Tuesday, July 22, 2014 Tammuz 24, 5774

Smoking Divide: How It Plays Out Between Those Who Do and Don't

February 8, 2007 By:
Roy S. Gutterman, JE Feature
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After dinner, she lit up, almost by reflex. The restaurant was nice and the conversation interesting enough with a woman I'll call Arella.

As we slowly strolled to my car and I disabled the alarm, preparing to open the door for her, she asked, "Do you mind if I smoke in your car?"

My answer was that I did.

Arella, a bit huffy, said, "Fine, then I'll just finish my cigarette here." We stood in the parking lot for a couple of minutes, talking. I'm not sure which was icier -- the breeze or her reaction to my smoking ban.

By not letting her smoke in my car, I somehow became the bad guy. She was just as offended later when I would not let her smoke in my apartment.

For obvious reasons, we were not a match, despite the promise expressed by a mutual friend who thought we would be great together.

I still cannot figure out why Arella smoked -- other than that she was obviously addicted to nicotine. She was smart, educated, and had a great job that came without a lot of stress.

In this day and age, with all that modern science and medicine tells us, it's surprising that anybody still smokes. I'm proud to say that I have never smoked a cigarette -- or anything else, for that matter.

Nevertheless, as many as 44.5 million American adults smoke, according to estimates by the American Lung Association. The ALA also estimates that more than 480,000 Americans die each year from illnesses and diseases directly or indirectly related to cigarette smoke.

Growing up as a competitive soccer player, I was committed to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Even though I eat lots of candy and drink a couple of Cokes a day, I exercise every week and even ride my bike to work.

Maybe all this derives from the fact that I grew up in a house of smokers. It was disgusting -- all the choking smoke and the filthy ashtrays. Asthma and other health problems forced my grandmother to stop smoking cold turkey when I was 13. Several years later, my parents also stopped.

Governments have jumped on the bandwagon, placing excessive taxes on cigarettes, driving up the cost. My mom recently bought a carton for a neighbor, who was housebound following an accident. "It was almost $70. I'm glad I quit," my mother said. "They're too expensive."

"And disgusting," I reminded her.

Smokers and non-smokers sometimes clash along the singles circuit.

At a recent event, I was talking with another guy, who surveyed the room checking out the female attendees. He asked if I knew anything about an attractive woman on the other side of the room. I told him that when I walked past her, she smelled like an ashtray.

"That's too bad. That's a serious deal-breaker," he said.

He wound up not talking to her, although that had more to do with the fact that she was accompanied by a guy friend.

Works on Film

Smoking does have its mystique, whether it's the rugged Marlboro Man or a sultry Lauren Bacall in a noir flick. Could John McClane, the character in "Die Hard," soothe his nerves any way other than lighting up? A sleazy villain always looks more ominous with a butt dangling from his mouth. And honestly, I miss the billboard with the billowing smoke in New York City's Times Square.

Blaming the media is not my thing. People choose to smoke of their own accord. People do what they think they can to be "cool." But I always wonder how many of those "cool" kids who used to smoke behind the school may eventually die of lung cancer.

I tend to weed out women smokers in my preliminary selection process, but the smoke seeped in on a couple dates.

Several years ago, I had three dates with a woman who wrote in her online profile that she did not smoke. She also listed her age as seven years younger than she really was.

On our third date, when I arrived at her apartment to pick her up, I was greeted not only by the furriest cat I had ever seen, but a wall of smoke. She could have cured lox with what went on in her apartment.

"I didn't know you smoke," I said.

"Sure, I must have told you. I only smoke one or two a day," she replied.

For one or two a day, she had overflowing ashtrays on just about every table, shelf and available countertop. I could still smell the stale odor on my clothes hours after our date.

Now, I'm all for doing what you can to be cool. But there's a world of difference between being cool and taking serious risks with your health. The world is a dangerous enough place, so why increase the peril by ingesting toxic smoke, which the ALA reports contains at least 69 known carcinogens?

On top of that, would you really want to kiss with an ashtray?  

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