By Jeffrey Edelstein
And ... it's time for the United States government to ban the sale of cigarettes.
My reasoning is simple: Because virtually all smokers start smoking as children, and I can't believe there's one adult smoker who looks back on that decision and thinks, "Hey, you know what? That was a good choice I made back when I was a teenager. So glad I started smoking."
In short: No reasonable adult would ever pick up the habit. People start when they're young, and then spend the rest of their lives fighting off an addiction many studies claim is even more powerful than heroin.
Enough is enough. One in five deaths in America each year would be avoided if every smoker could turn back time.
Man, I remember my first cigarette. I really do. I was 14, my parents left me home alone, and I rode my bike and bought myself a pack at a little local grocery that didn't believe in age discrimination.
See, some of my friends smoked, and I never did. I was scared. Not scared of the cigarette; scared of hacking and coughing and them laughing at me. I didn't want to look uncool. So I planned this out. My first smoke would be alone.
I'm on the back deck. Packed the cigarettes like all the cool kids did. Ripped open the seal. Took one out, put it in my mouth, lit the match and ...
And I swear, I remember the feeling. Kind of queasy in the belly, but more than made up for with the swirling feeling in my head.
I became a weekend smoker throughout high school. Then I went off to college where there was a cigarette vending machine in my dorm. I smoked a pack or more a day for the next 10 years or so, then cut back to a half-pack most days, tried to quit every waking moment, finally managed to break the addiction about five years ago.
So here's my big cigarette banning plan: Grandfather in current smokers who want to continue smoking. Relax the silly laws concerning e-cigarettes (in short, let people "smoke" them anywhere they want). And that's pretty much it.
I'm not banning tobacco -- just the kind you light on fire and then actively inhale into your lungs. Pipes, cigars, smokeless -- none of them particularly good for you -- escape my wrath.
In short: No more cigarettes. Simple and elegant, as far as laws go.
And no more 14-year-olds racing on their bikes to buy their first pack, which will directly lead to no more 37-year-old new fathers looking back and realizing that one stupid decision may end up costing them some extra decades with their children.
Of course, any naysayers out there can point to numerous other hazards to our health, from booze to red meat to just about anything else. Why not ban everything?
My argument to this is, again, simple: Most people who drink alcohol don't become alcoholics. Most people who enjoy red meat aren't gobbling it up twice an hour. But when it comes to cigarettes, outside of those "social smokers," a breed as rare as unicorns, anyone who smokes becomes addicted.
So how did I break the habit? By realizing I'm always going to want a cigarette. This is the biggest hurdle to get through, the knowledge that the desire to smoke will always lurk. See, every time I would quit, I'd stumble at some point, have a cigarette, and just like that, I was a smoker again.
The last time I quit, I changed the game. In fact, I didn't quit. I just decided to not smoke anymore. But I promised I wouldn't beat myself if I had a cigarette now and again.
I got through the first three days smoke-free, and over the next few years I'd occasionally have one. Figure, average, two a month. Then one a month. And now today, I can't remember the last time I had one.
Will I have another one, at some point? I'm sure I will. But it will be a blip, not a relapse. It's made all the difference in the world. Worth a shot for those of you battling this addiction.