To a rational mind, smoking cigarettes is an idiotic, useless, nefarious, activity. Worst of all, it is counterintuitive — there is no health benefit, and in a world where health and regulation primes, it has social-exclusionary tendencies. From a white stick with a brown interior, it burns into a stick of grey ash that crumbles onto clothes, nestles under your nails, and if you give it enough time, will stain your teeth. If after smoking you walk into a crowded room of individuals free from addiction or proclivity to cigarettes, you will announce your entrance with a strong, unpleasant (to the non-initiates) smell of smoke. At such, you will stand out, and maybe be ostracised by others, seen as an individual unable to discard its worst habits — a sinner for the whole congregation to judge.
Despite all of this, a cigarette smoked at the right time, in the right circumstance, with the right company, has an innate quality; a quality that defies description, a benefit that is ethereal. Why is this? The short, most predictable answer, is that tobacco companies have been the pioneers of slick marketing, nudge economics, and kings of devious tactics; promoting the consumption of a product so dangerous to the public they corrupted our guardians of health to keep the truth at bay. Therefore, we smoke, because as teenagers we thought it was cool, because it gave us an edge when our personalities and lives were without curves.
Another answer, one that perhaps sounds truer today than ever, is that cigarettes allows one to dismiss the conformity of society. The use of smoking is inherent to its ontological state — we smoke because we can, and perhaps because we shouldn’t. This means that maybe there is a nihilistic quality to smoking; Mac Miller (the late music artist) said in one of his songs: ‘Don’t wanna grow old so I smoke just in case’. In a society dominated by chasing the elixir of youth, where wrinkles are demonised, and the natural processes of biological journeys are papered with botox, veneers and surgical operations, smoking is an act of defiance. It is an embrace of the mortality of our existence, it is a tacit submission to our futility, it is our way of punishing God for our fates.
It is is also an act of defiance, a middle finger, wrapped in smoke and fire, to the regulations and the health studies that form part of the utilitarianism and morality of late-capitalistic Western society. It is an act of rebellion for those that stand under the rain…