Reflections on Smoking

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Great read in The New Yorker

Letting Go

When I was in fourth grade, my class took a field trip to the American Tobacco plant in nearby Durham, North Carolina. There we witnessed the making of cigarettes and were given free packs to take home to our parents. I tell people this and they ask me how old I am, thinking, I guess, that I went to the world’s first elementary school, one where we wrote on cave walls and hunted our lunch with clubs.

When New York banned smoking in the workplace, I quit working. When it was banned in restaurants, I stopped eating out and when the price of cigarettes hit seven dollars a pack I gathered all my stuff together and went to France.

Just after my mom started chemotherapy, she sent me three cartons of Kool Milds. “They were on sale,” she croaked. Dying or not, she should have known that I smoked full-strength Filter Kings, but then I looked at them and thought, Well, they are free. It took some getting used to, but by the time my mother was cremated I’d switched over.