Hunter White is a history senior and Mustang News columnist. The views expressed in this column do not reflect the viewpoints and editorial coverage of Mustang News.

Smoking will almost certainly kill you, and before it does, it will ravage the last few years of your life with agony and surprise tracheotomies. We all know this. We have known it for decades and with every generation, fewer people start the toxic addiction.

Despite the habit’s ever-receding prevalence, the fact that it lingers, even among the young and the lively, begs the question: with all the staggering morbid evidence, why do millions of young Americans, myself included, still choose to start the habit? I can provide only my
own meager reasonings.

Compared to America’s other poisonous compulsions (heroin, alcohol, etc.) the benefit of cigarette smoking seems pedestrian: years of suffering and lost life in exchange for a momentary buzz so short-lived that a glue-huffing third-grader probably wouldn’t trade the Elmer’s for the Marlboro Man.

If you’ve ever listened to the stories of an old, pickled alcoholic, it may be easy to understand their choice to trade the banalities and existential dread of life for a few brief highs and an enduring numbness. It is a transaction we are all tempted towards, some elixir or secret knowledge that might rearrange the horrifying realities of
our inevitable doom.

Cigarettes, on the other hand, possess none of the life-altering power, only the cost. They are the most reckless and fruitless of our collective death wishes. It is this very recklessness that draws one to the small paper tubes of dried carcinogenic flora.

Acknowledged or not, death remains the single most powerful force in all of our lives. Every religion or great work of art from the Chauvet Cave Paintings to “Iron Man II” (2010) grapples with the absurdity of our eventual non-existence. It is this absurdity that the cigarette inhabits. It is a gleeful smile in the face of death, trading duration for the dullest excitement.

“What a childish attitude!” screech the hordes behind their acai bowls and fish oil supplements, sipping upon carefully measured powder in water, providing optimum nutrition until gluten returns in vogue. This I do not deny. It is a mortal act of childish insolence, but who among us doesn’t long to be a child again, risking life and limb for a momentary pleasure, existing outside of time with lips untainted
by primeval fruit.

So outside the bar and in the state designated no-smoking zones, they gather. Outcasts of the Arc finding a moment’s respite in shared long form suicide. These lost sinners passing the peace pipe in a communal bond burrowed in the roots of our humanity. They are a group formed through the pain of being a man and the subtle refusal to allow death to dictate the terms of life.

If you’ve found yourself shackled within this unholy covenant and now long for an escape from its lethal tithe, seek out the aid of those wiser than I. Yet, if you share the cynical appeal of a life spent dying there are more destructive sins than this, though none quite so brazen.