I recently had the good fortune of observing a classic smoking moment that inspired a number of decidedly naughty thoughts.
A young woman, presumably in her early twenties, sporting a trendy leather trench coat and fashionable high heels, was leaning on a railing in a lush, green urban park. She appeared somewhat lost in her own mind, but after a short while, her musings seemed to be interrupted by a more urgent thought. After rummaging through the pocket of her coat, she produced a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. Soon enough, a lit cigarette was casually dangling in her hand.
I couldn't help but notice that she became visibly more energetic and joyous as she took in the scenery of the park while taking puffs on her cigarette. Her previous look of unfocused concern even gave way to a faint, but satisfied smile. Clearly, smoking appeared to enhance her mood and outlook in ways that the sheer beauty of nature could not.
Was she consciously aware of this process? Did she notice that the world seemed to light up right after she began pumping poisonous fumes into her young smoker's lungs? Had she ever given serious contemplation to the tradeoff she was apparently willing to make without a second thought?
The sweet irony is, of course, apparent to anyone in tune with the darker aspects of cigarette smoking. A stark, but honest ad slogan could be derived from this observation:
"The Lifestyle Benefits of Killing Yourself - Experience Pleasure by Poison"
Of course, this message is subtly delivered by every print ad that displays care-free smokers right next to a surgeon general's concerned warning. And yet, we seldom pause to consider the implications.
Ultimately, smokers sacrifice themselves for pleasure. This may be the most radical way imaginable of asserting sovereignty over one's identity. Nothing quite says "My body, my choices" like deliberate consumption of a substance that has been universally decreed to be Bad For You.
And that really is the lifestyle benefit of poisoning yourself, isn't it?