Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Upside of Smoking

Smoking is a completely irrational undertaking, ultimately it is adopted for emotional rather than cognitive reasons. A need for affiliation, or simple indoctrination by the habits of ones parents. The one single life extending decision a person can make is to quit smoking. Yes, not much good can be said of smoking.

But I will say this, at the risk of sounding like a 70 year old academic, we live in a time of great social disconnect. In every organisation I have belonged to, smokers have been the bridges between clicks. The non-smokers do not step outside during winter, nor will they interact with anybody there job discription doesn't force them to. But something about smoking is very communal, smokers share lighters, papers, even cigarrettes. When trying to suck a cigarette down in a 15 minute alloted break, they engage eachother, talk to eachother, find out about eachother, and the only necessary common ground is that they smoke.

A smoker is somebody we are conditioned to recognise as a person of ill repute, a peer pressurer, a passive murderer trying to suck you into their world of cancer. But health, expense and inconvenience aside, smokers are often the friendliest people in an office or at a party. The easiest to approach, engage and initiate conversation with.

My grandfather took up smoking to make himself a better salesman. Back in the day, the social advantages to smoking were obvious. Nicotene may powerfully compel people to smoke, and spend money and time on the habit, but it is alsoa powerful compeller to be social. Ironically the increasing restrictions on where and when one can smoke have pushed smokers into this social cohesian. I wonder if the advent of smart phones, the omnipresent excuse to never be engaged no matter where you are will impact this one last upside to smoking?

Or will regulations kill it first? I'd like to argue we should all learn from smokers, that non-smokers should take breaks with people they ostensibly have nothing in common with and take the time to expand their social horizons, but I just don't see how, I don't see how anything can replace smoking as an arbitrary introduction for who can be your friend.

I mean, I'm a non-smoker (and an introvert) and I make a collossal effort to engage everyone I can, and so often I discover that for all my efforts people have effortlessly befriended a smoker first (not that being a smokers friend excludes you from mine, but that they just do so with ease).

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