Sunday, August 9, 2009

smoke, smoke, smoke that cigarette
a letter to the smokers of the world

dear anyone who smokes,

hi. it’s tony.

i know you, 'cause i used to be one of you.
hi! welcome!

okay, i’ll be honest. there have only been a few times in my life when i could really be considered "a smoker” – when i'd actually carry a pack of cigarettes around with me wherever i went. when i'd smoke freely in bars, restaurants, coffeeshops, walking down the street, driving in my car, talking on the phone, immediately after dinner, sometimes during dinner, with my morning coffee, right after sex, just before sex, in the middle of sex, when i was nervous, when i was relaxed, when i was happy, when i was tired, when i was anxious, and when i was trying to quit smoking.

my smoking history

my legitimate smoking history mainly involves smoking unfiltered cigarettes because they made me high as a kite on may day. camels were good. if i didn’t have any unfiltered camels, i’d rip the filter off a regular camel and smoke that. easy peasy. i'd usually smoke at the end of the day. at home. at night. in my room. in secret. with the door locked. two or at the most, sometimes three. a day.

i haven't had a cigarette in about eight years. at times, it's been difficult to not take up again. i’d stub my toe and think “damnit, i wish i had a cigarette.” (i often think the same thing about crack.) but for the most part, once i decided to quit, i quit. same with caffeine, booze, marijuana, cocaine, and…mm-hmm…crack. those were harder. especially the crack. and the booze. and the cocaine.

what was not hard was quitting heroin. i never did heroin. and i lied about the caffeine. are you kidding? i tried to quit caffeine once and ended up huddled in a corner, clutching a mrs. beasley doll, sweating and shivering and mumbling something about magilla gorilla. then I had a sip of diet coke and suddenly all was right with the world. it's a true story.

but hey. this isn't about me, it's about you. you smokers. hi.

the tubey thing

a few things. first: what do you think happens to that little tube of synthetic material stuff – “the filter” - that so many of you toss out into the street when you're done smoking? i know, it's soooo small. not a big deal. i feel silly for even bringing it up. i mean, once it's flicked out into the street, or out your car window, you can hardly see it.

thing is, those cute little tubey things never die. they do not dissolve away into the earth like the nasty chicken bones on the sidewalk in new york, or like starving children in africa. they don’t get eaten by birds, or by squirrels or other woodland animals, like those plastic bags from the grocery store. they last forever, those tubies. forever and ever, amen.

tubies last longer than even you. think of that the next time you launch that little thingy onto the sidewalk: it’s gonna still be there long after your lungs turn black and crusty and you collapse from heart failure or have a debilitating stroke. or emphasima, that’s a good one.

the japanese put their little tubies in a smart pouch they carry with them everywhere they go. and then, i guess, they must empty out that pouch in some alley somewhere. i don’t know where that alley in japan is, ‘cause i rarely see any tubies anywhere, even though it is a law in japan that every japanese citizen smoke. even little japanese babies must smoke. but they all carry little baby tubey pouches. those japanese smokers sure are smart. didn’t they invent the transistor radio too?

you are not an iconic movie star

now. let’s talk about how cool you look when you smoke. here’s a clue: you don’t. you look like an stupid person. okay, i know that’s harsh, and I’m sorry, but it’s true. studies have shown that very few people in the world have ever actually looked cool smoking. james dean, holy crap yes. bette davis, uh, yeah. i mean, her cigarette smoke was a supporting character. i think it was even nominated one year. it was often more interesting than anyone else in the scene.

so unless you’re james dean or bette davis – and you’re not – chances are you look pretty stupid smoking. even to other smokers.

think about it. you suck on a skinny little white stick (um…a long, skinny, white penis, okay?) and you contort your mouth into the oddest and ugliest shapes to blow smoke out one side of your face or the other. seriously, have you watched yourself blow smoke out the side of your face? do it sometime. watch yourself smoke in a mirror. see the faces you make? these are faces made by gouls, not humans.

i'd love to kiss ya...

and you know what else? i know you know this - not a lot of non-smokers will want to kiss you. really. and that’s a whole lot of people. if you’re single and looking to date, you’ve just narrowed down your field of possibilities tremendously. think of all those people who don’t smoke who might ordinarily think you’re hotty mchotterson, but then see you light up and suck on one of those long skinny white penis things and suddenly a loud buzzer goes off and a big, red x shows up across your face. oh well. maybe that smoker girl in the corner will go home out me.

let’s talk about how you can cover up that smoker smell with cologne or perfume. another clue: you can’t. no matter how much stinky stuff you slather on, the stench of cigarette is still the most prevelant smell. that, and you’re wearing way too much cologne. do we have to talk about how sexy that is? the mix of stale cigarette and enough cologne to gag an alpaca? so hot.

but i have to say, what’s most impressive is how you can make your breath smell so minty fresh with only a tiny piece of dentine ice, or just a spritz of peppermint breath spray. clue: you can’t. you could chew ten packs of gum, down an entire bottle of listerine, and chew on bunches of parsley until your teeth are green (which might be better than dirt brown) and you’d never cover up your bad breath. you’re eating smoke, dunderhead! it’s going down into your lungs. into the deepest, darkest crevices of your body. your bad breath is coming from the creases in your bowels and it’s not gonna go away with a stick of wrigley's, babe. i’ve never purposefully smelled a smokers poop, but i bet your poop smells like stale, dirty smoke too. and cologne.

you will quit...someday

look smokers. i love you. i do. and i don’t judge. okay i do judge, i'm sorry. and i can’t really say i love all of you. you have every right to smoke, of course, except where people want to actually breath. and you know, there’s hope: you could quit. i know it's really tough. but one way or another, you will quit someday. and hey, if you’re a hundred and two years old and you have ten minutes to live, i say smoke ‘em up!

until then, you’re tossing your tubey into the street for someone else to clean up (or not, ever) your teeth are a lovely burnt sienna, your breath smells like grandma’s septic, you’re not james dean or bette davis, and you’re wearing an entire bottle of old spice that mixes beautifully with the stench of stale smoke and bowel crease.

you are pretty damn hot, smoker.


  1. I recently quit, as some of you may know. I have to say, I'm still grateful for the smokers that are out there. Yes, the 'tubey' thing sucks (we should all smoke unfiltered cuz they are better for you anyway ;-)), but I love passing a smoker on the street and getting a whiff of the beautiful fragrance that only comes from a fag. A lit fag, that is.

    Also, you're keeping the southern economy afloat. And you are not costing the tax payers billions in health care, because they never account for the money you save taxpayers by dieing early.

    So smoke away. And if you see me, blow some in my face! I'll thank you. Really.

  2. Other quick thought:

    If you wanna quit, I highly recommend:

    After several futile attempts, some lasting as little as a few hours, some as much as a week, I have broken a 20 year habit with this simple, free, online course. And, yes, hypnotherapy helped. Almost two months, and I haven't gained any weight, either!

  3. If skylight hadn't imploded on itself, this would be the most important thing e er posted on the world wide interweb. You have crystalized my thoughts exactly.

    When I come out of the subway and get stuck behind someone who is frantically reaching for that first puff, instead of walking briskly up the stairs to the street like the 113 people behind him/her- and the idea of doing two things at once is an obviously foreign one- and they light up and exhale that huge, withdrawal-relivieving first cloud of smoke and it lingers behind them to envelope all who come after, I am faced with two choices:

    1. Cough in a manner that is not only fake but clearly meant to induce pointed guilt and shame
    2. Pretending am filming a movie where I am a)searching through the fog of
    London for Jack the Ripper, b)emerging triumphant from a horrible coal mining collapse in West Virginia, circa 1933, or c) dancing in the remake of Slaughter on Tenth Avenue and I am in a seedy bar waiting for my moll, Vera Ellen to appear at the top of the stairs

    And when anyone within my field of vision flicks that still-burning stub away I say, in my best passive-aggressive tone: "Just throw that anywhere". Of course what I am thinking (and you can add this to the list of things for which I will burn in Hell) is "please smoke faster so that you will die sooner and then the rest of us can clean up this planet and live happily smoke-free ever after.

    Look folks, if Jamie Johns can quit while facing all that he has faced in the last two months, anyone can.

  4. It may be hard for smokers to hear, but this post is pretty spot on. I am doubly sensitive to the behavior of smokers now that I have children. It irritates the crap out of me when my toddlers have to pass through a crowd of smoke just to leave the mall or a restaurant or to get through the freaking zoo.

    Reminds me of the altercation I had with a fellow mom who was smoking in the second lane of a drive through pharmacy while I was there picking up meds with my sick infant. After she got squirrley with me when I politely asked that she wait to smoke till she left the pharmacy, I wished her luck getting prescriptions for the lung cancer she was giving her children (they were in the van with her).

    I'm sure there is a special place in hell for intolerant b*tches like me, but I hope it is on the other side of the pit from the smokers.

  5. holy crap, a Mrs. Beasley reference and a Magilla Gorilla reference both in the same paragraph!
    does Branch's Vera Ellen reference make it a trifecta.
    when i used to ride a motorcycle without a windshield, i once got hit in the head by a lit butt that someone had tossed out their window.
    and yes, Jamie is a god and my hero.

  6. That's it. I quit. Today.

  7. Tony's really right about the other-people-won't-want-to-kiss-you part. Yup, a big red 'X' over your face.

    And it'll hurt your non-romantic social life, too. In New York smoking has become UTTERLY uncool. Like social pariah uncool.

    In fact, the only groups among whom smoking seems to be common around here are certain immigrants (like Greeks and ex-Yugos) and ... actors.

    Actors. What's up with that, Tony?

  8. And ballerinas smoke, too. But we have to cut them some slack because they're not allowed to consume any actual food.

  9. A few years ago I got burned by a smoker at Summerfest who was holding her cigarette down and slightly behind her in a crowd. She swung her arm back a little and burned my hand. I cried out and she just looked back and brought the cigarette forward. No acknowledgement or apology.

    Anyone remember Steve Martin's response to "Mind if I smoke?" "No, mind if I fart? It's one of my habits. I really like to light one up after sex. I tried to quit once, but I gained a lot of weight...."

  10. RE: that whole red X over your face thing. I made a rule a long time ago- It doesn't matter how attractive you are, if you smoke you might as well have a gaping head wound. There's just NO way!

    In fact "head wound" became our code for a hot guy who smokes.

  11. Tony you have talked about one of my biggest pet peeves, the tossed away cig butt. Smoking can be slightly tolerated. You go to a bar, that's expected.

    I love the mom in the car, on the cellphone and smoking with the kids in the back seat. I had ask a the woman not to smoke while she was doing that. Not just because of the kids or smoking in general, but she was in her car at the gas station while gas was being pumped in the car. Come on!

  12. What's really interesting to me, from a sociological point of view, is that in the 60s, my childhood era, smoking was de rigeur -- many were the times my father would inadvertently flip a lighted cigarette butt out the driver's window in the car, only to have it come right back in through the backseat window and set it smouldering. My mother smoked in the bathroom, which was detestable and still rankles. I once had the great good fortune to sit next to Kitty Carlisle when she was in Milwaukee to launch the Skylight's endowment campaign, and we talked about singing. I asked her how people in her day could smoke and still sing -- she said, "Oh, we all did it and never gave it a thought." Contrast that with today's singers. A huge cultural shift. A welcome one.

  13. Great post, Tony!

    I remember back when you were a smoker and I’m so glad to read that you quit years ago!

    I never understood the appeal of smoking—except for Jolly Ranchers, nothing you spend five minutes sucking on should get smaller.

    Like some of your other readers, I also get passive aggressive with the litterbugs. Once I was walking through a parking lot behind two women when one dropped her lit cigarette on the asphalt and kept on walking. I picked it up and sped up to catch her. I held up the cigarette and said “I believe you dropped this. There’s an ash can about 15 feet ahead of us, if you don’t want it anymore.”

    She was aghast but eventually took the cigarette back after I held it out to her. I admit that I was indecently smug for days afterward, but damn it felt good!

  14. Hey, child of smokers, at least you weren't a child of a CHEWER. Nothing quite as bad as a wad of chewed up tobacco spat out the window ricocheting into the back seat and right into the face of an indignant adolescent.


  16. Melanie SchuesslerAugust 10, 2009 at 3:04 PM

    Tony, this is a fantastic post, but I have to hand it to Robb Gries, who just made me laugh until I cried with the quote of the day: "I never understood the appeal of smoking--except for Jolly Ranchers, nothing you spend five minutes sucking on should get smaller."

    Thank you both!

  17. i want to respond, but i have to go out and smoke.

    PS - the Japanese baby reference was very funny.

    (seriously, i love that people are concerned about my health, especially people like my long-time friend, Tony. i think about it...haven't given way to conceding and trying to quit though. perhaps someday. thank you for the post, Tony.)

  18. Ive recently switched to electronic cigarettes as a means of dealing with my vice. Ive been smoking for 4 years, and have ben planning on quitting. I tried a couple of other methods in the ast, but none gave me the hand to mouth thingy like this. Im on Day 5, so we'll see how it goes.

  19. I saw the e-cigarettes at State Fair today! Crazy.

  20. e-cigarette smokerAugust 13, 2009 at 10:33 AM

    Yes they are very cool. Amazing they are selling them at state fairs now.

    I got mine from:


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