“Smoking Is For Bad People”: The Decline of the Coolness of Smoking

At a young age, we’re taught that smoking is wrong. It’s bad for your health. It makes your teeth yellow, your breath smell bad, and it’s a gateway to harder drugs. You get it hammered in your head that you should stay away from drugs in the required Health Education classes and whip out every bit of literature and health promotion out there for “Drug-Free Week.” And honestly, you may even vow to never ever do drugs.

But then you grow up.

As much as people try to suppress it in the media, smoking infiltrated all the classic movies, from Grease to Home Alone to any James Dean film. The way to seem intimidating or as “a bad guy” in a film came with a big cigar and a stream of smoke emitted from behind an overcompensating chair. But back then, it didn’t have the stigma it does today.

My father is a Vietnam War veteran, and he told me that he wished he never started to smoke and that he hopes none of us pick it up. He started smoking when he joined the U.S. military because each meal pack came with a couple of cigarettes and, when handed things back then (especially American), you use it! Now, he smokes Winstons hard packs regularly, but 555 and Dunhill cigarettes when available. He avoids smoking in the family cars and in the house, but takes refuge in the garage and his word car.

I turned 18 in the summer between my junior and senior year of high school. I was in a community theatre’s summer musical show that performed in July and made some friends in it that were somewhat older. One of those friends Kylie took me to the hookah bar, where I had my first smoking experience and took it well. It was really *hush hush* at the time because obviously we were in a musical and “serious musical people don’t smoke” because it’ll ruin their vocals.

I didn’t really think anything of it. It wasn’t something I’ll yearn for, but it’s not something I totally despised as I thought I would. Growing up as a mama’s boy, I usually feigned a headache whenever someone around me smoked because that’s what my mom did, as she did when she’d had too much Blood (wine) during Communion at Church, saying alcohol makes her sick. As a child, I would cover my nose or walk out of my way to avoid smoke from smokers and give them dirty stares.

But then I grew up.cZOMGxp.jpg

During my senior year of high school, I became best friends with a Jewish guy from one of the smaller public schools. We always talked and hung out with each other, which even got me an invitation to his place for Rosh Hashanah. He introduced me to smoking cigars (Romeo&Juliets) which were pretty good. He also introduced me to his druggie freind from his school, which led to my first experience with weed. It was good to experience to say I’ve done it, but maybe I’m too much of a control freak to let my inhibitions decline. I haven’t done any weed since freshman year of college, when my Jewish friend came home for a break


I always had a soft-spot for cigars since it was my initial experience with smoking, but I continued also to smoke Phillies and some cigarettes. Phoenix and I were still hanging out on and off, and Phoenix got me into smoking Marlboro Menthols. I was never one to need a smoke, but it worked in social settings like for under-21 college house parties. And having some of my friends bum some off me was good for me, or else they’d go to waste because I wouldn’t use them all.

All through college, I always made the local hookah lounge my place to hang, whether it was for chilling on the weekend or to study for a couple of hours during the day. It worked out as a good meeting place for a couple of my friends, especially when I hung out with Tinker and Ginger when they wanted to get out of the house. Tinker, Ginger and their gang often smoked cigarettes and hookah at home (which I sometimes took part) and only did heavier stuff like weed on occasion (which I usually didn’t take part of, partly because I didn’t want to bum it, partly because I wasn’t sure if it’s been too long that it wouldn’t have effect).


When I was in London, I had bought my own hookah but didn’t have room in my luggage to bring it back home (I already had 4 luggages!) so I threw it out. When I was at Perseus’ in Wales, I knew Perseus has mild asthma so I had didn’t think anything of smoking.  However, getting there, I realized that both his parents are frequent smokers, smoking cigarettes in the house whilst watching TV or on the computer. To me, it was reminiscent of Phoenix’s family life, but I knew that this casuality to domestic smoking is more common than what I’ve been exposed to in my upbringing. I went with the flow and took a couple of smokes during my stay.

But then I grew up.

Since my European trip in 2012, most of my friends and I had graduated college. I don’t go hangout at the hookah lounge or go to my friends’ house anymore, nor do I frequent the bars since my friends have left the college town. Perseus had told me that he doesn’t like me smoking cigarettes and especially anything heavier, so I’ll lay off it, not as if I was ever addicted to it.

Even now, with the commercials where it says “smoking costs more than money,” the health promotion campaign against smoking is actually doing a good job. It’s gone a long way from having a small label saying, “Surgeon General says pregnant women shouldn’t smoke!” Printed advertisements have long been taken out of the  magazines and the beauty and desirability of smoking have been replaced with the “reality” commercial of a voice-boxed wheelchair-ridden dying man.

Having health promotion being a small portion of my college education, I’m glad of the increase of advertising for this great cause but objectively, I must also note that smoking has gotten a poor image overall. My sister Rose, who babysits my two nephews, always tells them that smoking is bad, and that the person who’s smoking is a bad person. Smoking is even verified as a “bad person” attribute as the “#LeftSwipeDat” anti-smoking commercial premiered on TV.

Smoking cigarettes is seen as unattractive as smoking weed is seen as a hippie drug, and as heroine makes a larger than ever epidemic in rural areas. Even as the legalization of marijuana in a handful of states have been successful, it’s balanced out by the infiltration of smoking cigarettes several feet away from buildings in particular cities and the utilization of smoking rooms and in designated areas. The perception of smoking anything have been implanted into our minds as a negative characteristic as much as tattoos do, neither of which should be negatively associated.

I’m not trying to be an advocate for smoking, that we should all try it and regularly partake in a weekly fag, and I understandably see the side effects of first and second-hand smoking, but I wouldn’t consider smoking as a bad person trait, and I wouldn’t think any less of a smoker. But as per Perseus’ wish, and as I’m a good spouse and it’s not difficult for me to do, I will continue to seldom leisurely smoke cigarettes and avoid all harder drugs, with occasional hookah sessions.

It’s an odd thing, though, with smoking. Even people who do smoke have it in their minds what a smoker should look like or be. When I ask if I can bum a cigarette from my friends, they’re always like, “Oh wow! I’ve never seen you smoke before. I would’ve never taken you for a smoker!” What makes a smoker, anyways? Do I look too prim, proper, or goodie-goodie that I don’t look the sort to smoke? Who knows.

All I know is that we’ve come a long way from when Rachel tried to take up smoking to fit in at the office in Friends.


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