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There are few things as enjoyable as the great fusions in life. Lennon and McCartney. Monet and the setting sun, "bulgarit" cheese and watermelon. But my personal favorite, sadly shared by many of my 20-something contemporaries, is a cup of coffee and a cigarette.
And I am not talking about one or two drags to compliment your 4 pm. espresso. I'm talking where your eyes open blearily to greet the morning only somewhere between your fifth swallow of coffee, and your eighth drag on your Marlboro light.
What has become so disconcerting for me is not only the amount of cigarettes smoked by our generation, but why so many of us continue "chuffing away" - as us hipsters call it.
It got me thinking a little while ago while sitting out on my front stoop in Jerusalem's Nachlaot "trendy slum," mid-stream in my morning ritual of coffee and the newspaper. Somewhere in between an Ehud Barak-Rambo analogy, and yet another British institution boycotting Israel, I downed my second cup of coffee and my right hand instinctively brought a cigarette to my anticipating lips.
Half-way through yet another interior monologue to the tune of "this is the last pre-10am cigarette of my life," two young Americans turned the corner bringing them almost face-to-face with me.
Before I could feel any sense of morbid embarrassment for actually being outside in a Japanese kimono, sunglasses (partly for the sun, and partly to keep smoke out of my eyes) and puffy Family Guy slippers, the pair stopped, examined my appearance, and confirmed the problem facing today's smokers.
"Man, this is exactly why we have to move to this neighborhood," the one called Danny proclaimed.
"Look how cool everyone here is. This guy really knows how to enjoy his morning."
COOL? IF these two were in my slippers perhaps they would come to know the misery that accompanies opening yet another pack of cigarettes. I don't see the cool. My keen journalistic skills tell me that an irony in Israel today is not that of fanatical terrorists killing Israelis with weapons Israel gave them under the banner of supporting the moderates, but rather that fit, in-shape and seemingly health-conscious young-adults leaving their gyms after a rigorous workout light up immediately upon hitting the street.
I myself admit that the after-workout smoke is one of the best and most rewarding - as counter-intuitive that may sound. It contradicts the basic laws of rationality, I know. The trouble is that at one point or another in our lives we succumbed to the peer pressure of the smoker's image; now we are ensnared in our deliciously disgusting habit, and condemned to dance the Marlboro cha-cha. One step forward, two steps back.
I had my first cigarette in order to achieve something previously unattainable: coolness in the eyes of older kids. With all the known health hazards, smells, coughs and wheezes, nobody takes their first drag for the taste. That much I can guarantee you.
Smoking is a PR nightmare. An absolute image disaster. Because those backstage puppeteers who dictate to the masses what is cool, have all made the brooding bad boys, or the self-assured single New York City Carrie Bradshaw types into smokers.
Would Sophia Lauren look as elegant without the cigarette in her delicately gloved hand? Would Edward R. Murrow have seemed so serious lambasting Joe McCarthy without a cloud of smoke rising over his head?
Do people remember Audrey Hepburn for the little black dress, or for the way she waves over her victim, using her cigarette as an extension of her own sensuality?
Take a look at the masculine perspective too. How many men out there stopped and thought to themselves while smoking, "I so look like James Dean right now," or attempt the Keith Richards look by sticking one cigarette in the fret board of your electric guitar, and the other hanging out of the corner of your mouth. Then you get so much smoke in your eyes you eventually trip over the amplifier. As you are sitting on your backside wondering if anyone saw your most humiliating moment post high-school prom, you wonder how Richards does it.
While many adults may be nodding along with me in agreement, I doubt my own generation is following suit. "Don't worry, we can quit whenever we want," our mantra goes. Youngsters are indestructible, don't you know? Britney smokes, so does James Bond. George Burns smoked until he was 100, literally.
WELL, LET me share with all of you an eye-opener. In Canada, cigarette packs now have a warning issued by the office of the surgeon-general: "Warning. Cigarettes are harmful to your health."
The Canadian government decided that this was not an effective enough deterrent for us virile, vivacious Canadian youth. The new campaign is much more effective. Now there's a picture of a limp cigarette, with the warning: "Smoking causes erectile dysfunction."
Hey boys, what's the point of looking "cool" if it doesn't serve you any good at the end of day.
The writer is a Jerusalem Post intern.