In Defense of Smoking

My “Smoking makes you cool” design has ruffled quite a few people’s feathers in the years it’s been on the stall; something I honestly never thought would happen. Not because I consider it to some sort of intrinsic, self-evident truth but because it’s just a T-shirt. This was clearly somewhat naïve of me; the way some people react, you’d think I was selling swastikas in a synagogue. The way I see it, if a T-shirt espousing an undeniably unhealthy habit is the thing that offends you most in a day, you should either count it as a good day or it’s time to reassess your priorities.

I never intended to offend anyone but now I have I actually really enjoy it. Few things fuel my enthusiasm on the stall like the adrenal buzz of a heated argument: keep whining motherfucker, it only strengthens my resolve.

But then my years in debating class taught me that shouting and swearing do not a persuasive argument make. Throwing crockery and kicking furniture is also frowned upon. With that in mind, I thought I’d offer up some rational qualifying statements by way of a defence.

No-one starts smoking because they want nicotine; no, they start because it looks cool. Part of smoking’s allure comes from the fact that it’s become inherently iconic. Upon explaining this to one of my verbal assailants, she replied “Oh, so killing yourself is iconic, is it?!”

Erm, yes actually. But I digress.

Here I have included pictures of two modern icons and infamous smokers: Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart.  In one picture they are smoking and in the other they are engaging in more wholesome activities.

aud clarinet copy

Audrey Hepburn elegantly holding an extremely long cigarette holder: cool.

Audrey Hepburn holding a clarinet: less cool.

Audrey Hepburn holding a clarinet: less cool.

Humphrey Bogart pensive and smoking: cool.

Humphrey Bogart pensive and smoking: cool.

Humphrey Bogart writing a letter to his mother. With a pen which is on fire: less cool.

Humphrey Bogart writing a letter to his mother. With a pen which is on fire: less cool.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

Perhaps these people see me as promoting smoking, but personally I think that’s ridiculous. If someone likes smoking already, then they’re probably going to get the joke; if they don’t already like cigarettes, it’s highly unlikely my T-shirt will cause some sort of epiphany and inspire them to smoke. If you were trying to decide whether or not to quit, I find it very hard to believe that a slogan T-shirt glorifying the habit would encourage them to stay the course and spark up some more. I should certainly hope not.

On the other side of the fence, if I did a T-shirt that tried to discourage people from smoking it wouldn’t be funny, nor would it sell: it’d just be preachy bullshit that no-one in their right mind would buy. Yes, I can see all the fun people in the world queuing around the corner to shove pound sterling into my grubby mitts for a “Smoking is for big, smelly idiots” T-shirt.

One chap who saw fit to defend me (oh my heroic knight on his elegant steed) branded anyone who took issue with the design as “fascists” and commended the design as “a great example of freedom of speech”. I felt this was a little melodramatic and, wanting to avoid a proper conversation with him, refrained from pointing out that my critics were simply exercising their right to free speech too.

Besides, if I was to make a stand against The Man’s attitude towards smoking, I’ll go for something darkly ironic and set myself on fire.

They sometimes mention an acquaintance or family member of theirs who has died or is in extremely ill-health because of smoking. Quite how their emphysema is in some way my fault I’ve never really understood, nor have I been inclined to ask for an explanation. Some people just need to find something to be angry about and I just so happen to be a convenient receptacle for that.

But I really don’t care: if these idiots don’t already see the degree of irony in it or realise that it’s just light-hearted fun then I could give them a detailed PowerPoint presentation projected onto the heavens and they still wouldn’t get it. I have better things to do with my time than converse with these irreparable dullards.

In the immortal words of Carl Barat: “Fuck ’em.”


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