University drops smoking

7 Jan

Atlanta’s own Emory University had an announcement to make this week:  No Smoking Allowed.  Anywhere.  Not in campus buildings, dorms, outside of the library, not in a box next to a fox, or even in your own car with all of the windows rolled up.  Huh.  All tobacco products are banned from any place on campus.  This means cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, pipes, hookahs and bongs.  What is college without bongs???  I don’t know this world anymore.  Maybe this is why so many “online universities” are popping up.

I am presently not a smoker, but I used to be pretty hardcore.  I am seventeen years “clean”.  And that is a good thing now, but at the time I thought quitting was a power play and a hassle.  It’s like this: when Big Daddy and I started dating he would light my ciggies for me and was all gentlemanly about carrying a lighter in his pocket for my igniting needs.  Then things started getting serious and the hammer dropped: “I can’t marry a smoker.  You have to quit.”  Like a real woman, I recognized that if it’s a contest between always having a date who wants to give me jewelry and tagging a butt outside of a bar with a bunch of weirdoes, then I’ll take the former.  Done.

The saying isn't "Cigarettes are a girl's best friend" now, is it?

It was in the early 1990s that the tobacco Gestapo rose through the ranks and started messing with me.  It started with no longer allowing smoking on airplanes.  Before a 27-hour flight to Korea, I found my self in the glass enclosed smoke pit it the airport power smoking with the best of them.  Next came to eliminating a restaurant hostess’ most important question: “Smoking or non-smoking section?”, to no smoking in restaurants period.  And that extended to mall food courts, too.  Never again would I smell a group of pale, Goth teens sucking on clove cigarettes while enjoying an Orange Julius.  The lovably cool Joe Camel was crucified and Marlboro points were moot.  Really, Big Daddy’s decree was rather timely, because the other Man was taking away all the freedom of smoking anyway.  I imagine this is how motorcycle enthusiasts felt when states began enforcing helmet laws.  Sure, the Man was looking out for the people’s “health”, but it was also draping a wet wool blanket on the joy.

So hard?

“They” say the quitting smoking is harder than weaning off of heroine.  Having never snorted, shot, smoked or anything else one can do with that stuff, I couldn’t say if this is true or not.  But it was my fear.  Thus, I had never before tried to quit, never wanted to and frankly didn’t see a reason.  My only experience with someone quitting smoking was with my step-dad, Tom.  And that was a doozy.

Let’s back up a bit.  I come from a long and rich line of smokers.  My parents smoked.  Their friends all smoked.  My aunts, uncles and cousins smoked.  In every public room of my house, there was a silver box or beautiful little julep cup full of Vantage 100s waiting to be smoked.  Every room had at least two fancy Waterford ashtrays.  This, by the way, isn’t a sign of growing up in a trailer park…this was classy, abundant and gracious living.  At the grocery store, buggies had clip-on aluminum ashtrays for housewives that liked to puff a cigarillo as they trolled the cereal aisle and thumped the produce.  Large canister ashtrays were in every department store.  And the “better” stores, like Neiman Marcus, would bring you a glass of wine and a beanbag ashtray for your Mom to the dressing room.  We had a huge basket at home of all of the different embellished matchbooks that we would collect from restaurants, banks, hotels…anywhere.  And lots of places also had their own logoed ashtrays.  We took a lot of those too.  It was a golden era.

See that ciggie wand. It's high-style!

Now, back to Tom.  At some point, maybe around 1986, Tom had a sketchy lung x-ray that turned out to be fine, but he was all shook up and he cold turkey quit smoking.  Never in the history of ex-smokers has there been a more smug and self-congratulatory ex-smoker.  Tom took every opportunity to wax on and on about his will power and discipline.  We just all rolled our eyes and closed our ears.  Fast-forward to the spring of 1989ish, when he travelled to Texas to see his middle son graduate from college.  Upon his return home, Tom was fidgety, restless and seemed to have developed a case of adult onset ADD.  The man had chronic ants in his pants and was using a stream of flimsy excuses to get the hell out of the house all of the time.  He kept every car’s gas tank topped off, bought every single size drill bit, one at a time, from Home Depot.  He picked up dry cleaning, ran nonsensical errands and was continually shaking the change in his pockets.  There was no doubt in my mother’s suspicious mind that Tom had rekindled love with his ex-wife while at their son’s graduation.  We assumed that he was really going out to call his former wife and whisper sweet nothings from the Gulf station’s pay phone…hence all the coin jiggling.  Mom hired a P.I. to tail him.  Tom wasn’t romancing his former yellow rose of Texas.  He was smooching on the filter of a cigarette.

Pretty little cancer sticks

 Because Tom had been such a pain in the ass and gloated so much about his dynamic power to just quit, he was unable to admit that he had begun not just smoking again, but making up for lost time.  When confronted, he denied, denied, denied.  “Catch Tom In The Act” became a fun family game.  When I uncovered two cartons of Vantages in the pool pump house, he blamed it on the next-door neighbor’s 12 year-old son.  If I was at the house and he would declare he was going to buy some wood screws, I would insist on going to Home Depot for some mythical need too, just for fun and to watch his squirm.  Because we worked together at a chemical plant, I would run up to the warehouse overlook window to spy him huddled behind a 20 ft. tall pallet tower of bleach boxes…smoking.  One time, unbeknownst to Tom, I was behind him on Powers Ferry Rd.  when he tossed a spent butt out of his car window and it landed on the hood of my car.  Swear.  In Hawaii, my oldest stepbrother, also named Tom, busted him smoking an Eve 120, snaked from Mother’s pack.  It was a new low.  Eve 120 cigarettes are super long, ultra-thin cigarettes decorated with flowers along the filter.  My macho, manly, retired Air Force fighter pilot Dad was hiding out with pretty, pretty lady cigarettes.  It turns out that the graduating stepbrother…hadn’t.  He hadn’t even gone to most of college.  Poor, disappointed Tom was too embarrassed to tell my Mom, who most certainly would have had lots to say about it.  Instead, he turned to his old pal, tobacco.  We were just relieved he wasn’t having an affair with the ex.  We thought it was kind of a hoot, but he remained ashamed of his smoking habit until he died years later.  While it was openly known he was smoking, he never did smoke again in public.  His pride just couldn’t have handled it.

My own bout with smoking cessation?  Well, my motivation was…motivating.  It took me about three days. As this post has already grown into a novella, I’ll save that funny story for another time.  However, I will say that if stopping is harder than kicking heroine, then I think all of those scabby, shaky, puking black-tar junkies are a bunch of lightweights.  I have no respect for them.  Losers.

I’ll wrap it up with this little thought nugget.  I have one friend who still smokes, but she’s cut waaay back.  I have one aunt and two cousins who are still smokers.  You can no longer smoke at work, at the grocery store, while pumping gas, at your favorite restaurant, anywhere in the airport and now, with Emory’s decree, there is a precedent to prevent smoking while enclosed in your own private property.  And the cost of a pack of cigarettes is out of hand.  Do I think it’s “good” that people aren’t smoking anymore?  Yep.  I feel much better, though I didn’t realize I even felt bad.  My kids are totally freaked and obnoxious when they see or smell someone smoking.  But, I have to wonder if some of our country’s employment shift and woes can’t be tied to the vigilante lynching of our tobacco industry.  What are all of those former tobacco farmers growing now?  Corn for corn syrup?  All of the matchbook factories, ashtray fabricators and rolling plants…what has become of them and their employees?  How about the person whose job it was to remove dead smokes from the big, commercial ashtray canisters and then refills them with fresh sand to imprint the hotel’s logo into it?  I just have to wonder if while the end of smoking is good for us, has it been bad for our economic health.  Someone get me an impact study, stat!

Maybe they can get jobs at the smokeless cigarette kiosk at the mall?

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3 Responses to “University drops smoking”

  1. niki hall January 7, 2012 at 2:05 pm #

    Fabulous, Honey, just fabulous!

  2. kathrinjapan January 8, 2012 at 5:31 am #

    I smoked Marlboro lights and Capri’s! Those were such good times. I can’t get into a car for a long drive and not wish for a cig. One of my favorite memories is pulling all-night era with my girlfriends and ending up at a cafe drinking coffee, eating biscotti, smoking cigarettes. It was cool.

    • Hot damn, Charlotte Ann! January 11, 2012 at 10:03 am #

      I can not picture you doing anything unhealthy…but those Capris did come in pretty colors!

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