I Start Young

(by Smokingmom, 13 July 2006)

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I Start Young
by Smokingmom

My favorite fantasy is that, instead of being born in 1977, I was born in
1957. Back then, nobody knew the dangers of smoking, and it was considered a
glamorous thing to do. When my mom got pregnant in the summer of 1956, her
doctor asked her about her smoking. She told him that she smoked two packs of
Lucky Strikes per day. He opened a drawer and took out a pack of Winstons and
a pack of Salems. He told her to smoke one of these new filtered brands
instead, and recommended the Salems in particular because they were a menthol
"that will help you breathe more clearly"! So she tried them both. She
preferred the Winstons, and my father liked the Salems, so they kept plenty
of both around the house.

One day in 1960, I was playing in the living room while my parents were
entertaining some friends, two other couples. They were having the popular
drinks of the day, martinis and "CC and Coke" (Canadian Club and Coca-Cola)
and of course, all were smoking. I was three and half, and I found a white
crayon in my crayon box and began to pretend it was a cigarette. I looked at
my mom, holding her Winston between her two fingers, smoking like a chimney
and sipping her martini, wearing bright red lipstick and long red nails,
wearing her pearls and looking so glamorous. I began to copy her, putting my
crayon between my fingers and putting it to my lips, sucking on it to make my
cheeks cave in like hers, then pulling it out and pretending to blow out
imaginary smoke. One of the other women noticed me, and said "Look, little
Sharon is pretending to smoke - isn't that soooo cute!" The others turned to
look at me, and I held my crayon up again and pretended to take a long puff.
One of the husbands said "She looks so natural doing that - I bet she grows
up to be a smoker just like her Mommy." Everyone laughed and agreed. My dad
said "Come over here, Sharon." I went over to him and he said "Hold up your
hand." I held up my hand that was holding the crayon, and he took the crayon
and replaced it with a freshly-lit Salem! I was so excited! The women said
"Oh, she's even cuter with a real cigarette!" and my dad said "Take a puff of
it, honey."

I held the Salem to my lips and watched my mom as she held her Winston to
hers. I sucked as she sucked, then I blew out some smoke. I didn't inhale
any, so I didn't cough. One of the women said "Oh, she's so adorable! Take
another puff, honey." I took another puff and blew it out, and then a third
and a fourth puff. I could taste a little bit of menthol in my mouth, and I
liked it, but I especially liked the positive attention I was getting. My dad
said "Okay, let me have my cigarette back now." I gave it back to him, then I
said "Mommy, can I try your cigarette?" She said "Sure" and put it between my
fingers as my dad had. I took three puffs from the Winston, and I inhaled the
third one, and coughed. But I noticed that when I coughed, smoke came out my
nose, and I was able to fully taste the smoke for the first time. She said
"Do that again, and this time just suck in a little bit of smoke, then open
your mouth and breathe it down, then try not to cough." I did as she said,
intentionally inhaling for the first time. The smoke tasted so good, but my
little girl lungs didn't like it, and I almost coughed, but I put my other
hand over my mouth and tried really hard not to cough. The need to cough
subsided in a few seconds, and I took my hand away and exhaled a smooth cone
of smoke. Everybody was amazed, and started saying things like "Wow, she can
even inhale! She'll be a smoker in no time!" and "My God, that is the cutest
thing I have ever seen? Sharon, come try a puff of my cigarette." I went from
adult to adult, taking one or two puffs from each of their cigarettes, and
the women especially loved having me stand in front of them and puff on their
lipstick-covered filters. I started getting very dizzy, though, and my dad
offered me a sip of his CC and Coke. I didn't like the taste of it, and said
"Yucky, daddy!" and he told me to go back and play while the grownups talked.

About a half hour later it was my bedtime. My mommy came and got me, and I
said goodnight to all the guests, then went to give my daddy a goodnight
kiss. Before I did, he said "Would you like a puff of my cigarette before
bed, honey?" I said "Yes!" and he held the filter to my lips. I took a big
puff and inhaled it, and he kissed me goodnight before I could exhale it. I
kept my mouth closed and let the smoke come out my nose. I felt so big at
that moment - one of the other men said "Good nose exhale!".

I followed my mommy up the stairs and into the bathroom. She set me on the
counter so I could brush my teeth, holding her Winston in her mouth, dangling
it, as she did so. I saw a pack of Salems with four or five left in it and a
box of matches on the counter next to the toilet. Daddy always liked to smoke
on the toilet, so he kept some cigarettes in the bathroom for that purpose. I
said "Mommy, can I have one of Daddy's cigarettes? I want to see myself
smoke" and pointed to the mirror. She smiled and said "Sure". She took out
one of the Salems and handed it to me. I held it between my fingers and she
struck a match, held it to the tip of my cigarette, and said "Okay, suck a
little." I sucked, and it was lit. She held the burning match up and I blew
it out with smoke. I turned to see myself in the mirror. First I posed with
my arm up and the cigarette near my face. Then I put it to my lips and took a
puff. I loved the way the tip glowed bright orange when I did that. I pulled
the cigarette out and opened my mouth - I could see smoke in there! Then I
inhaled through my mouth and saw the ball of smoke disappear down my throat.
Mmmm, it was so good! The coolness of the menthol combined with the taste of
the tobacco was delicious, and when I exhaled, I could taste it again, and it
tasted different coming out than going in, but I liked them both.

I saw my mommy smoking in the mirror, and she said "When you start to feel
funny or if you think you are going to be sick, then you've had enough
smoke." The nicotine went straight to my head, but it gave me a light-headed,
wonderful feeling after about three or four puffs. After about ten puffs,
though, I had smoked over half of the cigarette and I was feeling very weird,
so I said "I guess that's enough, Mommy. Can I smoke some more tomorrow?" She
said "Yes, honey, you can. You'll probably be smoking every day from now on,
for the rest of your life. Now brush your teeth."

I went to sleep that night and dreamed sweet dreams of smoking.

The next day, the three of us had breakfast together, and when I was done, I
asked Daddy for a cigarette. He gave me one, and gave me a light. That first
cigarette of the day was so good! We all sat there together. smoking and
talking. Daddy showed me how to double-pump, and I loved it! Daddy said "Are
you going to be able to smoke that whole cigarette, Sharon?" I said "I'm
going to try really hard!" Mom said "She smoked about two-thirds of one last
night before she went to bed. I'm sure that by the end of the day, she'll be
able to finish a whole one." In those days, there were no 'light' cigarettes,
so my first cigarettes were full-strength, with plenty of nicotine. Daddy
said "Tell us how you feel." I was about halfway done with my cigarette, and
I said "It makes me feel good, kind of funny in my head. I'm going to smoke
it all, though." Daddy said "if you think you are going to get sick, stop for
a while. When you first start smoking, sometimes it can make you sick."

I said "Is smoking bad for you, Daddy?" He said "Well, like i said, when you
first start out, it can make you real dizzy and you can throw up. But after
that, it's really not bad for you. After you smoke for many years, you will
get a cough when you first wake up in the morning. But if it is bad for you,
it takes a really long time for it to do any harm. So don't worry about it -
just enjoy your cigarettes."

After several more puffs, I finished that cigarette, and Mommy showed me how
to put it out in the ashtray. I said "When can I have another one?" They
looked at each other and laughed - my Daddy said "She is really going to be a
smoker, obviously. Why don't we say that for today, she can have one, what
every hour, or every half-hour? What do you think?" My mom thought about it
for a minute, then said "I say every hour until lunch, then every half hour
after that. We'll see how many she can smoke that way." Daddy said "Okay,
that sounds like a plan." He kissed us both and then left for work. My mom
told me to go play while she did the breakfast dishes, and that she would
call me when I could have another cigarette.

I went upstairs, feeling wonderful. I couldn't wait for my next cigarette.
From seven to noon, I smoked six cigarettes, then after lunch, from 12:30
until I went to bed at eight, I smoked 15 more! I felt great all day, in a
constant nicotine high. And now I was completely addicted. They let me smoke
as much as I wanted the next day, and I got up to 25. Within a month, I could
smoke 30 per day. They were very impressed, and my January birthday was
coming up in another month, and their New Year's Eve party was also going to
be my party for my fourth birthday. My mom set a goal of teaching me to
chainsmoke for at least four or five hours at a time before the party. So she
showed me how to light my next cigarette from the butt of my last, and had me
keep a cigarette going all day for that month. By Christmas, I could smoke
two packs a day, and I wasn't even four yet!

For Christmas, my parents got me the popular toys of the day for little girls
- a small toy kitchen setup, with a small toy stove, refrigerator and sink.
They also got me a bike with training wheels, a whole carton of Salems, my
own Zippo lighter, and several ashtrays, one of which my mom had made in a
pottery class. It was big and deep, and had my name painted in the bottom
with "Love, Mommy" painted under my name. They also got me a long cigarette
holder, which I loved right away.

On New Year's Eve, 1960, my parents were planning a cocktail party for about
eight couples and themselves, plus me. That day, my mom dressed me in a
pageant-type dress with a small bra that she put balls of toilet tissue in to
make it look like I had little boobs. She gave me a big Tammy Wynette-style
hairdo and than put adult-style makeup on me. She made up my eyes with
mascara - I had long lashes already, but the mascara made them look even
better, and since I am naturally blonde, it made them much more visible. She
put on face makeup, eye shadow, blush, powder, eye liner, and red lipstick. I
couldn't believe how old and glamorous I looked when I first saw myself in
the mirror. She handed me my long cigarette holder with a Salem in it, and
gave me a light. By this point, I could do triple-pumps with ease, and the
long holder made it easier to pump a lot, because it cooled the smoke and
kept me from feeling the intense heat that the rapidly-burning cigarette put
off. She told me that when the party started, I could stay with the grownups,
but I shouldn't interrupt their conversations or get in the way, but I could
smoke all I wanted to.

I was the only kid at the party, and I was a hit. everyone told me how
beautiful I was and how grown-up I looked, and they were amazed that I
chainsmoked all night. At ten o-clock, they brought out a birthday cake and
sang "Happy Birthday" to me, and then I took a huge puff, made a wish (that I
could smoke even more) and blew out my four candles with a big cloud of
smoke. Several of the people said that they were letting their kids start
smoking, and wished that they had brought them. Some of them made 'play
dates' with my parents to bring their kids over and let us smoke together.
That day, I stayed up until past midnight, smoking over two packs that day,
and at midnight, someone gave me a cigar to try, telling me to not inhale. A
lot of the adults watched me puff on the cigar, and when I inhaled a puff and
exhaled it through my nose, they even clapped!

A couple of weeks later it was time for a trip to the doctor to get the polio
vaccine and some booster shots. In those days, doctors weren't as specialized
as they are today, so  we had one family doctor, the same one who had
delivered me. There were no restrictions on smoking then, and there were
those tall metal ashtray stands in the doctor's office waiting room. There
were two other women there besides my mom, and each of them had a kid with
them - a five year old girl and a six year old boy. After we sat down, my
mommy pulled out her cigarettes and said "Does anyone mind if we smoke?" That
was considered the polite thing to do. The other mothers said no, they didn't
mind, and each of them pulled out their own cigarettes. My mom lit a Winston
and a Salem together, and handed me the Salem. I took it and started puffing
eagerly, and the mother of the little girl said "Oh, I'm so glad to see
another child smoking. I didn't know if I should let Patsy smoke here in the
doctor's office. Are you going to tell the doctor that she smokes?" My mom,
said, "Yes, I think so - I want to see what he says about it. So Patsy
smokes, too? By the way, I'm Linda, and this is Sharon. She just turned
four." The women said "I'm Mary Beth, and this is Patsy. She's five, and yes,
she's been smoking for about six months. How long has Sharon been smoking?"
My mommy said "She's been smoking about six months, too." The other mother
and the little boy were called back to the exam room just then, so we didn't
get to talk to them. Mary Beth had given Patsy a cigarette by then, and the
nurse smiled when she saw the four of us sitting there smoking. "Like mother,
like daughter!" she said.

Patsy and I watched each other as we smoked. She was bigger than me, but I
could take bigger puffs and do double-pumps, and apparently she hadn't
progressed that far. As our moms talked, it turned out that they lived just a
block over from us, so they decided to become friends and my mommy invited
them over that afternoon.

When we got back in the exam room, I lit another cigarette as we waited for
old Dr. Conyers to come in. He came in with a Camel dangling from his lips. I
had my shirt off already, and I was taking a puff as he walked in. "So, I see
you're smoking already! How long has she been smoking, Linda?" Mommy said
"About six months. I wanted to ask you about it and make sure it's okay for
her to be smoking already. I started when I was six, and I'm fine." He
listened to my lungs and said "Yes, I don't hear anything wrong. Quite a few
of my little patients smoke. What I usually see is that their lungs start to
make more phlegm after a while, and some of them do seem to get colds more
often, but that's all. I did have one little boy who started on cigars when
he was three, and he developed asthma when he was ten. I had him switch to
menthol cigarettes and it cleared right up. How much is she smoking?" Mommy
said "Well, she can smoke up to two packs a day? Is that too much?" He drew
on his Camel and said "Well, she sounds fine to me. Just keep her under four
or five packs a day for the next few years and she'll be fine." and they both
laughed. Then it was time for my shots. He told me to take a really big puff
and hold it, then he stuck me. I exhaled, but it really didn't hurt too bad,
so I didn't cry. He said "You came through that just fine. What a big girl
you're getting to be! Do you like those cigarettes?" I said "Yes, sir, I love
them. I need another one." My mom handed me another one and I lit it from the
butt, so the doctor actually saw me chaining. He said "It sure looks like you
love it. You two take care, and I'll see you again in six months and I'll
listen to your chest again and see how you're doing." He looked at my mommy
and said "Let her smoke all she can for the next six months - it will be
interesting to see what effect it has on her. If she gets a cold or a bad
cough, bring her back in." Mommy said "Okay, doctor, I will. And thank you!
Bye now!" and he left.

That afternoon, Mary Beth and Patsy came over to our house. Patsy and I
became friends right away. We went up to my room and smoked our heads off,
having contests. We tried seeing who could take the biggest puff (me), who
could hold their smoke in their lungs the longest (her) and who could keep a
constant pump going the longest (me again, using my cigarette holder I smoked
a whole cigarette without a break by pumping). She became my best friend, and
almost every week one of us would spend the night with the other, and we
often walked with our moms to a park that was in between our houses, where we
would swing and seesaw, smoking while we did it!

My mommy told my daddy what the doctor had said about letting me smoke as
much as I could, so they did. They encouraged me to keep a cigarette going
all the time, to take bigger puffs, to pump more, and to puff more often so
that I would smoke more cigarettes per day. Over those next six months, my
smoking increased to three packs a day or more. My next trip to the doctor
was uneventful. Once again I chainsmoked the whole time I was there, and he
listened to my lungs and declared me healthy. He was amazed that at four and
a half I was smoking three packs a day, but he said I was fine and could keep
it up. He gave my mommy a bottle of "iron syrup" and a bottle of cough syrup.
The iron was supposed to keep my blood in good shape, and the cough syrup was
just in case I ever needed it. And I was actually healthy. I played hard,
ran, rode my bicycle (which had a cute basket on the front where I carried my
cigarettes and Zippo) and did all the things normal little girls did.

In those days there was no formal kindergartens, but some churches ran some,
but few kids went, so I didn't have to start school until I was six. Patsy
was almost seven, but since her birthday was in November, she and I were
going to be in first grade together. Lucky for us, my daddy was the principal
of the local elementary school, which was so close by that Patsy and I could
ride our bicycles to school. Two years before I started school, my daddy had
started a "smoking lounge" in the school. We lived in North Carolina back
then, right in tobacco country, so a lot of the rural kids smoked, and many
in the cities did, too. Daddy sent out the school rule book two weeks before
school started, plus a list of the school fees, lunch prices, and dress code.
He also included a smoking permission slip that parents had to sign before
their kids could use the smoking lounge. It said:

"The school provides a smoking lounge located next to the principal's office.
Those children who are allowed to smoke at home may use the lounge only if
this permission slip is signed by a parent. Regular school hours are from 8am
until 2:30pm, and those students who have permission may take ten minute
smoking breaks at 9:30am and 1:30pm. You may also check the boxes below to
allow your child to take his or her lunch in the smoking lounge and/or take
their recess there. Each smoking child will have a cubbyhole to keep their
smoking materials; matches, lighters, etc. Smoking is not allowed in the rest
rooms or anywhere on school property except the smoking lounge. Students from
all grades are eligible to participate with their parents' permission.

____ Yes, my child can use the smoking lounge at 9:30am and 1:30pm.  ____
Yes, my child may take his or her lunch in the smoking lounge.  ____ Yes, my
child can take his or her recess in the smoking lounge.

Signed, ___________________   Date: ______________"

And so the policy was in effect for two years before I got there. By the time
I was ready to start school, I was six and a half and could smoke four packs
a day, and my best friend Patsy could also. Naturally, we had permission on
all three lines of the form. On my 9:30 break, I would smoke at least four
cigarettes, then during the lunch period I could often smoke ten more,
another ten during recess, and another four at 1:30. Patsy and I would light
up and chainsmoke while we rode our bikes back to my house every afternoon,
so school didn't slow our cigarette consumption much, if any.

We made a lot of new friends in the smoking lounge. There were three other
first-graders in there, two boys and one girl. None of them could smoke like
Patsy and me, though. There were eight second-graders, and more and more as
the grade level went up, to 26 sixth-graders, so there were more than sixty
of us allowed to use the smoking lounge. Patsy and I were the heaviest
smokers except for a girl in the fifth grade and two boys and two girls in
the sixth grade. The girl who was in the fifth grade was named Diane, and she
said that she lived on a tobacco farm and that she had smoked her whole life,
since she was a baby. She smoked strong unfiltered cigarettes, often two at a
time, and said she smoked six packs a day. Her voice was very raspy and low -
you had to be close to her to understand what she was saying. She had won the
"Youngest Smoker" contest at the county fair (they really had these up until
1977!) five years in a row, from age ten months to almost five. We lost track
of her after she left our school for junior high, but we heard she got
leukemia and died when she was only 14.

Elementary school was great. In 1964, when we were in the third grade, they
made that big announcement that smoking causes lung cancer. Everyone worried
about it for a while, then decided it was all BS and kept on smoking. I
continued to be healthy as a horse, and Patsy and I continued to be adorable
little chainsmokers. The junior high school and high school had smoking areas
outside, like big patios, so we went there a lot. We both had smoking
boyfriends, too. I had James, and Patsy had Steven. But something terrible
happened when we were seniors in high school. One day, we were in the smoking
area, each of us smoking two cigarettes at once, when suddenly Patsy just
fell over. Her face turned blue, and somebody gave her mouth-to-mouth, and
she started breathing again, but she had to go to the hospital, where it was
determined that she had had a heart attack, at age 17! Her doctors told her
she must quit smoking, and she did, for a while, but started back a few
months later. At 21, she had another heart attack in college and died, and I
lost my best friend (well, my best human friend - my cigarettes were always
my real best friend).

In college, I met a wonderful man named Brian, and we fell in love. He was a
moderate smoker, about two packs a day, but he was the first guy I had ever
dated who told me that my smoking turned him on. In college, I could of
course smoke as much as I wanted, which got me up to five packs per day.
Brian not only didn't mind, he loved it. He also introduced me to weed, which
I really enjoyed, and smoking weed and coughing from smoking it seemed to
clear my lungs up somewhat. I was a business major, and Brian was a computer
science major. We both graduated in 1979, and got married two months later.

For the first four years, we both worked and saved our money, planning to buy
a house. But in 1983, Brian heard of a software company in Seattle that he
felt sure was going to make it big. So we invested all our savings in the
company, and that company turned out to be Microsoft. Needless to say, after
the company went public, we were rich beyond our wildest dreams. Every time
the stock would split, we would sell half of our holdings, bank the money,
and keep our original number of shares. So, we were able to retire in 1987,
at 30 years old!

Right after this, I became pregnant with twin girls. My doctor was adamant
that I must quit smoking, but there was no way. I did cut down to three packs
a day for a while, but couldn't maintain such a low level without severe
headaches and nervousness. So I smoked throughout my whole pregnancy. If I
went for even ten minutes without a cigarette, the babies would kick wildly,
and only by smoking could I calm them down. Brian and I discussed the fact
that the babies would be born addicted to nicotine, and we also talked about
the possibility of letting them smoke at an early age. I seemed to have
gotten a good set of genes, as my parents were still alive and smoking, two
of my grandparents were still alive and smoking, and I had lost my last
great-grandparent (my mother's grandmother) when I was in college and she was
90, and even she didn't die from smoking - she fell down a flight of stairs.
Similarly, Brian had good genes, so we felt okay about my smoking while
pregnant and about our babies' future.

Sarah and Samantha were born in 1989, both big and healthy, especially big
for twins. During the last month of my pregnancy, I was so big I was
miserable, and could do nothing but lay around and chainsmoke. They were both
beautiful, and we took care of them together, since Brian and I were both
rich and retired already. I would smoke while I breastfed them, and the smoke
always seemed to sooth them. If they woke up crying and cranky, we could hold
them while we smoked, bathing them in secondhand smoke, and they would calm
down and go right to sleep. Even so, we managed to keep control of ourselves
and not try to get them to smoke until they were older.

When they turned a year old, we started giving them smoky kisses and allowing
them to breath smoke directly from our mouths. They seemed to really like
this, and as they learned to crawl and then to walk, they would come up to us
whenever we were smoking and want a kiss. Finally, when they were 18
month-old toddlers, one day Brian held Sarah and I held Samantha, and at the
same time we held our cigarettes to their lips and gave them their first
puffs. They coughed a little on their first several puffs, and we didn't
force the issue, but simply offered them the opportunity to take a puff
several times a day. By the time they were two years old, they could puff and
inhale pretty well, and by three, they were holding their own cigarettes and
smoking five or six cigarettes per day. By the age of five, they were both
pack-a-day smokers!

Now they are 16, and both of them smoke at least three packs a day, and they
are very healthy. I'm now 48, and have over 150 pack-years in me! My lungs
are in pretty bad shape, but I still have about forty percent normal lung
capacity. With our money, we are funding research at a private facility in
Europe to use stem cells and pieces of my own lung tissue to try and grow me
a new set of lungs. The researchers have cloned a tiny pair using a chimp,
and they implanted a piece of the tissue under my skin to see if my body
would reject it. It has been six months, and there has been no rejection.
They tell us that should be able to give me a set of child-sized lungs in
about two more years, so I am free to smoke this pair to death, and I'm
trying! When I was forty, I got stung by a bee and had a severe allergic
reaction to it, and they had to perform an emergency tracheotomy to save my
life. I woke up with a tube going into my throat. Brian and I discussed it (I
couldn't talk, I had to write on a pad of paper), and with our money, we
convinced a surgeon to permanently implant a small steel plate in my trachea
at the site of the tracheotomy, with a round hole and a small removable cover
in case I should ever have another such emergency. So they did, and now I
have a nice hole in my throat that I can smoke through!

I can talk and breathe and smoke normally with my mouth and nose, but I had
Brian make me several adapters to plug into my throat hole. One holds cigars,
and I have several others that can hold from one to seven cigarettes at once.
I use my hole pretty often now that I know I will be getting new lungs in the
future. I can light a cigar with my mouth, then slide the cover open over the
hole, and insert the cigar holder. Then I just take deep, full-lung breaths,
and I get a nicotine rush just like I did when I was four! I can't taste the
smoke coming in, but I can enjoy the rich taste as I exhale thick clouds
through my mouth and nose. Both my girls are jealous of it, but they know
that one of these days they will have one, too. I often smoke with my mouth
at the same time that I am smoking through my throat hole. Brian and I love
to make love while I do this. We have a tube that I can connect to my hole
and connect the other end to a cigar or multi-cigarette holder. The cigar or
cigarettes lie safely on the ashtray that my mother made me so many years
ago, and we kiss and I exhale my thick smoke into him as we make love. These
days, I am smoking seven packs a day at least, plus several big cigars. Life
is wonderful, and so is smoking!

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