This is going to make some of you very mad.

I quit smoking three and a half years ago. I don’t advocate smoking. I think anyone who does smoke would be wise to quit. Are we clear on all that?

Good. Because now I’m going to tell you to get the hell off your favorite smoker’s back. Your nagging won’t make him quit. Peter Jennings dying won’t make him quit.

People quit smoking either because they’re *ready* to quit or because they *have* to, not for any other reason. All the moralizing in the world won’t make a difference. It’ll make *you* feel all smug and superior and self-righteous, and if you need that, fine — but it won’t help your friend the smoker.

Nor will turning him into a pariah. If he’s got any spine at all, ostracism will only breed defiance.

I quit because I got *bored* with smoking, and for no other reason. Not because of a health scare. Not to accommodate changing social mores. Not because Sammy Davis, Jr. died. When I was *ready* to quit, I did — and I quit only once. Had I tried and failed repeatedly before I was ready, I might have become discouraged and never quit at all.

I don’t think I’m atypical.

14 Responses to “Smoking”

  1. Rachel Says:

    We all have our vises, and get very defensive of them. Try to rip someone’s vise away, you’ll just make it more dear to them.

    Here in the south, it’s a way of life. You pick your poison, and you’re set. Alcohol, smoking, food, martyrdom….

  2. Steve Gerber Says:

    Oh, Rachel, I am *so* tempted to add to that list…!

  3. Alex Krislov Says:

    Dead on, Steve. I gave up smoking in 1988, when Rachel was born, because as the work-at-home parent, I was the primary caregiver. Since then, I have grown ever more astonished at the treatment smokers recieve–and the worst offenders, in my experience, are the damn born-again ex-smokers. Robin and I have a firm rule here: guests are welcome to smoke, and those who can’t abide it are welcome to step outside. Simply a matter of treating the anti-smoke fanatics to their own medicine.

  4. Tom Walker Says:

    I smoke occasionally. This is mainly to cope with other people’s negative energy towards me at times.. jealousies, etc. Smoking during those periods keeps the enemy at bay for me..

  5. Bob Kennedy Says:

    Self-righteous ex-smoker checking in here. I smoked a pack a day, sometimes two, for ten years starting the first month I went to college. Lacking your sterling character traits, I quit because of a health scare.

    I understand everything you’re saying, Steve–When I see those “” spots on TV I want to smack those little punks around sometimes–but the whole time I was a smmoker (1979-89), I labored under some serious factual misapprehensions about cigarettes being a grand old American tradition (They only date to 1917; the word used to apply to short cigars, a very different thing) and some sort of protected constitutional right. I even used to get these tracts in the mail from Philip Morris about what a powerful political bloc and taxpaying force we Smoking Americans were.

    Steve, I can sure understand the concept of “Get off my back, you nagging harpies!” But I respect you too much to let you be quite that uncritical of a huge business that drives over a thousand people a day to an early grave. Al Qaeda, by comparison, only averages about 4 or 5.

    A bit of good news, though: They’re making a movie out of Chris Buckley’s Thank You For Smoking, with Aaron Eckhart in the Nick Naylor role. I’m really looking forward to it; it’s one of my favorite books ever!

  6. Tom Walker Says:

    Also the very “light” cigarettes are probably worse for you as more of the lungs can get damaged as the extra suction takes the smoke deeper down the lungs.

  7. J. Alexander Says:

    No way would I quit smoking my pipe. If I did, I would suffer from road rage in this L.A. traffic.

  8. Steve Gerber Says:

    Bob: “Lacking your sterling character traits, I quit because of a health scare.”

    In other words, you quit when *you* were ready. It has nothing to do with character. For some people, it’s boredom. For others, it’s fashion. For others, it’s a personal health scare. There are as many motivations as there are smokers, I’m sure.

    All I’m saying is that the one “motivator” that *never* works is nagging and ostracization.

  9. jamesmith3 Says:

    Congratulations on only having to quit once. I have one friend who probably *should* be nagged because he started five or six years after college, when he damn well should have known better.

    At any rate, I live in New York. If smokers aren’t demoralized by having to stand outside in the rain and cold to smoke when they go out for a night of drinking, nothing I can say is going to annoy *or* convince them.

  10. JohnH985 Says:

    You’re right, you’re quit when you’re ready, not because of people nagging you. My father smoked for over forty years. We all tried to get him to stop, but he never could. He would try, but it never worked. One night he had to be rushed to the hospital. He thought he was dying. The next day he quit. He had to want to do it on his own. And he hasn’t smoked for the last decade.

  11. Bart Lidofsky Says:

    I have a couple of additions:

    1) I am literally allergic to cigarette smoke (actually, it’s probably something in the paper, or one of the additives, because I don’t break out in hives or have my eyes turn beet red and start itching with cigars and pipes, like they do with cigarettes). I HATE it when people say, “I’m allergic to cigarette smoke” when they mean they don’t like it, because nobody believes me until I start looking like I’m wearing red contact lenses.

    2) My older daughter has asthma. We discovered the hard way that having someone smoke cigarettes in our home meant a trip to the emergency room for her.

    In other words, it’s one thing to pester someone into quitting smoking, but sometimes second hand smoke CAN be harmful.

  12. Tom Peyer Says:

    Right on, Steve! I don’t smoke anymore, but I still prefer the company of smokers to that of nags.

  13. gordon kent Says:

    You know, Steve, I don’t believe in ostracizing smokers — I often find myself keeping a lonely outside smoker company. Personally I’d rather have the company of a smoker I like than not. However (you knew there’d be one of those) I really hate the smell of burning tobacco. I’m not allergic to it, I just find it really distasteful. And old lingering tobacco is even worse. It really has nothing to do with my health or the smoker’s health. Just the acrid smell to the air. It’s simply not the best perfume.

    And, to mix messages, there’s an art to being a good patient. Believe me, I know!

  14. Jim Brocius Says:

    The nagging would be a lot easier to put up with if there was a snowball’s chance in hell that the naggers would listen to advice from me about THIER faults. Not a one ever has though, because like me they want and will make thier own choices.