Ask a fifth year

Drew Baumgartner

Dear Drew,
I’ve met the girl of my dreams. Okay, maybe I haven’t technically “met” her, but I do see her smoking outside of my dorm on a daily basis. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much the only time I ever see her. I’m thinking of taking up smoking just so I have an in.
Good idea?
-Coughing in Coleman
As is the case with most of the questions I receive, Coughing, I’m pretty sure you’re kidding, but just in case, I feel compelled to give you a serious answer – so here goes:
Are you kidding?! Not a good idea. I’d like to say that impressing a girl would be among the stupidest reasons to start smoking, but honestly, all reasons are pretty much equally stupid in that they result in people smoking. Instead, I think I’ll focus on the stupid reasons why you shouldn’t start smoking.
Personally, I find the thought of giving any heartless corporation money pretty unpleasant, especially to become the victim of their heartlessness. At least I can justify consuming the products of PepsiCo or Disney because I’m not myself fat or racist. Smoking is different, since carcinogens are dangerous even in moderation.
Sure, smoking may be incredibly pleasant – I’ve seen enough miserable people outside of Plantz in January to suspect otherwise, but let’s continue with this line of thought for the sake of argument – but I’m not sure that justifies putting yourself at risk.
When all those toys were recalled for lead paint, I don’t remember anyone weighing how fun the toys were against the potential dangers. That’s because that would be crazy. Most sane people value not having cancer or emphysema over the kinds of simple pleasures you can pick up at a gas station.
I know, I know, there are all those anecdotes about somebody’s grandpa who smoked a pack a day and died at the ripe old age of 98 when he was hit by a bus, but I’m pretty sure the popularity of those anecdotes comes as a result of their freak nature, not as proof that such an outcome is typical.
The only story I’ve ever heard of a person being stabbed in the head with a nine-inch hunting knife – Discovery Health is a terrifying, terrifying channel – ends with him surviving, but I don’t think that means it’s perfectly safe to get stabbed in the head with nine-inch hunting knife.
I think we can all agree that smoking is dangerous – just ask the surgeon general – but I’ve often heard the opinion that a person has the right to make their own decisions regarding their health. Fair enough. If you really want to increase your risk of developing lung cancer, I have no rights to stop you, but you should keep in mind that you won’t be the only one impacted by your health.
Having a loved one die of cancer is the kind of experience I wouldn’t wish upon anyone, least of all the people closest to me, but increasing my risk of cancer increases the risk of doing precisely that. This makes smoking a supremely selfish act, a kind of “screw you” to the people who might love you 20, 40, or 60 years down the line. The pleasure you experience when you’re 20 may seem like the most important thing when you’re 20, but you may come to change your mind when you’re suffering the consequences – or when your children are watching you suffer the consequences.
Maybe this is already too much for you to thing about, Coughing, so I’ll try to make it simpler; you don’t need to consider these things, just the fact that this girl you’re interested in already has.
Never mind that she smells bad and wastes money in order to perpetuate her smelling bad; she’s a selfish person. She’s obviously more interested in her own pleasure than the happiness of any future loved ones, and that includes you. She’s all take and no give – not girlfriend material. I’d recommend you keep admiring her from afar – specifically, outside of smelling range.