I think I’d like to study the sociology of smoking. Really, it’s a disgusting habit, but thousands of people do it. As I’ve told many would-be smokers, you’ll never find a smoker that tells you to start, unless they work for Big Tobacco. I don’t know why anyone has a second cigarette, myself included.

I had my first smoke when I was 12. I remember it because it was the day after my brother’s birthday - April 11th, when he was 11. My best friend P’s older brother D had some cigarettes, and we all went out into the woods to try them - “we” being my brother, my best friend P, his older brother D, and myself. I remember trying to hold the smoke in without coughing, because that’s how D told us to do it. I had to teach him how to light it - he didn’t know you had to inhale as you were doing it, but I had picked that much up from my Dad.

It was a pretty miserable afternoon. There’s nothing pleasant about your first smoke, especially at 12. We thought we were being cool and rebellious, but really, it was just stupid.

Until I was probably 15, my brother and I would occasionally steal cigarettes from my dad to smoke in the woods. At some point, I came across this water proof tube that was intended for pool use, but fit five or six smokes just perfectly. A year or two prior, we had hurled a molotov cocktail into a tree, which left a nice crater to hide them in. My brother and I would wander off into the woods to smoke a couple. I remember saying “You’re smoking ANOTHER ONE?!” only to find out it was his third - he bum-lit another one when I wasn’t looking; this is why I’ve always been confounded by people who couldn’t bum-light a cigarette, because I learned how to do it in the woods at 13.

I don’t know why we kept sneaking out there to smoke them; they weren’t pleasant, and we just wound up coughing all afternoon. I think we stopped for a year or two in there, because I remember having an incredible craving for a smoke when I was about 16. I certainly wasn’t addicted, and I still don’t have a good reason for those cravings. I asked my buddy J to buy me a pack, since he was a year older than everyone else in my class - the only 18 year old I knew well enough to ask for a favor. B recommended Marb Reds (he’s a real redneck), so I smoked those for a year or so, a pack lasting me a couple weeks. I didn’t know at the time that nobody smoked Marb Reds - sometime during my freshman year of college, someone asked to bum a smoke, and refused one when I offered a “cowboy killer.”

I didn’t smoke a lot through the rest of high school, maybe a pack a week. I didn’t want my parents to find out, particularly since I didn’t turn 18 till I’d been in college for two months. When I worked at Burger King, I’d have the older guys buy them for me from the gas station next door, and hide them in the trunk of my car. I have a lot of memories of driving around in that car, SallyRalph, just for a smoke. Smoking was prohibited on campus in high school, and since I stayed after school till 5 or 6 almost every day, I’d often take off with someone to drive around town and have a smoke.

In college, I found smoking to be a great social habit. I can’t even count the number of people I met because I was outside smoking at the same time they were, or bumming smokes from people, or bumming smokes out. No one believes me when I mention the social aspect as a “pro” of smoking, but it’s real.

No one can deny that smoking is bad for you. I’d like to quit; every time I see some old guy that can’t breathe and smells like shit because he still smokes, I think “This is my last one.” It never takes, though. Part of it is the nicotine addiction, which I’ve nearly broken a few times over the past four years. More than that, though, is the social aspect and the memories attached to it. For example, the other night I had my window open, and outside smelled like Wendy’s house in the fall of my sophomore year. I had to step out for a smoke, I just couldn’t help it. There are too many memories associated with that period of time, too many good conversations shared over a smoke, to just ignore it. Other times, I just need to sit on the bench outside of NRH and reminisce to myself about the many conversations I had right there my freshman and sophomore years. It’s got nostalgic value.

I know I should quit, and no one wants to let me forget that. When people tell me “Those are bad for you,” I reply with “There’s a warning on the label, thanks,” a response that I picked up from M.

I know there’s no good reason to keep smoking. Every time I have to go back to the bench because I’m winded, or wake up coughing, I curse it, but I know it’s not as simple as kicking a nicotine habit.

Really, there’s no good reason to have a second cigarette, ever. The first one is miserable and tastes like burning dirt. After a couple packs, you learn to enjoy them - maybe because you actually enjoy the taste, maybe because you convince yourself that you do because you actually enjoy the nicotine. I never should have finished that first smoke when I was 12, but that’s neither here nor there. For years, I kept saying that I could quit whenever I wanted, and then I actually tried to do it. I’m hoping that it will be easier once I graduate and don’t live with a smoker, but there’s no denying that it may be a part of my life forever.

They say that children of smokers are more likely to start smoking. Anyone who doesn’t believe that hasn’t experienced it first hand.