My name is Jamie Rumbelow, and, from time to time, I enjoy a cigarette. In fact, I’m smoking one right now. I’m sitting at my desk, feeling suitably bohemian, writing this opinion piece, drinking a latte and inhaling the last few drags of a roll-up. The cigarette in question comprises of a green Rizla paper, a Swan extra slim filter tip and roughly 1/5 gram of Golden Virginia rolling tobacco. And it’s a thoroughly enjoyable smoke, if I may say so.
Does this make me a bad person?
According to the delightfully judgemental 22-year-old that serves at the third-checkout-from-the-left in a local Bath Spa supermarket, it does. And, naturally, I take great offence to this remark. I only went in there to get a packet of Golden V and a Mars bar. Why must I suffer such opprobrium?
I have made an informed, educated decision to purchase the loose tobacco. I have no uncertainty about any of the various health and social issues that smoking can cause one, and I am certainly not ignorant to the fact that it is not doing my body any favours.
Don’t get me wrong, this article is not meant to encourage people to smoke. On the contrary, I would tend to advise against it. My ultimate aim in writing this article is to try to remove the victimisation and discrimination that smokers and smokers’ supporters receive every day. My real issue stems from this ignorant attitude that smoking is plain wrong.
So, tell me this, Miss Checkout Girl, are you offended by my lifestyle? Are you planning a few amendments to the New Testament? Or are you really so ignorant that you believe you can impose your view on me through non-constructive criticism?
The last time I checked, we live in a democracy, and thus I have the inherent human right to choice. I choose to wake up when my body tells me, not my alarm clock. I choose to eat what I eat, drink what I drink and sleep with who I sleep with. I choose to smoke. And I’m blessed to live in a country where I can make this choice, supposedly free from judgement and prejudice. As long as my choices don’t infringe upon others’ right to choose, then why should what I do offend anybody else?
When I approached the counter not only three hours ago and requested a crisp, cellophane-sealed tobacco pouch, the surly eyed, ill-advised cashier immediately took it upon herself to hurl a series of doltish sentiments in my direction, holding no regard for my feelings or viewpoint. Her intent seemed to be to scare or insult me away from smoking. Like I actually gave a crap about what she said. Like I really believed that her view was of paramount importance to me; like she was my mentor, companion, like she knew, understood and influenced me.
My decision doesn’t affect her. Her parents may have smoked since she was a baby and filled the house with ‘that disgusting cloud of toxicity’. She may have dated ‘some bloke who cared more about his fags than he did about me’. Hell, she might have even lost friends or relatives to a smoking related disease. If that is the case, I am truly sorry, but even so, it is not her place to judge me based on her experiences. I made the choice to purchase that tobacco because of my own views and experiences. And I’ll be damned if some stuffy little girl will dictate to me otherwise. Put that in your pipe and smoke it (har har).
I don’t mean to sound trite, but life is for living. And I’m going to live it the way I want to. I believe that I will only live once, and that my time on this weird little planet is fleeting. So I’m going to have a fucking great time while I’m here. From time to time, I feel like a cigarette. So I’m going to have one. Anybody who tries to tell me otherwise isn’t necessarily wrong — morality is, after all, ultimately opinion — but they are ignorant of my view. Just like those who oppose gay marriage, recreational drug use or gender equality. They are infringing on my basic right as a human being to make the choices I want to make. I made this choice, and many greater men and women than me have made the same choice. As a smoker, I join the ranks of such brilliant minds as Stephen Fry, who has also written prolifically on the topic.
Do you smoke? Are you vehemently against it? But most importantly, do you believe that we all have the right to make our own choices? After all, I’m polite about my smoking. If somebody doesn’t want me smoking in their house, I won’t. There’s a fantastic Eddie Izzard sketch where he discusses how smokers are indeed polite: “Do you mind if I smoke? Oh, it’s okay, I can go outside and smoke!” and comparing them to racists: “Do you mind if I’m racist? Oh, it’s okay, I can go outside and be racist!”.
I enjoy smoking. I enjoy the simple high, the immediate relaxation and the sense of smoke whirling through my bronchial tubes. I enjoy the social aspects of it: bonding outside a pub, huddled around a shared lighter, having a spliff or two with friends (see: ‘The comradeship of pavement puffers’). It might not be good for my wellbeing, but neither is drinking alcohol and caffeine, living in a city or avoiding exercise like the plague. I’m not a particularly healthy person, I know this. But if you are vehemently set against the way I live my life, and wish to impose your views upon me, I ask, politely, for you to examine your own life. If you’re a perfect person, go ahead, judge me. If you’re not, leave me alone.
Nobody’s perfect. All of us are flawed. Some people smoke, some people gamble, some people drink. Some people argue with their friends unnecessarily, some people ignore those who need their help. Some people eat awful food or listen to awful music. Some people are hypocrites, some people are arrogant. Some people are far too stressed. Some people are writers. Many are all of the above. Which reminds me.
Does anybody fancy a cigarette?
Jamie is a writer and developer on his gap year, currently in Bath, Somerset, hoping to make the most of his life before devoting himself to education. By education he means lots of booze, books about obscure topics, Jarvis Cocker records and pretty French girls. Obviously. Catch him on his Twitter stream @jamierumbelow and his blog, http://jamieonsoftware.com.