Earlier today, I came across this blog. In it, the house mom of an undisclosed chapter of Mu Sigma Upsilon proudly boasts about her new initiative to turn her sorority into a completely smoke-free environment–not her sorority house, her sorority. She explains, “As much as I loved my sisters, one of the things that really disturbed me was the number of girls who seemed to think smoking was okay.” After deciding what is and isn’t okay for grown women, she put in place a “no cigarette” policy for all the members of her sorority. She humblebrags about being understanding, because she allows the girls to smoke e-cigs as a means of transition. However, she states that ultimately, the girls will be forced to pay a fine if they are caught with cigarettes, like high schoolers.
This is beyond fucked up. Allow me to explain.
My mother smoked throughout her entire pregnancy with me. I know that’s bad, but it was the ‘80s. People were rebels. They smoked all the time. They smoked indoors, even in restaurants. In offices? I can’t really remember. I was just a fetus, so I wasn’t working yet. Anyway, I’m pretty lucky that it had no real effect on me–except one. I convinced myself at a very young age that I was just like a crack baby, and that I was born all spazzy and addicted to nicotine.
Throughout high school, any time I saw a cigarette, I wanted it. I was already craving them, before I had even touched one. Only the real derelicts smoked cigarettes just outside the gate to school grounds in between classes, so I know I didn’t think they were cool. But the smell never bothered me much, and the only explanation I had for my longing was that I was born addicted. Thanks, Mom.
For that reason, I never touched one. At least, not until my junior year of college when curiosity overtook my roommate, Kate, and me. We sat out on our balcony during a party, one cigarette between us. Together, we smoked exactly one quarter of it before realizing it was gross. I wasn’t addicted at all. I didn’t even like it. From then on, the only times I ever smoked a cigarette was when the boy I was drunkenly making out with offered me a drag. I’d coolly accept and then promptly cough up a lung, undoing all the cool I’d just shown him and then some. In my entire life, I’ve probably smoked less than one cigarette. I’m cool with that. I think it’s a pretty gross habit, and I’d never suggest someone pick it up. Plus, I don’t want people to assume that “I poke” because “I smoke.” They’ll have to wait at least until the end of the night to learn that.
HOWEVER. I have friends who smoke socially. I have friends who smoke when they drink. And I have friends who are actually just smokers, but pretend they only smoke “socially,” or “when they drink.” Because I’m a good friend, I never bother them about it.
I know what all you do-goody non-smokers are thinking: “A GOOD friend WOULD bother them about it! It’s their health!” Wrong. There are tons of unhealthy things that people do all the time. Chances are, they know these things are unhealthy. Chances are, reminding them isn’t informative. It’s just judgmental and, frankly, petulant. I mean, let’s put it into perspective:
“Starbucks every morning? You know it’s not cool to be addicted to caffeine. More importantly, it’s so overpriced for coffee. You’d save at least $30 a week if you quit.”
Let ME be the one who decides what I spend my father’s money on, peasant.
“You go tanning? That’s awful for your skin! It can cause skin cancer!”
But it prevents paleness. Leave me alone.
“Seven shots tonight? You’re essentially drinking poison.”
You should try some. Not alcohol, actual poison.
“You’ve had, like, three Diet Cokes today. That stuff tears up your insides.”
I’d like to tear up your outsides.
“Taco Bell at 2:30 a.m.? Is that really the best decision?”
I will kill you.
“Ew, really? You’re still hooking up with Jeff? He’s an asshole.”
An asshole who really knows his way around a vagina. I’ll deal with the emotional damage later. Just let me get laid tonight.
See? You don’t like it much when it’s your vice being scrutinized, do you? So why is it okay with cigarettes? It’s not. It’s not cool to tell another adult what he or she can or can’t do. At a certain point, it’s the individual’s own decision. The information is out there. The Surgeon General’s warning is on every damn pack they buy. It’s not illegal. It’s not even immoral. It’s a choice–an unhealthy choice, but a choice. In many cases, it’s a choice your friends don’t feel good about making. There’s no need for you to regurgitate a lesson plan from your eighth grade health class to them. And it’s absolutely ludicrous for an organization to tell members that they can’t do it.
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