As I pass month number three without sweet sweet cigarettes, I am saddened by what appears to be an alarming trend among our youth: abstinence. Twice in recent weeks, I have had occasion to visit my alma mater, and both times I have been confronted by wholly empty street corners. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
At first glance, I thought it was an issue of convenience. In this post-9/11 world (a phrase I abhor and would like to point out that I am currently using with a mocking tone), security at the tony private school where I matriculated has been beefed up in a manner I can only describe as Orwellian. The children have little badges, like you and your friends do for your actual potential target office buildings, which they must swipe every time they enter and leave the building. I don't know what the school does with the information about one's comings and goings, but I imagine it does let your teachers and perhaps parents know when you cut trigonometry. Something Alison F. and I never did.
Well, my parents were of the laid-back variety when it came to nicotine consumption, so knowing that I went out of the building between most periods to grab a smoke, would have only concerned them insofar as my health was concerned and would not have enjoined them to mete out punishments, but many of my friends had the kinds of parents that considered smoking a grounding offense. So, today's children of creepy parents would be wary of leaving the building every fifty minutes for fear their parents would catch on.
That was my first theory on the absence of teenage smokers in the vicinity of school.
But I went back this morning, at a time of day I remember being very popular for smoking, and I saw not a one. Not one lurking on the corner, not one in front of the bagel joint. No teenage smokers whatsoever.
And, forgive me, but it made me kind of sad. Yes, I know smoking is bad mmkay, but it also is a rite of passage for many teens. It's the first rebellion and, given how pretty much all of my high school smoking buddies have now quit, a rebellion that peters out given time and public outcry. Yes, there were the "I will never smoke" kids, but they were rarer than the "sure, I'll have one every now and again on the weekend" kids. I'm not concerned that kids aren't rebelling any longer, but I do have a sneaking suspicion that their rebellions might be riskier than smoking.
Oh, god, anti-smokers, shut up already. I know smoking is the most dangerous thing that ever was invented in the history of the world and harder to give up than heroin (lies, damn lies, and (tinkered with) statistics!). But you simply have to work really really hard to die from smoking the first time you light a cigarette. Similarly, overdosing on cigarettes is difficult. You have to really make a commitment. Kind of like overdosing on water: it's possible, but you've got to want it! Smoking might be a hard habit to break, but I think from both a health and culture perspective, I'd rather have a smoker for a kid than a tweaker.
Also, at an affluent school, there is always a tendency towards cocaine use. While this might be unavoidable, at least if your kid is a smoker, the chances are he will use that drug during the day and save the coke for the weekends. For all its real and perceived ills, smoking is a drug habit that you can do casually, throughout the day, with no diminution of one's faculties - your kid might be a smoker, but he'll still be able to use his brain in AP history.
So children, embrace smoking in a kind of retro nod to cool. Cigarettes make great props, lend you an air of sophistication, promote social bonding, and give you an excuse to take a walk every once in a while. They have their shortcomings, but you'll probably give it up sooner rather than later and, as I remember so fondly from my own mandatory health class senior year and now quote as gospel: if you give them up by the time you're 35, your lungs will go back to normal in a couple of years!
2 weeks ago