Here was the scene: Early one spring morning, with the sun smashing onto Bath’s Front Street like an asteroid, about 20 of us stood in a line at the local coffee establishment, many of us clutching our own cups, many of us fidgeting, stamping our feet.

We were drug addicts waiting for our fix. Instead of one of the opium derivatives we wanted – no, needed – our fix of coffee. And the aroma of fresh coffee that permeated the air served to heighten the effect.

That morning I was moved to say to the person in front of me, “You ever feel the similarity between us and a line of addicts waiting for their methadone?” She didn’t appreciate my comment, but fortunately, before she could respond, it was her turn to order (a café Americano with an ingredient list as long as Donald Trump’s list of fibs).

It seems every culture has a favorite substance it uses to take the sharp edges off of our lives. We have alcohol, coffee, and tobacco. In southeast Asia they use betel nut, in the deserts of the Middle East, Khat is the drug of choice. These substances are generally mild in effect, unlike say, opium.

That got me to thinking if there wasn’t a place for tobacco in our menu of “substances to take when you need to (choose one): think, relax, climb a high mountain, make a presentation, propose to your fiance, or all of the above.”

And why do we need them? Was there a mistake in the design of the human animal that makes it difficult to face the day without a café Americano with almond milk and a paper straw?


The truth is that society tolerates some substances and doesn’t tolerate others, for reasons that seem ambiguous. I have known people described as “problem drinkers” who have managed to work, marry, parent and eventually die. I’m not advocating that everyone stay sober their entire lives. But if someone needs a cigarette or desires a fat cigar after a splendid meal, why not?

Here’s our situation: Being alive and not knowing why you were born or what you are supposed to be doing is very scary, the ultimate existential nightmare. I am alone. Wouldn’t a cigarette be good right now?

Smoking tobacco makes life a bit easier to face. Really. Cool men and women smoked like factories in the movies. Romance needed a missing ingredient – a cigarette shared between two lovers.

“A woman is only a woman, but a cigar is a good smoke,” said Rudyard Kipling. I wish I knew what that meant.

My question is, are we being too harsh on tobacco smokers? What about a good cigar after a fine meal? Just one, smoked slowly, watching the tendrils of smoke curl to the ceiling. Your first cigar in four weeks, and no plans for the next one. For years marijuana was thought to be a gateway drug leading to heroin addiction. What about now, what has changed?

I know such thoughts will bring down public opinion on my shoulders. I know that advocating for the smoker is unpopular, but all I am saying is to make the playing field more balanced. Give it a more moderate voice.

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