Smokin' Hot

“You wanna smoke?” It’s the first thing my friend says to me when I meet her outside for a talk. She pulls out a pack of parliaments and offers me one. I shrug noncommittally, but still grab one. We light up and slump against a small stoop outside our dorm. My body relaxes and I smile as the first rip of nicotine hits my insides. In the summer, we used to take walks around the residential neighborhoods, but now the freezing wind and bitter weather keeps us close to warmth. Smoking is such a summer thing, I say repeatedly. It doesn’t stop us though. We act like we can deal with the cold for the sake of a drag. I stomp mine out as my friend goes for another. I pretend I don’t notice her shaking fingers and her nearly empty pack. I don’t ask, but I know she’s up to a box a day. We say a few more words and then I can’t take it anymore and go back inside and try to rub feeling into my legs. I don’t need to smoke. I like to smoke, but I don’t need it. I look through the door and watch my friend take a long drag, small puffs of cloudy white wrapping around her. 

College is a place to try new things. Whether befriending someone new or getting black-out drunk or taking your first hit or even throwing a pumpkin off a parking garage, popular culture has always emphasized and pushed this idea that college is where we change and learn. For some, it’s smoking. Of course, it’s not new to all. Students start in high school, junior high, even earlier, but smoking seems to explode in college. I can’t even count how many times I’ve been to a party where a group always leaves halfway to all smoke out on the porch or how many people I see walking between classes, pulling in as much as they can before their next lecture or like me, sitting outside with my friend and calming down after a long day. 

It’s confusing really. We all know smoking kills. We all spent 12 years of school having that idea jammed down our throats. We all see the warning on the box. So why? Why the hell do we do it?

Firstly, it’s relaxing. Despite all the truth that it’s a stimulant that makes our hearts race like crazy, it is a calming activity. It de-stresses. It’s something to do with our hands. It’s a feeling of control and warmth. It takes whatever problem and crushes it for a minute or two while we inhale the small stick of toxins.

Secondly, smoking is a social activity. Smoking is something bros can do when they want to talk feelings without looking at each other. Smoking is a sometimes cleverly used pick-up line. Smoking brings people together in an “oh-you-smoke-too?” sort of way. It connects people from a distance and creates a community within a community. You smoking? Yeah me too.

Lastly, it’s just plain cool. The image of a sleek, awesome Danny Zuko kind of character leaning against a brick wall is pretty damn sexy. It’s not just the fact this character doesn’t seem to care about his health, but he is smoldering in a hazy fog that is coming from his beautiful lips. Hot damn. Who doesn’t want that image? 

Yes, who doesn’t want that image of cool and calm and social? Come on, everyone does it!         

Oh, but when you start coughing up black tar because you can’t seem to breathe regularly and your yellow teeth are crinkling in your mouth from decay, just laugh because for a moment years ago, you felt damaged and cool enough inhale gallons of nicotine with a group of strangers.

Now, excuse me, I need a smoke.