Hi my name is Mike and I’m a smoker. I haven’t always been a smoker, and I don’t plan on being one for long. Like every smoker I’m thinking it is time to quit, and like all smokers I have a list of good reasons why I should. Things like money, health, smell, and family top that list. Unlike most smokers I also have a list of reasons not to quit… You heard me right, I have a list of reasons to keep smoking, and this is what I want to talk to all of you holier-than-thou non-smokers out there about, because next time you start on one of your smoker friends to quit I want you to actually know what they are giving up. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t get them to quit, it’s a nasty and expensive habit, but I want you to know that beyond the addiction there are benefits to being a smoker that will be hard to replace once your friend quits.
The biggest benefits of being a smoker are social, now many people may not believe this, with smokers being vilified to the point of not being wanted just about anywhere, but it is true. Riddle me this, when is it perfectly acceptable to walk up to a total stranger to borrow and having that person being perfectly happy to share? This happens countless times a day when one smoker asks another to borrow a light. Often this will lead to conversation for the 4-6 minutes that it takes to smoke the cig, then if you happen to work at the same place, go to the same bar, or live in the same apartment building you may become smoking buddies and the friends. Sounds like a fairy tale, right? Nope, I can’t tell you exactly how many of my friends started that way, but I can tell you more than half of my friends were met in a similar manner.
Now if you really want to see a smokers dilemma we will use me as an example, before I started smoking I was never the social butterfly. I found it awkward to just start talking to someone randomly. When I started smoking (and how that happened is a story for another day) I found a whole new world of social interaction opened up for me. I finally had a reason to start talking to random people. Think about it, two people are huddled outside, shivering in the cold, and both smoking, it’s kind of rude to just ignore each other for the 5 min it takes to smoke. I mean, really, who does that?
Now this ease of social interaction actually extends beyond outside smoking areas, if you are lucky enough to live in a state where you can still smoke inside, go check out your local all night diner. Take careful stock of the smoking and nonsmoking sections. One thing you will probably notice is that people in the non-smoking section are all about their own table and dutifully ignore everyone else, while in the smoking section you will probably see conversations between tables, people table-hopping, and generally a more social mood. I easily met at least half of my friends this way. Hell, we even use to have a saying, “It all begins at Denny’s.”
Now usually as you get older this become less of a deal. Most people as they age start to solidify a single friend group, usually sprinkled with co-workers, and interrupted with children. Things like children, mowing the lawn, home repairs, and day jobs replace the need for meeting new people. Me, I don’t have all that right now. I’m a single 34 year old male with no kids, a decent job, and a distinct lack of a girlfriend. So I’m stuck, I feel more comfortable striking up a random conversation with a girl I meet smoking than one who happen to know how to pick the ripest papayas. I mean just think of how easy it is to talk to anyone when you already have a bond, multiply that by the fact that you are increasingly considered social pariahs, and you have instantly something to talk about. Even at bars this is true. I can talk to anyone outside smoking but have you ever tried to walk up to a table of women inside a bar? Not so easy. Can you see my dilemma now?
So next time you get on one of your friends or family members to quit smoking, think about what you are asking them to do, and understand that they are not just giving up a addiction, but a lifestyle and conduit to social interaction. Understand that as hard as it is to give up the addiction, it will be just as hard to give up the easy ability to meet new people, and help them find new avenues to do so. Most of all, understand that quitting smoking is not just getting rid of a bad habit, but it is a total change of how you live your life and not all of it is positive.
That said, I am endeavoring to be smoke free by the end of the year, wish me luck.