it much - I enjoyed blowing smoke (The Couch: You still do, actually), especially smoke rings, but the actual inhalation part was never that pleasant. So the whole process went as follows:  *puff*...This is so stupid ...*drag*... *puff*... This is probably giving me cancer... etc.

As you can imagine, this phase lasted about 3 months before the absurdity finally became too much - I had to not smoke for a week on a chemistry trip (yes, really), and I never bothered restarting when I came back.

Let's take it as given that I'm deeply glad that I gave up when I did.

Yet strangely enough, I'm actually glad that I smoked a little bit. And the reason is that it left me with a vague appreciation for the smell of cigarette smoke. I find it somewhat pleasant. Not in every situation, of course, and definitely not when you smell it on your clothes after a night out at a smoking venue. But if I walk past someone who is smoking, it doesn't cause me any discomfort, and sometimes smells quite nice.

I never used to have this feeling before I smoked - I just had the classic non-smoker's reaction of instant revulsion. 3 months, however, is sufficient to give you an appreciation for it.

Which is nice, because in life you're going to come across people smoking, and it's a relief to not be bothered by it. Otherwise you might end up like one of those unbearable busybodies, noisily complaining every time someone nearby is smoking. "Can you please not smoke around my child?", you'll hear them ask. I always thought an appropriate response would be "Well, I was here first, lady. Can you please not disrupt my smoking break with your bratty child?"

If you want to see how much the anti-smoking brigade has descended into a joyless, liberal scolding parody of itself, look at the reaction to e-cigarettes. They're basically a cigarette that doesn't cause the vast majority of the nasty health side effects. So celebrate! Except the anti-smoking brigade doesn't. Because, you know, kids might start smoking e-cigarettes, and then decide that they really want cancer as well as nicotine and so now start on the real thing. Despite the fact that the vast majority of substitution is likely to be away from real smoking towards e-cigarettes, not away from nothing towards e-cigarettes (as Slate Star Codex pointed out ).

I find myself siding with the smokers most of the time. The world would be better off if fewer people smoked, but most of the anti-smoking movement is just status signalling against a dis-favored group.

The fastest way to irritate anti-smoking types is to tell them "I'm a big supporter of taxes on cigarettes, because they're a heavily regressive tax. Not only is it the same dollar amount per pack for rich and poor, but since poor people smoke more than rich people, we're clawing more money out of the poor. Which I like, because our tax system is far too progressive."

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