Enjoy Your Vices More

Overheard in a cigar shop:
Customer – “I’ve smoked cigars for years and have always inhaled. You get the full flavor that way.”
Shop – “The taste buds aren’t in your lungs ya know.”

Smoking is not about taste. It’s not about the taste of burning tobacco leaves in your mouth; a taste which, to the uninitiated, is so disgusting that it makes you want to retch. Contrary to most romantic visions of why we engage in the vices we engage in, we don’t do it for the taste. We don’t drink wine for the fruity high notes. Or rather, most people engaging in a vice do not break down their vices in this way. Tobacco is a nicotine creator, and nicotine is a drug. A cigar is a nicotine delivery system. Nicotine is best absorbed by the lungs, not the sinuses and not the linings of the mouth.

To misquote Freud “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” All of the romanticism aside, nicotine is what you get from smoking, chewing, ingesting tobacco. And, yes I know, this approach to vices means that wine is there just for the buzz. Wine is an alcohol delivery system, this is why I prefer my wine distilled. If I’m just wanting to catch a buzz, why not shortcut the process? What I am trying to point out here is that, if the man overheard in a cigar shop just wants more nicotine while smoking his cigars, let him get it. It doesn’t matter in the end how he gets it.

Flavor isn’t in the mouth. Flavor comes more from the nose. You have to let the vapor of what you are consuming rise up into the sinuses to get the full flavor. Cigar smokers call this retrohaling. My father blew smoke out through his nose quite frequently while smoking cigarettes. I never could get the hang of that, but deep lung breathing that first cigarette in the morning definitely got a head buzz going, every time I did it. These are the kinds of things you can do when your mucus membranes are deadened by thirty years of smoking.

But you do have to get the smoke/aerosolized alcohol/chocolate, etcetera into the back of the mouth and top of the throat to get the full flavor of whatever it is you are consuming. Knowing this is one of the perks of insisting on cold, hard facts. Research has instructed me on how I should consume things for the best effect. Listening to others. Learning from their failures. Learning from their successes. Reading as widely as possible.

This is also why I know why I can’t taste anything most of the time. Clogged sinuses. I really need to find a place without allergens to live.

I hear you asking what about cancer? out there in the darkness somewhere. Yes, you. I hear you. Let me put your concerns about cancer to rest; you will get cancer eventually. The only way to avoid getting cancer is to die before it shows up.  But what about lung cancer? Yes, smoking leads to lung cancer in people who are susceptible to that mutation in the cells of the lungs. Mouth cancer is even worse and you can get that from ingesting any tobacco product or drinking alcohol. You can quibble over percentages of risk, but not inhaling smoke into the lungs doesn’t protect you from cancer, even of the lungs. In the end, just living will give you cancer. The longer you live, the more certain it is to happen. It is in the nature of cell division itself for that process of division to go astray. Go astray and lead to cancer, eventually. It is all just a matter of time.

We don’t do recreational drugs based on the health risks, dear reader. If we did we’d all be smoking weed all the time and certainly not drinking alcohol or smoking tobacco. We would be smoking marijuana/MJ/reefer/weed because smoking that plant is an essentially harmless recreational pastime with little to no negative side effects in adults. No negative side effects aside from making smoking cigarettes look more harmless than it is by comparison.

I was a smoker for many years. I smoked weed and I smoked cigarettes and I would smoke a cigar if you handed one to me. I wasn’t picky and I didn’t worry about illness because like all young people I was immortal. I was ten foot tall and bulletproof until the day I wasn’t. Until the day I realized that I got winded more easily. Couldn’t hold my breath underwater like I used to. Couldn’t do a lot of things the way I used to. So I quit smoking. I quit smoking anything, altogether.

I quit smoking weed easily, simply because I wanted to. I found no further use for the pastime, so I quit. However, quitting tobacco smoking took six or seven years. Quitting my physical nicotine addiction took patience and planning and the deaths of multiple loved ones before I could finally give it up. It required the births of my children. Quitting smoking required that I learn REBT therapy and apply it to the activity of smoking. Quitting smoking is harder than quitting heroin to pull off.

How did I apply REBT? I would think of the smell that an empty bar has in the morning when you show up to clean it. I performed this mental exercise every time I craved a cigarette, especially when I ended up smoking one. I would wilfully summon the acrid, acidic smell of alcohol, vomit and old smoke that hits you in the face when you open the doors to a bar after a heavy party night, and I would do that while I was actively smoking a new cigarette. I kept doing it until I felt ill when I thought about smoking. Then the cravings stopped. After a three pack a day habit infused into my blood as a child, a habit extended by me as a adult finally came to an end, I felt much better. Like I was breathing, really breathing, for the first time.

My second experiment with linking smells to behaviors I wanted to change has not gone nearly as well as the smoking cessation practice did. Linking the taste of french fries to the smell of a grease trap has not gotten me to quit eating fried potatoes yet. That is still a work in progress. A work in progress that might be more successful if fried potatoes didn’t taste so damn good and I wasn’t so hungry all the freaking time. Nicotine can help with that desire to be eating all the time, and being overweight carries its own risks. More risks than ingesting nicotine? Depends on your genetics.

Insist on cold, hard facts. Relish in them. Nicotine is the drug being delivered. Alcohol is the drug being delivered. That is why we engage in those pastimes, to ingest the drugs in question. When you are doing that, make sure that you properly inhale the smoke. Aerate the distilled spirits when sipped. Allow the chocolate to melt and linger on the tongue before swallowing. You’ll enjoy your vices more, which is kinda the point in having vices.

A tip o’ the hat (h/t) is due for The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe on Facebook. It is because of them that I drug this reedited series of comments, insights and further thoughts out of my drafts bin and published it. Without their social media editor’s willingness to republish spurious data on a subject near and dear to my heart (nicotine therapy in the form of vaping) I wouldn’t have bothered to kraft this bit of business into a shape that could be published. Thanks, I guess? 

Author: RAnthony

I'm a freethinking, unapologetic liberal. I'm a former CAD guru with an architectural fetish. I'm a happily married father. I'm also a disabled Meniere's sufferer.

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