Light a fire or not?
PURPLE SHADES - Letty Jacinto-Lopez (The Philippine Star) - May 16, 2016 - 10:00am

Finally, we agree with the rest of the world that smoking kills.  However, in countries like those in the Caucasus Mountains (Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia), Iran, Russia, China, and India, smoking still commands a big following.

Smoking still connotes sophistication.  “It’s the first step to heaven, along with a shot of martini or a cup of freshly brewed java mocha,” claimed a smoker.  It doesn’t help when your own friends swear that it’s the only vice worth keeping.  “A cigarette is a loyal companion, next to my delightful mascot.”

Some believe that no one has ever been more steadfast than a lighted stick because it never gazes away, in boredom.  It even bears the weight of your stupidity because how else have you kept your wits about when you hurled that cigarette in disgust at being duped, betrayed or simply caught with your guard down?  A cigarette is like your alter ego encased in a carton box. 

A lighted cigarette inspires lucid thoughts, sharpening the senses and reflexes. That’s how celebrated authors penned their best sellers.  Those burnt stubs gave rise to plots and storylines filled with romance, intrigue, and noble ideals.      

“On the contrary!” came the vehement protest from the opposite camp.  “Abstinence from smoking is the reason why some women have remained youthful, keeping that silky, porcelain skin through several generations.”  It has nothing to do with scientific breakthroughs either.  It’s just a proven fact that any dark stuff glowing through a woman’s system could never be good.

Yellowed gums, foul breath, decaying incisors, canines, molars, and jaundiced fingertips are just as loathsome.

Do you remember Hollywood’s femme fatale of the 50s, Lauren Bacall?  She glamorized smoking in many of her film noir with another legendary actor, her husband Humphrey Bogart (he died of esophagus cancer due to heavy smoking).  She won legions of fans with her sultry looks and distinctive voice.  She stood languorously by a doorpost and, in a husky tone, would ask, “Do you have a light?”

Remember that helpless feeling of not being able to do anything when your friend lost his life (and his shirt) because of this addiction?  It was a grievous, senseless waste of time, talent, and opportunity.    

In school, my headstrong classmates used to hide in toilet cubicles to practice puffing without choking.  On a dare, I also lighted a cigarette called Eve with dainty flowers stamped on every tip.  Whoa!  The leathery taste of the tobacco lingered in my tongue for days.

And what about the cigar smoking rooms that served the best cognac with a library of smoking accoutrements?  That brought out clearly the perils of tobacco.  The chronic cough, the shortness of breath, and loss of the sense of taste.  It can transform any room from a bouquet of aromatic fragrances to a thick, polluted fog of pungent air. 

Breakthroughs in science claim that it’s easier to kick the habit now.  Nicotine patch, low-calorie candies, group therapy, and the latest electronic cigarettes called e-cigs, a battery-powered, cigarette-shaped device that converts liquid nicotine into a mist or vapor, inhaled by the user.  E-cigs are touted to remove or filter the harmful chemicals like carbon monoxide or tar.  Is it any healthier?  Maybe, but traditional smokers won’t substitute the smell, touch, and taste of packed tobacco for virtual cigarettes.

For me, anyone can smoke so long as you do it outside my house and never in an enclosed space.  Stay in the garden but no butts on my hedges, please.

My namesake, Letitia “Tish” Baldrige, an American etiquette expert and PR practitioner who served as Jackie Kennedy’s social secretary in the White House, gave this smoking etiquette:  “If you don’t like smoking in your house, warn guests.  At the moment of extending the invitation, say, ‘I feel I should tell you we don’t smoke at home.’ Don’t justify or make any further explanations.  Your guest will have the option to accept or decline.”  Don’t post a “No smoking” sign in the house, it’s tacky.

The worse smoking offenders are those who smoke in a windowless bathroom, leaving an odor that would take months to dissipate.  If you must smoke, borrow an ashtray or any glazed dish and step outside.

Inside the car and in a lift, cigarette smoking in a small space is misery for those who inhale the secondhand smoke.  It takes only seconds for the elevator to take you to your desired floor.  Surely, you can wait.

 Never encourage children to smoke even if it’s considered an indigenous, homegrown habit or pastime like that two-year-old toddler who smoked 40 cigarettes a day and threw a tantrum if he didn’t get his sticks.

Keep smokers away from pregnant or nursing mommies.  

To light or not to light?  That’s the question.

 If you ask me, I’d throw the matches away.

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