“A puff of smoke”

Tobacco is a killer
If it were grown and cured organically, used occasionally, it might be ok.
But (like meat) once it was produced industrially, marketed and targeted on to the neuroses that blossomed and thrived as the modern world developed (say, for the last five hundred years) its effects grew ever more toxic.
Somewhere I turned up the grim statistic that tobacco in all its variants had killed
more people in the US than everything else put together.
Remember The Insider (1999, directed by Michael Mann) about a tobacco company whistleblower, Russell Crowe and fellow actors at their best?
A very good film but not a pretty story.

My father smoked all his life.   He probably began before he joined the army but once there, he smoked.   And so did almost everybody else.  When he had his first heart attack forty years later, he was told to stop and he couldn’t.  He controlled it to never more than one cigarette an hour, he smoked the mildest brand he could tolerate and those with what he called “spats” on – but he couldn’t stop.

My mother however was quite different.
There was a silver cigarette box, lined with cedar or sandalwood, perhaps a long ago wedding present.   And once or twice a year, my father brought my mother (whether on the off chance or as a result of some discussion, I don’t know) either Passing Cloud – Turkish cigarettes first available in the 1870s, oval in a pink trimmed box – or Balkan Sobranie, black with gold tips.   They were decanted into the cigarette box and one quiet evening, often towards Christmas though I do remember one late summer evening –  my mother would smoke most of a cigarette.
I don’t remember her ever having more than most of one.
And enjoying it.

Through the rest of the year, Pop would smoke some of them and the remainder would be ditched when they staled.
You could say this was a waste of money but it had the air of a private ceremony and here we are 50 or 60 years later and I remember all the details.

Leaving aside the addictive nature of nicotine and the heaven knows what with which tobacco is now doctored (one of the nastiest chapters of the tobacco trade is the cold blooded doping of tobacco to create new addicts and thus new markets – get ‘em at seven, keep ‘em till heaven), there is a big psychological piece to smoking.
Is it reward or coping strategy?  Oral gratification or a pacifier for adults?

I was never a convinced smoker.  I tried but then I tried everything to look sophisticated.  I only liked two or three brands and I didn’t inhale much.  So when I shared a studio with a man who knew a lot about radio (Brian Hayes) but hated smoking, I stopped.   I think I have smoked half a dozen cigarettes in the last 40 years.

I have one great friend who smokes.  She always has and she always will.  So does her husband.   But she works at life with few days off.
She is unstintingly generous of herself, takes care of all sorts of friends and family, much of it over distance, whether in matters of health, the law or bathroom fittings.
She is if you will the “go to” person for many, including me.   She once lit up and asked rhetorically “I really should stop shouldn’t I?” to which I replied that if she could do what she does on cigarettes and tea, I thought she was doing remarkably well.

And several years ago it was with her I shared a cigarette.  Which was my last until I mentioned a certain longing for a Gauloise to a girlfriend who arrived for supper, unpacked her handbag and explained she couldn’t get French cigarettes, this was the best she could do and handed me Balkan Sobranie and a trip down memory lane.
We had one each last week.   My chest held up, the sky didn’t fall and I loved it.
Just the one.

Sorry there are no pictures this week because Anna’s computer decided to have a smoke itself!

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