Anything For a Story

(by an4@anon.lelnet.com, 25 July 1997)


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Anything for a Story
an4@anon.lelnet.com

   My story is almost complete, so now I'll preface it with a little bit about
myself. My name, as you can tell from my bylines, is Amanda Gerard. I'm a
twenty-four year old journalist writing for the Moncford Sentinel, a little
newspaper published, appropriately enough, in Moncford New Hampshire. If
you've never heard of Moncford, well, join the rest of the people of North
America.
   I'm not complaining. The last thing my father did before running off to
California- without my mother, who ended up in Peru (don't ask)- was to get
me this job. Hell, I'm lucky. A lot of my college friends from the journalism
track are doing worse things than banging out columns for small-town
newspapers. 
   I've always been in good shape. You know, running, biking, blading, that
sort of thing. In fact, I'm regarded as generally athletic, so I was as
surprised as anyone when my editor called me into her little corner office
and asked me to write an objective article about smoking.
   I'd never smoked. Not one cigarette in my whole life. 
   She must have known something I didn't- about myself, I mean. 
   I was sure as I listened to her that I'd object when she was through. She
wasn't just asking me to writing an objective (read: positive) article about
smoking, she was- gasp- asking me to actually smoke.
   Looking back, I understand why that was an essential part of the assignment.
But at the time, I would have been more willing to say, dress up as a man or
go undercover at the local high school. I mean, she was asking me to make a
radical, if temporary, adjustment in my lifestyle, to do something I was
pretty sure went against everything I was.
   But I am one of those old-fashioned reporters. I will do anything for a
story.

   			Smoking in the Nineties, Part 0 of a Series

   Having decided I would indeed start smoking, I knew I needed help. The
thought of walking into a store in a town where half the people know you and
asking for a pack of cigarettes-
   Too daunting. Soft pack or hard ? 100's ? Lights ? What brand ? What if I
chose one that I didn't like ? Was there even one I would like ?
   Thinking about all these things put me into sort of a vapor lock. I knew
what to do. I called my friend Lisa. She started smoking when she was
fourteen. At the time, I thought it was gross and disgusting and I assumed-
naively- that everyone else was of like mind. She'd always been one of the
most popular girls in school. Smart, pretty, kind of a wise-ass.
   When she started smoking she was very- I mean very - open about it, because
her parents were completely behind it. I thought the other kids- especially
the boys and the teachers- would start treating her differently.
   And they did, but not the way I expected. The boys, well, they seemed turned
on by it. The teachers ? They started treating her more like an adult. I know
that Ms. Learner, for instance, let her out of class every day to go smoke in
the girls room. They had what Lisa calls an 'understanding.' 
   I didn't. I didn't get why people weren't disgusted by her new habit.
   She too, knew something I didn't.
   Anyway, I'm not going to relive my entire high school experience. I called
Lisa up. Now, I knew that I had to be honest. Lying to her about what I was
doing wouldn't have gotten me the help I need.
   "You're going to start smoking because your editor asked you to ? So I
suppose you think this is just temporary, like a two week thing, right ?"
   I told her that was exactly how I was looking at it and she laughed so hard
I thought she was probably hurting herself.
   Half an hour later she walked into my apartment carrying a carton of
cigarettes. Marlboro Lights 100s- hard pack.
   As usual, she was stunning. She had her long blonde hair, dyed with henna-
you should see her tub- pulled back in a long ponytail. She was wearing a
Montreal Canadiens baseball cap through the back of which she'd pulled the
tail. Lisa has the most perfect face I've ever see, none of that ghastly
model-thin crap, and when she pulls her hair back, it's almost enough to make
me wish we were both-
   Well, that would be a whole other set of articles.
   "A carton ?" I asked incredulously. I wanted to learn to smoke, and this was
beginning to look that it was going to be that episode of King of the Hill
where Hank makes his boy wolf down a whole carton of the official cigarette
of the RCMP.
   "You said two weeks. If you really are planning to smoke- well, a smoker
goes through a pack a day and there are only ten in here."
   "Do you smoke that much ?" I asked. I knew she smoked a lot, that as a
private computer consultant she could smoke in her office- which is basically
her Lexus- but I'd never thought about just how much a lot was.
   "I go through a carton a week."
   I pulled out my wallet and tried to hand her a twenty, which she rejected. 
   "I bought a whole case when I was in Virginia last week. These are on me,
although eventually you'll have to walk into a store and buy your own. That's
part of it. Letting other people- strangers- know you smoke."
   We sat down on the couch together. "You were never shy about that."
   "I was lucky. Mom and Dad were very supportive. Once they let Michelle
smoke- and saw how it improved her moods- well, they really couldn't wait for
me to pick up the habit."
   "I'm nervous," I blurted out, and nothing could have been truer.
   "Well, use some of that energy finding us an ashtray."
   Now, I didn't have an ashtray in the house, and Lisa knew that. Usually when
she came over I'd just grab a bowl from the cupboard and let her use that-
she always pretty good about not smoking too much in the apartment, although
every once in a while she'd come over to watch a movie and the place would
smell of smoke for three days.
   I have to admit that I used to like the smell because it reminded me of her.
   When I came back into the living room, she'd already lit up, and I could see
a change in the way she was smoking.
   Usually she was pretty considerate. Small inhales and exhales, keeping the
smoke localised as much as she could to where she was.
   Not tonight. She'd just finished inhaling from that long white cigarette,
and I think my own nervous anticipation must have heightened my awareness.
She removed the cigarette from her mouth with the most graceful turn of a
wrist I'd ever seen, and I felt a truly sexual pang of arousal. It wasn't
embarrassing in the least. In fact, I found myself poised in place, holding a
bowl in one hand and two unopened beers in the other, waiting for the exhale.
   I wanted to see that creamy white smoke flowing from her mouth. I knew the
arousal would intensive and I didn't care. I thought if I could carry that
over to my own smoking, remember that feeling, I would be all right.
   Let me add (since this is part zero, I won't be putting it to print, so I
can afford to be truly honest) that while I'm nowhere near as attractive as
my old friend, I am pretty after a fashion. I have a very active head of
curly red hair (it never behaves, but it does compliment my face), a soft set
of cheek bones, and a figure even my own father has admitted is pleasing. I
thought if I could learn to hold and move a cigarette like Lisa, I might
attract some of the attention she did so easily in public. I've never seen a
woman whose smoking is more universally accepted.
   Lisa is not a woman who disappoints when it comes to smoking. The exhale was
everything I could have wanted. She pursed her lips into a tight, demure 'o'
and pressed the smoke from between them in a tight rocket engine jet of
porcelain, writhing across the room and spreading voluminously until it
threatened to haze the better half of it. There was a pure sexual charge to
the action which I found so incredibly compulsive that I had to touch her,
just to feel a part of it.
   I sat down next to her with great haste, emptied my hands, and grabbed her
free one in mine.
 	Squeezing tightly, I said "I'm so excited." You'll have to pardon the
double entendre. Lisa did, or didn't notice. She squeezed back and there was
an electrical current running between us. I felt like an high school girl
playing footsie with the buffest boy in the class.
   "Good," she said, her green eyes warm and sparkling. "But the first thing we
do after we go out to dinner tonight is stop somewhere and buy you a real
ashtray."
   "Out to dinner ?" I asked. I was wearing sweats- I hadn't bothered showering
after my run, and my hair was like something out of Gone with the Wind.
   "You want the first installment of your series on smoking- there's no better
place to butt heads with the antis than a restaurant, and if you're writing a
pro-smoking expose you need to deal with antis. God, I hate the fifties, but
at least it was socially expected that you smoked."
   "I'm a mess."
   Lisa is a kind person, but she also knows how to mask that kindness with a
sort of gruff honesty which coats even the blatant lies. She squeezed my hand
again and I found myself wishing she would never let go. I don't care how
that sounds.
   "You look fine, honey. Now, let's get you started."
   She let go of my hand, but immediately she inhaled so deeply on the
cigarette I thought for sure her lungs would burst. She closed her eyes and
savoured the smoke, then let fly the sort of nose exhale which made me glad I
wasn't a man. I would have embarrassed myself from the waist down.
   "What do I do first ?" I asked, as if I'd never seen anyone smoke before.
   "We're going to take our time. I've blocked off the rest of the night to
spend with you."
   I liked the sound of that in a way which scared me.
   "First, just open the carton, and for god sakes, relax. Take your time. I'll
tell you, I love the way an unopened carton of cigarettes feels. There's just
so much potential there. It's a clean feeling. I didn't get my first carton
until I'd been smoking almost a year. Michelle gave it to me. I remember
thinking that I must be in heaven."
   I picked the carton up. Lisa settled back and smoked while watching me with
a mixture of concern and admiration which was odd. But I already understood
it. Lisa is a good friend, not a needy sort of person at all, but as you can
imagine, we'd talked about smoking more than once over the years and I always
got the impression this was something that she at least wanted me to try. It
must have been quite a pleasant surprise when I called her told her not that
I wanted to try smoking, but actually become a smoker. Two weeks indeed.
   She was right about that carton. It was almost mystical. I felt decadent
holding 200 Class A cigarettes in my hands, knowing they were mine to do with
as I wished. I tried to imagine what it would have been like to feel that way
at 15 and I got all pranged up. Regret, dismay. Why hadn't I given in to her
occasional gentle urgings ? And I hadn't even so much as lit a single
cigarette yet.
   I felt a sense of power.  I was about to do something which would set me
apart. Put me in a new camp. It was the same feeling I get when I sit down at
my desk at the Sentinel and fire up my Power Book 2400c while looking at my
Wintel brethren muddled in their Windows world. Not knowing.
   But as of yet, I didn't know what Lisa knew. 
   I didn't tear that carton. I intended from the first to save it for
posterity. Maybe one day I would show it to my daughter, show her what
cigarette packaging had looked like before the politicians made it ugly and
market-adverse. I carefully undid the flap and worked out a single pack.
   Lisa sat and smoked and watched. She finished her first cigarette, lit
another, and continued filling my living room with a real blanket of smoke
which would not fade in two or three days. I loved her for doing it. And her
patience was what saw me through when the nervousness returned. The little
voice which asked insistently what it was I thought I was doing.
   The single pack had a different feel than the carton. It was so small in
comparison, but the hard lines were more immediate. All I need do was remove
the slick cellophane and open the flip top and the cigarettes inside would be
mine. I could light one and try to mimic Lisa's ever-graceful motions.
   It came off easily. I put the box down and walked into the kitchen to throw
it away because it was the one part of this which was untidy. I had decided I
wanted this to be perfect.
   When I walked back into the room Lisa was smiling broadly, even as she was
stunning me with a geometrically expanding nose exhale.
   "I think you're ready. I bought you something."
   She handed me the silver-plated Zippo and I was really, deeply touched. This
wasn't about one selfish person trying to suck another into her little habit.
This was about two friends sharing something.
   Still, I needed a long gulp of beer to steady my nerves.
   Fortified, I removed a single cigarette from the pack, lit it with shaky
hands, and waited for the world to change.
   I was profoundly disappointed.
   There was the cigarette dangling between my lips- and nothing was happening.
It was smoldering, the smoke getting underneath my petite glasses and
stinging my eyes.
   "For god's sake, Amanda, inhale. But not into your lungs."
   Right. In my confused state, I had forgotten the simplest thing about
smoking. The inhale.
   I put the first two fingers of my right hand on the cigarette at the end of
the filter so it wouldn't pop out of my mouth and pulled a conservative puff
of smoke into my mouth.
   It was, of course, ethereal. And sweet tasting.
   If you've never tasted a cigarette, you have no idea how keen the difference
between taste and smell is. If cigarettes tasted like they smell to the
uninitiated, there would be precious few smokers, all of them masochists. But
that taste-
   I wanted to inhale. Lisa could see that. She had often talked about how it
felt in your mind as the smoke was working its chemical magic.
   She was wiser than I. "Exhale first. Then inhale and let some of the smoke
down your throat."
   I would have certainly gagged myself with another inhale, as she well knew.
I would have forgotten to exhale first. I felt like a recalcitrant newborn
needing a slap on the bum to be taught to breathe.
   The smoke drifted out of my mouth and I liked the look of it cascading off
my lips. I knew I could get used to that.
   The second inhale was pretty brave for a woman on her first cigarette. It
did burn a little. It did give me slight headache. 
   And then I was in heaven. I wanted to hold that smoke in my virgin lungs
until it burst. I wanted to have sex, right then, right there. 
   I settled for an exhale- and I pleased Lisa greatly by performing that first
one as a nose exhale, something she said was very unusual.
   "Brilliant," she said, encouraging me.
   By the time the first of my twenty cigarettes was spent, I had serious
doubts this was a two week experiment.

   	Smoking in the Nineties, Part 1 of a Series
By Amanda Gerard, Staff Reporter

   Nowhere is the gulf between smokers and non-smokers more evident than the
restaurant.
   They segregate us into artificial constraints like separate breeds of
cattle. As a non-smoker, I'd always thought this perfectly acceptable.
   I'm new to smoking. In fact, this was my first night as a smoker. My friend
Lisa and I were in fact- and some of you may cringe at this- celebrating my
newfound liberation by going to our favourite restaurant. Unlike myself, Lisa
has been smoking for ten years. She is not shy about smoking, and she is
easily offended by the people she calls 'antis'. That's seventy percent of
the population to you and I. Or at least to you.
   Antis claim- loudly these days- that even two hours of second-hand smoke
might do irrevocable damage to their lungs, their CNS, their psyche and
karma.
   Lisa and I always had an understanding. We took turns being seated in
smoking and non-smoking.
   I never understood until this meal what it meant to be deprived of your
after-meal smoke.
   We were led into the back of the restaurant by a young women we both went to
high school with. She's a smoker herself and I spoke with her briefly after
the meal about which section she preferred serving. "The smoking section,"
she replied. "The people are more relaxed- and they're better tippers."	
   Now imagine. This is my first night smoking, and my first public appearance-
my coming out if you will. I was nervous. Would people I know see me ? Well,
one of my co-workers, a devout anti, saw me go into that back area and she
looked at me in a way which was so scathing that we haven't spoken since. I
was crossing a line and that made me, in her eyes, the enemy.
   That's why I've chosen to cover that aspect of my first public smoking
experience.
   Once we'd reached the 'back of the bus', as some smokers call the smoking
section, I felt different. There was an immediate sense of community.
   Now those of you who don't get out much only see the smoking section of the
restaurant lampooned on satirical television shows. It's filled with old
people on their last lung, dwelling in an impenetrable murk of smoke which
coats your glasses and clings to you like the stench of year-old haggis.
   Not the case. The average age (I took a poll, believe it or not) was
twenty-six. At the table next to us was a mother and her two daughters, ages
16 and 15. All three smoked during and after their meal. I won't use their
names because I might just get the mother in trouble.
   The five us became friends over the course of the evening. I discovered the
girls- a pair of attractive young women, I might add- are not drop outs in
waiting who smoke because of a rebellion complex. They are third and fourth
in their class, they play sports, they are well-spoken. they still babysit.
   And yes, they smoke. Quite openly. Much more confidently than I myself. Oh,
you're shocked. How dare I depict smoking in such a positive light. It's a
disservice to the community. You'll write letters, you'll ask the editor why
she employs such a dastardly person who would condone underage smoking.
   It won't change the fact that these three women- that all five of us- are
nice human beings. Who just happen to be smokers. We don't, as some of you
seem to think, go into that back room and sacrifice live animals or plot the
overthrow of the non-smoking world. We are just people who like to smoke, and
more than ever, we do deserve a little consideration.
   I'll tell you, that first cigarette after a meal is not something to be misse
d. A cup of well-made coffee and a little nicotine cap the dining experience
in a way those of you outside the fold can't understand. You could, however,
accept it.

   I didn't like the column. It was poorly written. It was emotion. When Janice
let it pass, I was shocked. She's a damn tough editor for a small-time paper
like the Sentinel. Which is as it should be. We can hold our own with papers
twice our size.
   The letters poured in. The faxes. I was e-mail bombed in half an hour.
   But what I learned is that as a group, we smokers are simply afraid. The
negative laundry came out of the wash in the first cycle. The smokers
responded more slowly. Many of them asked to have names or e-mail address
withheld. But they slowly came to the fore, and at the end of the week when
my next column was due, the results were split down the middle, and Janice
let me know in no uncertain terms that my once-a-week project was selling
papers.
   I do want to add one thing about that dinner. I have never enjoyed myself
more. I'm shy, not just for a reporter. I am shy period. But here I was
talking to three women I'd never met, laughing and joking. They were sweet
girls and they were so pretty when they were smoking. There was something so
unselfconcious about it. They smoked without surrendering a shred of their
innocence.
   I also walked around an entire room asking people their ages and how long
they'd been smoking. It was my first ever canvas- and I did it with a
cigarette in my hand.
   I will never be able to thank Lisa enough for showing me in the door. We
went back home and got drunk and smoked until two. We talked about boys- and
men- about life and each other. I have never felt closer to this woman who
I've known most of my life, and there is no question the simple act of
joining her as a smoker made a tremendous and positive difference.

   I've always respected Janice. Which may be why I never liked her. 
   But over the course of a week, we began to get to know one another. During
our smoke breaks. Now a newspaper is an odd place to work. It's not nine to
five, and whether or not you are a slacker is not determined by how busy you
can look while cruising the web, but by how much copy you get printed.
   Still, the smoke break gives the antis- I clearly see them now as such- a
change to label you as Slacker Magistrae.
   I learned a lot about Janice. She looks about twenty, but she's closer to
thirty five. She's been editor six years, but she still worries that people
don't take her seriously because she's doing something idiots still consider
a man's job. She likes Moncford a lot. Enough to turn down a sweet package
from the Globe in Boston.
   She's also a dedicated smoker.
   Like me.
   Lisa was right. That first carton lasted about a week.
   I also discovered that Janice likes me. That she gave me this particular
story to write because of something I would have thought to be a weakness in
a reporter. She said I had an 'open compassion' which showed in my writing.
God, I thought that would get you fired. 
   It was during one of our smoke breaks- we began taking them together with
two other female reporters, all the female smokers on our staff- that I got
the idea for the second column.

   		Smoking in the Nineties, Part 2 of a Series
By Amanda Gerard, Staff Reporter

   The tall, attractive brunette who walked up to me during one of my smoking
breaks at the paper the day before yesterday shocked me by recognising me
from that staff photograph you see next to this column.
   What they say about smoking heightening your senses must be true.
   "You're Amanda Gerard, the one who wrote that wonderful piece about smoking
in restaurants, aren't you ? I recognise your photograph."
   This alone deserves its own column. The photo, about the size of a license
picture, makes me look sixteen. Not to mention the fact that the only thing
you can clearly see in it is a zit under my left eye the size of Mare
Capricornus. I swear that some Photoshop-toting clown down in Production
added that bomb crater after the fact, because I have never had a zit that
big in my life.
   She offered her free hand and I shook it. Naturally, she was smoking.
   "I want to thank you. After I read that column my boyfriend and I broke up."
   I was perplexed. What should I say ? Thank you and my boyfriend and I broke
up were not parsing coherently. They don't belong in a single thought. "I'm
sorry," I said.
   "No, I'm glad. You talked about how you and Lisa used to split time between
smoking and non. Brian would die before he'd sit in the smoking section. That
got me thinking."
   My cohorts all nodded their heads. They'd all been there. Janice had warned
me, as had Lisa, that I might one day find myself there as well.
   "So you read my column and decided that he was wrong for you ? I guess I
should be more careful about what I write," I joked. Half-joked.
   She laughed. "No. Don't get me wrong. He's a sweet guy. But there are
limits. I was living two lives. One as a smoker- I've been smoking since I
was thirteen- and one as a non-smoker. I couldn't smoke in front of my family
if he was around. I couldn't smoke around his. I couldn't smoke in my car if
he was with me. I couldn't smoke before sex. Or after."
   Janice sighed. "Not after ?"
   "No," the woman, who never gave me her name, said morosely. "Especially not
after. Even if I could roll him off me."
   We all laughed at the joke. We finished our cigarettes. But I couldn't stop
thinking about the brunette and her boyfriend.
   It strikes me as unfair. She really liked this guy. Except for his attitude
about her smoking. Now I suppose it's a snap judgement, but she seemed like a
wonderful person. 
   We really have gotten to a point where we take a person's entire make-up and
distill it into 'She smokes. She doesn't.'
   Oh, we don't need name tags. We huddle outside our work place and smoke- I
am glad I started in the summer. A Moncford winter might have crimped my
enthusiasm. We roll down the windows of our cars and desperately squeeze in
one last cigarette on the way to work in the morning. We smell different. We
hold pens like cigarettes. We make secret 'let's go smoke' signs to one
another in the office.
   We are lepers, aren't we ?
   No, we aren't. All I can say to you, if you're out there, Brian, is that you
made a mistake. We're all making mistakes. It's  a sad, petty war, and you
antis think that you're right because you outnumber us.
   Maybe you are. Maybe that is what a democracy is about. But I plan to keep
right on casting my vote, twenty times a day.
   I'll be the one outside the Sentinel with the smile on my face. Sans zit. 
   
   Again, I wasn't happy about the column. I thought it was boring, unoriginal,
staid. Janice, on the other hand, liked it a lot. And people did read it.
This time the response of the pro-smoking crowd was quicker and larger. The
antis backed off a little. Not much. But the hate mail levelled off and I
noticed fewer people gunning their engines when I was in  crosswalks.
   Two weeks came. I was on my second carton, but a small part of me had begun
to consider quitting, just to prove that I could do it. After all, one of the
antis biggest complaints about us is that we're a bunch of addicts. I thought
about writing an 'I quit' piece, just to see what the reaction would be.
   Two things stopped me. First, I felt like I'd be selling out, abandoning a
new support group I was fast becoming a town crier for.
   Second, Lisa was there when I needed her most.

   She knocked on the door sixish.
   Of course, she was in the act of lighting a cigarette when I opened it.
   I'd been smoke free for six hours. Six very long hours. Janice had talked
about what I was doing and while she'd seemed generally displeased, she did
agree that my idea would provide balance and objectivity to what had become
my own personal vendetta. Still, she had told me that she wouldn't let it
affect our budding friendship, especially not when I was writing pleading
can't-we-all-just-get-along articles.
   Lisa was my rescue squad.
   Sexuality played a major role.
   I like the 100s. They're long, sleek, powerful. The regulars are stubby.
They make it look like you can't afford a real cigarette. That's just my
opinion, of course. I like white filters too. It's just a preference.
   Lisa had called first, so she knew what I was doing.
   She didn't waste valuable time.	
   "Six hours is long time," she said, drawling the words. "Forever."
   I wanted to snap at her. I was angry. I didn't want to quit.
   "Yeah," I said.
   "What do want to do ?" I asked morosely.
   "Finish the job I started," she said. She inhaled deeply on the cigarette,
treated me to another stunning nose exhale, and then held it out to me.
   I had never shared a cigarette with another person. I had no idea how
sensual it was.
   I refused her offer.
   Lisa is a brilliant woman. She circled behind me, slipped her free arm
around my waist and brought the hand with the cigarette around to my lips. I
turned my head and found it firmly nestled in her right breast (she's a
little taller, after all). The smoke from the cigarette was binding me to
her. Our flesh was mutating into a single organism.
   I had to have that cigarette which had been between her lips in
mine.	Nevertheless, I hesitated.
   She slid her hand down until it was just above my crotch. It was sexual. She
knew how far she could go, that we could take a few steps in that direction
and still return unscathed. She began a gentle rhythmic motion which made my
pubic hairs stand at attention. Her nipple was hard. I nestled it.
   I turned my head. She placed the cigarette in my mouth and I inhaled deeply.
I turned my head and exhaled. She drank the smoke from my mouth with her
nose.
   After that, we passed the cigarette back and forth in our hands. She didn't
let go of me. Her nipple did not soften and my pubic hair did not relax.
   When we finished it I said I needed to shower and then we'd go celebrate my
decision to smoke for the rest of my life. I took my cigarettes in the
bathroom, locked the door, lit one. For a moment I simply watched myself,
naked and smoking, noticing how I'd learned from my new friends and my old
one how to best handle the cigarette. 
   Then, and I'm not ashamed to admit this, I masturbated. I had to. I was so
sexually charged I would have been a wreck all night. I stood there and
watched myself smoke and pleasured myself and I had never felt better in my
entire life.
   If Lisa knew, she had the class to keep it to herself.	 

   		Smoking in the Nineties, Part 3 of a Series
By Amanda Gerard, Staff Reporter

   Today, my smoking assignment ended. Originally, I had planned to quit today.
Smoking that is. 
   I could. I know. We all say that and it's a lie.
   That's a nice out for the non-smoking crowd. Since I don't smoke, you
reason, no one would want to. You try to give us credit but suggesting that
we can't help ourselves, that demon nicotine is twisting our brain into a
pretzel. 
   Yes, you have noticed that I've adopted the you-against-me mentality. 
   No, it's not nicotine poisoning. Carbon Monoxide hasn't fried my brain. What
I discovered after two weeks of smoking is that a) I like it, and b) I have
met more supportive people in the last two weeks than in the two years since
I came back from college with a license to opinionate. Yes, I actually smoke
because I want to.
   I asked those two fifteen year old girls who I mentioned in my first story
if they were sorry they started. Why ? The anti-smoking crowd loves to truck
out addicted teenagers who say they would give their Ford Explorer to be able
to quit. It's inferred from these singular statements that all teenagers are
sorry they started.
   It's the same with adults. And yes, there are smokers who are
poster-children for your anti-smoking campaign.
   There are just as many- actually, I think, many more- smokers who, like me,
have only one regret. I started at twenty-four. I'd rather be Lisa, my friend
who started at fourteen. So please, when you see me on the street, cigarette
in hand, don't pity me. Just ask me if you can try one. I'll be happy to
oblige.
   As for those two girls. They both were adamant that quitting was the
furthest thing from their minds. But they are lucky. They have an
understanding mother. These days, kids- and I mean responsible teenagers- who
light up are considered to be criminals. In some cities they are fining
underage smokers large sums of money for doing something teenagers have done
ever since the cigarette was invented.
   It's all about attitude. I don't smoke to make those of you who don't angry.
I don't think that you abstain from smoking just to make me miserable. The
truth is, I don't care whether or not you smoke. I do care whether or not I
smoke, and as such I intend to go right on smoking, at the very least until
smoking is illegal in this state.
   Will that ever happen ?
   This is the same country which once banned alcohol.
   We saw how well that worked.
   That's it for my smoking series. I hope you were enlightened. I know I was.

   Well, it's over for now. I'm a lot happier with the personal results of
Janice's little assignment than I am with my writing. It's small town,
egoist, and a little bitter.
   But it must be good enough, because Janice has asked me to go to a cigar
party Friday night at Moncford Country Club. As a reporter. I'll be
interested to see what comes of that. Too bad Lisa doesn't smoke cigars....


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