Rather than quit smoking, why not start?

Tim Requarth Column

The word on the street this week — I’m sure you’ve heard it — is “healthy.” It’s the most up-to-date thing to do these days, in such times of resolutions.

I see health going on all around me. That quiet girl from Spanish class who, in the name of a new year, all of a sudden dresses up in a loud electric jumpsuit and hops up and down Sheridan Road like a bunny for an hour or two; she is, of course, jogging. Babies wheel by me in strollers that look equipped for a lunar landing; their parents pant and push behind them, jogging. I think I even saw someone get out of his wheelchair once and take a few laps. You get the picture.

This is the healthiest week of the year.

I’m not trying to persuade you to have babies so you can jog behind them. I may, in fact, be doing the exact opposite.

Because this year, while the rest of you resolved to exercise daily, to quit smoking, or to indulge in Hot ‘N’ Now olive burgers only on Tuesday mornings, I resolved to start smoking. And let me tell you, it’s not as easy as you might think: Habits are just as difficult to form as they are to quit. Just look at all you week-long joggers.

The right equipment was one problem. I didn’t have an ashtray, for example, or a good lighter. I had to light my cigarettes with the stove and put them out in a cracked cereal bowl.

Another problem is that smokers don’t have it easy these days; New York recently banned smoking in bars. The CTA fines you $525 for smoking on its property, the majority of which — due to its elevated status — is actually outside. Smokers are looked down upon, reviled in secret (or openly); at a restaurant, two people, who are probably about to consume a meal whose caloric content could fuel a small watercraft, discreetly call the waiter over to their table and request to move across the restaurant, away from the smoking section, away from its life-shortening fumes. In the eyes of many people, in short, smokers are real losers.

Actually, all smokers are real winners. At some point in their lives they set a goal, for whatever motives, and achieved it. They became smokers. They battled through the initial gasping, persevered in the face of personal revulsion and placed faith in the fact that smoking would someday satisfy. They accepted its financial burden — perhaps, though, without realizing its true gravity — and for those who began young, apprenticed themselves in the furtive and often rewarding act of hiding something from parents. Against all odds, they won. How many non-smokers can claim such an accomplishment?

But hey, smoking, after all, has its down side. Since I decided to punctuate my every gesture with a slick wisp of smoke, I have had to live with the consequences. After a shower, I have to dry off with what smells like a damp ashtray. Likewise, when I roll out of bed, I am greeted not with the rose-garden aroma I was accustomed to, but with the stale stench of bruised butts in a broken bowl.

Certainly it is worth the petty nuisances. I see the look in your eye, a mixture of suspicion and admiration, as I gesticulate with my cigarette. You’re nervous and excited. It’s as if anything I say could have imminent and unsuspected developments. I could do anything next. I smoke, after all. I’m fucking crazy.

Tim Requarth is a Weinberg senior. He can be reached at trequarth