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"Puff the Tobacco Carton, from Dawn Until Three..."

Eventually, I'll be posting weekly Soapboxes a week late, I'm sure. Nah, I'll get back on track, but definitely not by next weekend -- I have to finish a chapter for a book by Monday.

I digress. No deep spiritual or philosophical thoughts this week -- just a pure and scatter-brained rant, reminiscent of the old days of the 'Box.

Get them smokers away from me! They're everywhere! At this very moment, nothing more than a pane of glass stops the invisible fog of cigarette fumes from the smoking college students below in the pool area. I can't open my windows at any time of the day, or the room will become rank with a cheap tobacco odor. Inconsiderate wretches, may you drop out of college (like you're here to learn anyway).

I've been trying to break down why people smoke, since that's the easiest way to attack this pestilence. Is it to to feel good, to waste excess time, to be socially acceptable, or what?

I'm sure it feels good. Haven't tried it myself, but that's mainly because I usually only participate in things I need to. Besides my curiosity to learn about things, I don't experiment just for the sake of playing out some pathetic attempt at an epicurean "carpe diem" philosophy. Horace and Robert Herrick can kiss my ass. Who cares if it feels good? Is a good buzz worth possible addiction, planning your daily schedule around a trip to the GenericJiffyMart to buy a pack of cigs, devoting half your income to smoking, and coughing like a senile old man who kids laugh at? No doubt people will think it's worth it, but only because they're so short-sighted they can't see past the present. When they're stricken with lung cancer (keep in mind, I'm referring to heavy smokers, but more on this later...), they'll wonder why they had to do such a simple and stupid thing like smoking regularly. Do you know how silly you look when you're trying to keep up with healthy people on the basketball court and you're coughing your life out? How good do you feel then?

Smoking to waste time. Smoking to have something to do when you're hanging out with friends or with yourself? Heh. What an excuse. Face it -- it's just a habit, like chewing your fingernails or tapping your fingers on your teeth. Except those habits don't mortally hurt you.

Peer pressure. Hate to use that term. We were spoonfed that term in elementary high school all the way up to high school. It's so cliched now. But I do think a lot of smokers initially start to gain acceptance and to have fun with everyone else. Pathetic. I don't think anyone walks by Dobie Mall or Jester Center at the University of Texas at Austin and sees those groups of hunched-over smokers trying to draw the last cubic picometer of smoke from their cigarettes as cool, except maybe high school kids.

And here's the main reason I actually care about all this (you didn't think I cared about their own personal well-being, did you?). Potential girlfriends. You don't know how much of a turn-off it is to walk by a cute college girl and see her light up a cigarette. I guess it's just me and my preference for a degree of innocence, but smoking just kills everything in most cases (cough cough). Sweet maiden, her gorgeous, flowing blonde hair gradually streaming into fiery curls, her eyes smoldering with the passion of unadulterated innocence and love of life, ... her lungs blackened and tainted with the simmering nicotine, slick and sticky like crude oil or the trail of Death's repulsive form.

I see no reason why smoking is necessary or even desirable, beyond the occasional puff. I continue to see friends waste their lives on that scourge, but what am I going to say? It's their death. Sure, we all die sometime, but I'm only comfortable with a justifiable death -- not a mindless and easily avoidable one.

So do I go around preaching and screaming at smokers like the wandering pseudo-Christians do to every single person on the West Mall? No, I don't. The way I see it, do whatever you want, but stay away from me. In fact, make it even more obvious and smoke as much as possible. Then I'll be able to distinguish you from more desirable people.

So of course I have a lot of friends on the 'Net who smoke -- but it's really not important online. I don't hold grudges against people on the 'Net who smoke. More of an indication of personality than an infringement on my personal tastes.

I judge people on an individual basis when I meet them, but people I don't meet, I tend to generalize. So until I meet you, don't expect me to look upon you favorably.

Of course, you may think people who don't smoke are pitiful cowards, so that sort of takes the bite out of my rant. You have a right to your own opinion and your own way of living, but keep in mind I'll probably end up healthier and younger-looking than you. ;)

o how much mail will Ben get for this one? More importantly, how many more readers will Ben turn off? Go ahead -- flame 'im through e-mail!

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