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Up in Smoke Day 3: Why I Hate "Social" Smokers

01/20/2012 05:44 EST | Updated 03/21/2012 05:12 EDT
alamy

In recognition of National Quitting Smoking week, two of Huffpost's young contributors, Miranda Frum and Daniel Alexandre Portoraro, have volunteered to quit smoking and keep a journal about it. Readers: Support them! And please share your own struggles about trying to kick an addiction, whether it was cigarettes or anything else. Read their first collective post here. You can read Daniel's previous posts here, and Miranda's here. Their journals will now be posted weekly, every Friday.

What are some of the things a smoker hates hearing the most in this world?

"It's a filthy habit."

"You'll get cancer, you know."

"Your breath stinks."

"It ruins your clothes."

But maybe worst of all, for the aforementioned statements are heard so regularly that they lose all meaning, is the following exchange between two people:

"Can I have a cigarette?"

"Oh, you smoke?"

"Only socially."

The bane of every smoker is the social smoker.

Typically coming out only on Friday and Saturday nights, the social smoker can usually be found at parties, bars, or clubs. It's often easy to spot them because they have no idea how to hold a cigarette. Either they pinch it between the very bottom of the index and middle finger so that when they put the stick to their mouth, their entire hand covers the bottom half of their face. Or, they hold it between the tips of their thumb and index, as if smoking a joint.

Furthermore, one can spot them by how they actually smoke the cigarette; coughing with every inhale, or sucking in the smoke, and immediately blowing it out without inhaling.

The social smoker never has his own pack. He could never possibly justify the expense for only a few drags over the course of a party. So, like the small fish that swim with the whale, he bums off other people.

So why is the social smoker such a hated thing amongst actual smokers? Well, smoking is a characteristic. In fact, it often becomes a physical one when describing someone: "What's he like?" someone asks. "Well, he's blonde, kind of on the chubby side, tall...Oh! And he smokes."

This physical characteristic, however, is frowned upon by society and insulted: Many say it shows weakness, immaturity, and downright stupidity. This is the price smokers pay for this added piece of description.

But social smokers never have to deal with this adversity! They get the best of both worlds: that crisp tobacco taste, a temporary pass into the self-destructive circle, and the benefit of impressing the young and naïve. And the other part? They don't have to deal with the criticism! They easily say, "Oh no, no, I'm a social smoker. I don't really smoke." And that's fine; they're not being as silly as the habitual smoker. However, if they are not willing to bear the brunt of the butt, then they have no right to ever utter those sacred words: "I've quit."

Quitting anything bad for you is an achievement. But one can only quit what he really does. Yet, social smokers, when refusing the coffin nail, often say they've quit. To quit tobacco is a struggle. But for the social smoker, it is not, and therefore, the congratulations that come with saying "I've quit" are not theirs to accept. It's as if I were to say I ran a marathon, but really walked all of it, and still accept the handshakes and pats-on-the-back at the bar afterward.

But there's one thing that may in fact be worse than the social smoker: the habitual smoker who has quit and begins to say, "Oh, I only smoke socially now." In these cases "social smoker" becomes a euphemism for "I'm too weak to really let go." It's like breaking up with someone who broke your heart, but you still answer her calls at three in the morning. You're not social; you're weak.

So when I say I'm quitting smoking, I'm by no means saying it won't be a struggle. But if I am ever to say I've quit, it's because I've quit, stopped, let go of the disgusting habit. And if I ever succumb to lighting a cigarette again, even if it's at a party, and even if it's just one, it won't be because I'm saying, "I'm a social smoker." It will be because I'm that man who's giving in to 3 a.m. desperation.

Oh, and for the record, I've had three cigarettes today.