Social Smoking: Why Bother?
I don’t smoke, but I have a lot of friends who do. When I’ve asked some of them how long they’ve been craving nicotine, many—to my disappointment—admitted getting into it only a few years prior.
It was the social thing to do in college, one of my friends said, lighting up while we were driving one afternoon. It was hard for me to meet people. But at parties, these huge groups of people would be outside smoking. I’d go out there, bum a smoke, and talk to everyone. She exhaled, trying to blow it out the window, but only succeeding in covering me with poison. I tried not to breathe, and nodded.
Another time, a different friend and I were backpacking through Europe. Our hostel had a small back porch, and a lot of people sat outside at night and smoked. Whenever we would go out there, she’d light up, and start talking to everyone. I knew she wasn’t a big smoker, and it felt strange to watch her light cigarette after cigarette, laughing and joking and going through a half a pack in only a few hours.
You know, I said as we were going to sleep that night (in a room that consisted of us, and 7 Argentinean boys…so I guess when I say sleep, I mean, “as we were attempting to try to sleep, something that never happened the whole time we were there”) you could just go out and talk to people and not smoke. Just because other people are smoking, you don’t have to.
This little piece of advice got me the silent treatment for a few hours. She said I was being rude, I thought I was just pointing out the obvious.
Social smoking is a phenomenon that seems to happen most readily during college and the early Twenty-Something years. The smoking groups, standing outside a party, huddled together on the back steps in winter, killing time before class, are popular places for people to meet. How can you not strike up a conversation? Persecuted by purists, shuttled out of doors in all types of weather, smokers share a common bond. There is an instant connection merely by association.
But is the experience really worth it? Is meeting a few possible new friends worth picking up a habit that’s proven to harm your organs and even kill you? Why would you ignore all the ads and instruction of your childhood, which told you time and time again how horrible smoking is for your body, in an attempt feel more popular? And, like I asked my friend, couldn’t you just go out there and not smoke?
A new study has even found preliminary data that second hand smoke from all those crowds outside of bars and restaurants may actually be harming those of us inside. With this new information in my back pocket, and a lifelong confusion as to why anyone would want inhale something that tastes like the shit that comes out of your car’s tailpipe, I can’t help but ask—if you’re not addicted already, why start?