Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Where there's smoke, there's fire

Oh, how massively entertained I was to see that smoking in the movies is now becoming such a threat to human wellbeing that the powers that be are considering putting an age restriction on movies that show it. (Sunday Times, 13 May, ‘News & Opinion’ section.)

We all know that smoking kills. But so does living.

When my mother (who never touched a cigarette in her life, and lived in an entirely smoke-free environment, so don’t come with the ‘but secondary smoke’ argument to me) was dying of several different cancers, including of her lungs, and I in guilt and horror gave up smoking, she laughed and said, ‘Why bother?’

And when I had two precancerous polyps removed from my colon, I was told very specifically by the oncologist that this particular cancer has nothing to do with smoking. ‘It’s largely genetic,’ he said. (Thanks, Mom.)

The bad things about smoking are undeniable: it stinks, it makes you breathe funny (and sometimes hardly at all), it makes your chest hurt, it’s expensive, it gives you wrinkles around your mouth and, worst of all, when you run out of fags in the middle of the night it’s a mighty inconvenience getting in your car and driving to the nearest all-night cafĂ© (mine is 40 kilometres away).

But wine, beer, whisky, vodka and particularly rum also make you stink (and, eventually, kill you). Asthma, cats, grass seeds, wheat, milk and mould can make you breathe funny (and also, incidentally, can kill you). Flu, colds, pneumonia and pleurisy make your chest hurt (and can kill you), as do enthusiastic karate workouts, laughing too hard and softball accidents (ditto). Everything (but everything) is expensive these days. Age gives you wrinkles everywhere and does awful things to your boobs into the bargain.

As for what actually kills! Cars, guns, heartbreak, falling pianos, Aids, bird flu, SARS, botched operations, blocked veins from long-distance flights, plugging in your toaster after you’ve washed your hands and neglected to dry them (or have your trip-system upgraded), malaria, anorexia, dogbite, lions eating you, tripping on your way up to the pub and hitting your head, bad mussels, not getting your body in quick enough on a Metrorail carriage in Cape Town, shark attacks, swimming too soon after you’ve eaten (apparently), being caught in a riot, planes being flown into your office block, tsunamis, tornadoes, old age, saying ‘no’ to someone who wants your bag and has a big stick, logs flying off the backs of trucks, failed SCUBA equipment, collapsed paragliders, spiked over-the-counter medication (remember Tylenol?), lightning… the list is literally endless. We’re all going to die, eventually, of something.

I am a law-abiding, tax-paying citizen. I seldom speed and I never use disabled parking spaces. I do Pilates twice a week and walk, cycle and play tennis regularly. I drink a minimum of six glasses of water a day and eat the requisite quantity of fresh produce. I serve on community groups. I give to charity. I keep a clean house and raise respectful kids. I switch off my cellphone in movie houses. I don’t push to the front of queues, human or vehicular. I recycle glass, paper and metal – separately. I switch off major appliances when the national grid is running low. I steam, not boil, vegetables. I rarely eat meat. I turn down my music early in the evening so my neighbours aren’t disturbed. My ‘grey’ water goes into my garden. I am kind to children and animals.

So let me have a cigarette, for god’s sake! Let me have several! All I’m killing is myself. (I never smoke around my children, never in my car, never in my bedroom, never in the bathroom, never around people with shifty eyes… I am, like most social drinkers, a ‘considerate’ abuser.)

Last week, at dinner with a friend (a non-smoker), sitting outside in an airy environment, I finished eating a while before he did. I picked up my pack of cigarettes and said, ‘Do you mind if I smoke while you eat?’

He gave me a wicked grin and said, ‘Not if you don’t mind if I eat while you smoke.’

PS Brad Pitt has been caught most often lighting up on the big screen – a lung-busting forty-two times! Could this devil-may-care streak have something to do with why he’s affianced to the Most Gorgeous Woman In The Entire Universe? (Nicolas Cage* and Gene Hackman were close behind in the smoking stakes.)

* With reference to Juno’s posting about poor subbing – how is it that Nicolas Cage* has been acting for, what, two decades, and South African subs still can’t get the spelling of his name right? It’s without the ‘h’, people.

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