In defense of tobacco: a response

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Photo by Peter Burleigh

In the Sept. 25th issue of The University News, a commentary piece on how tobacco should be banned on UD’s campus was published. A fundamental point of the author’s argument was that, although certain forms of tobacco (e.g. cigars) are deemed less harmful than smoking cigarettes, one should not strive for mere “adequacy,” but instead “excellence.” 

This view on smoking didn’t sit well with me, not only because I occasionally indulge in a cigarette or a cigar, but also because I think its logic is flawed.

Yes, there are people who are addicted to smoking, and addiction is always detrimental and sinful, but not everyone who smokes is in such a position. 

Alcohol can also be addictive, and the short-term effects of excessive drinking are far worse than those of smoking (brain damage, loss of control, etc.). Long and short term, smoking a cigarette or two every couple of weeks or having a cigar every Tuesday causes minimal damage.  

No one says that people who sip a glass of wine with dinner or a cocktail at a bar are in the same boat as alcoholics, so why are all smokers branded and thrown onto the same doomed skiff?  

When I smoke, it is always with other people, and the smoking is accompanied by good conversations. 

Everyone I have spoken to at UD about the topic says that they smoke socially to wind down and relax with friends. Just from observing life on campus, it is rare to see someone smoking alone (like an addict); rather there are often whole tables of people chatting and leisurely puffing on a cigarette, cigar, or pipe.

As Catholics, we relish in and appreciate the small and beautiful pleasures of life. A smoky chat is one of these. “Adequacy” would be puffing a cigar in solitude as a less pathetic alternative to smoking a solitary cigarette. “Excellence” is relishing in friends and some good tobacco every once in a while.  

The prospect of writing this article has been nudging the back of my mind ever since I volunteered to write it. I knew that there was another positive aspect to smoking besides the social one, but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. 

My lack of expression was irritating me greatly, so I discussed this issue with anyone who would listen. On an Uber to Dallas this weekend, my suffering driver listened to me unload my views on tobacco use for about 20 minutes before saying something which sparked a “Eureka!” moment for me. He said that he smokes tobacco because it tastes good. 

This is what I had been trying to express all along. 

Growing up in Kentucky, my childhood was defined by driving past gorgeous tobacco fields late in the summer. Every fall, I’d eagerly wait for the time when tobacco farmers would hang the leaves in their barns so that I could smell the warm, dried-fruit scent. 

I enjoy smoking because selecting a fine tobacco and smelling the tantalizing aroma is enjoyable, reminds me of my childhood, and inspires more respect for the hard work of the farmers who grow and produce these products. 

Tobacco is an art. 

There is fine tobacco much like there are fine wines and bourbons. People treat all tobacco smokers like irresponsible addicts, but this is simply not true. 

Yes, someone who smokes a pack of Mavericks a day is not acting well, but a smooth American Spirit or a nice Montecristo after a long day of work is no different (and honestly probably better tasting) than the typical parent’s nightly glass of red wine. 

Although, I admit that nicotine addiction is an issue at UD, I think that it manifests in vaping (which is done incessantly by many students). 

The current attitude towards tobacco use hearkens back to the Prohibition’s attitude towards alcohol. 

Banning tobacco will not only spur the same sort of rebelliously negative effects as the Prohibition, but also the same drop in product quality, which would be a terrible shame for all with truly good taste.

1 COMMENT

  1. The author makes good points. There are benefits to smoking such as the following: smoking lowers the risk of Parkinson’s disease, lowers the risk of obesity, lowers the risk of death from heart attacks, and lowers the risk of knee replacement surgery.

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