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I call myself a non-smoking smoker because most days of the year I don’t smoke, but most days of the year I want to smoke. After I get home from a long day and the evening light is slanting through the windows I think “I really need a cigarette to relieve my stress and end the day right.” Just last week I had a sore throat and thought “A menthol cigarette would really soothe my throat right now.” Last night after the debate I thought “A cigarette could help me relax right now.” Any day of the week I could find a new excuse for a cigarette.

But I don’t light one up because I quit for health reasons, though my love of nicotine–more likely my addiction to it, but I enjoy the heck out of it–is still there. I don’t particularly want to die a decade earlier than I have to because of ill-health from smoking, I don’t want to get lung cancer and have a horrible time of it, I don’t want to make my fibromyalgia symptoms worse, which smoking seems to do. I also need to exercise and have clear lungs to do it.

I started smoking when I was seventeen. I freely admit part of the reason I started is because I thought it looked cool. I also admit to starting because many in my family and in my circle of friends smoked. I ended up loving it, and if I met a genie I would ask him to grant me illness-free cigarettes instead of a million dollars. I smoke menthol, which my teenage mind somehow thought were cooler than regular ones. I love everything about the process of smoking–the feel of the pack (the hard pack), the smell of a freshly-opened box, the look of all 20 of them lined up neatly and cleanly. I like putting the cigarette in my mouth and striking a match. I like the smoke getting in my eye as I light it and puff it alive. I like the glowing red end. I like the feel of it between my fingers. I like drawing on the end, inhaling the smoke and blowing it slowly out.  I know I’m falling for movie star images, but it makes me feel so elegant to smoke. I even like the way it smells, which I know is the part of smoking that people hate the most.

But I had to quit because my lungs were starting to ache–the doctor even gave me an inhaler to help with shortness of breath. I quit because I stopped being a teenager and I couldn’t keep ignoring my mortality and my health. And when I got married I couldn’t say “I’d like to be with you for the rest of my life, but I’m going to keep up this habit that causes ill-health and might kill me decades before you die.” Plus, my husband wouldn’t stop disapproving of my choice and it’s not fun to light up with someone who gives you crap for it every time you do.

I do have one day a year that I decided I will indulge myself: July 17th, the day my Grandmother Josephine died. She was one who was able to smoke for decades–close to seven–without lung cancer or emphysema or heart disease or any other major ill effects. Other than that one cigarette, I’m a non-smoking smoker, glad to not have lung cancer or exacerbated fibro symptoms, but still daydreaming of tapping one out of the pack and lighting it up.

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