posttrib
BRISK 
Weather Updates

Puff piece: Don’t get burned by smoking

Carrol Vertrees

Carrol Vertrees

storyidforme: 48224013
tmspicid: 932537
fileheaderid: 613598

Updated: May 29, 2013 6:17AM



If the street signs in my next world say “Parallel Parking Only,” I will have to come back or just drive around. Forever. Maybe longer.

If signs in their next world say “No Smoking Anywhere,” what will habitual smokers do? Can they quit?

Being addicted to cigarettes is not funny, but my parking ineptitude probably is, so go ahead and laugh. Just don’t blow smoke in my direction.

I never learned to smoke, but I didn’t try very hard. Kicking the habit apparently is awfully painful, so why do so many try so hard to catch the habit?

Sometimes it is peer pressure, I reckon — but back in my little school there weren’t many peers and not much pressure. Besides, where I came from smoking was a sin, even worse than dancing, dozing off during the Sunday sermon, kicking a dog, going near a pool hall.

“I’d walk a mile for a Camel” was a clever piece of advertising. Quick now, does the camel have one hump or two? As a naïve kid, I wondered if the camel got paid. Some movies and movie stars sold out to the cigarette industry, making puffing and blowing smoke seem like natural, pleasant parts of normal living. I am glad that no big industry can influence our modern Congress folks, aren’t you?

I cleverly thought one day that if you smoked many Camels you could not walk a mile without stopping for a rest and maybe a smoke.

Another ad said “Not a cough in a carload.” Comforting, right?

I remember when people talked about politicians making decisions in smoke-filled rooms. Now, though, with the smoke cleared, the foggy way some of them think and vote may be linked to a dulling substance in the water. Or maybe global warming. Who knows?

Some of us kids tried to roll our own cigarettes, like some adults did. We did not have tobacco, though. I used coffee, and paper from the Washington Democrat — it worked better than the Republican paper. Maxwell House worked better than other brands — it was “Good to the Last Puff,” or something like that. The truth is that coffee is made for perking, not for puffing through a piece of burning newspaper of either political party. My hot lips told me so.

I had a near-death experience when I sneaked behind the hog barn at the county fair and worked on some really long “Twenty Grand” cigarettes. My 4-H Club barrows didn’t seem to care. I don’t recall who gave me the smokes. A mean kid.

The whole smoking thing is mysterious to me. I never saw anyone smoke in our house when I was trying to grow up. My mom didn’t approve and that was that, as they say. I thank her. My dad did not smoke.

A couple of my uncles chewed tobacco, and I tried that. Once. I forgot that I was supposed to spit. Vigorously. Often. I reckon that I was doomed from the start to be a failure in the tobacco world.

Bob Newhart did a pretend phone conversation with Sir Walter Raleigh about “Walt” and his discovery of a thing called tobacco.

Bob said “You roll it up in some paper and set fire to it?” Then he laughed and laughed.

Lighting a piece of paper filled with tobacco does sound funny, but the loudest laughs come from the cigarette makers.

Sitting here sipping coffee and savoring a doughnut, I wonder why I flunked smoking 101. Just a lucky strike for me, maybe.

But I am almost hooked on doughnuts and I don’t even inhale.



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.