Dear Tobacco,

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Dear Tobacco,

As I lie awake here on this Sunday morning it occurs to me that Eric's death is nearing it's one year anniversary.

I've not yet gone to visit his grave, but I might.

You know those scenes in movies where someone has drank themselves to death, so an embittered love one pours a bottle of some booze over their grave? Part of me wonders if the family of someone killed largely by you would ever be angry enough at their dead family member, and you, to leave a stomped pack of tobacco sticks at their grave. Not that Eric's family would ever do that, since I know they were at peace with him regarding you when he died.

I doubt they'd ever be at peace with you.

The funny thing about that 'tradition' is that in order to carry that kind of act out one would have to purchase a bottle of the booze or a pack of tobacco to purposefully waste in the act of angrily remembering someones life and death in the context of their poison. Maybe there's a more appropriate offering when someone is that bitter?

Perhaps it's the cigarette butts that line the sidewalks; the ones leeching their poison into our groundwater. Perhaps it's the remains of a nasty full ash tray from the blue-aired bar. Perhaps it's the wedding dress, or suit, permanently entrenched with stench from all the years of smoking in the home. Perhaps it's the blood from the final coughs of the deceased wiped off with a cotton handkerchief.

Thankfully I believe that Eric's family has forgiven him, so should they decide that kind of hommage is worthy it would more likely that they send those things to your makers and supporters as a reminder that the ashes of their loved one are mixed with your poisons.

I miss Eric. He was this huge looming man, but always seemed somehow soft under his leathery skin that was deep set with the wrinkles of a life of farming Alberta fields. I miss the fact that he was the one person who could get away with shortening my three letter name to a simple "R" and still make it sound like an endearment. I miss him more than any other person I've known that has died.

Here I sit with my husband asleep beside me, listening to him breathe. You probably remember him? He's the grandson of the man you took right as I met my husband. It was the final months of some seventy years, most spent with you in his blood. My husband's grandfather, who was as close to a father as he had until his 7th year, smoked in the home they shared. His
addiction to you contributed to my husband's near-fatal asthma, a condition he finally has under control with the use of new medicines. Even his lungs bare your signature.


I get so frustrated when writing to you. I could say so much. I am so mad, still. Every aspect of our society compensates or accounts for you in some fashion. Every day I see a non-smoking sign, a cigarette butt, a pack of smokes in someones purse, a person huddling next to a building puffing against the elements.

I wish the world could be free of you.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Dear Tobacco,

It's been over a month since I wrote. Miss me?

I've had a lot to think about, a lot to hate about you, and I've got some news.

The husband of a friend at work will meet the same fate as Eric did, though he might only have a few months between diagnosis and death unlike Eric's 1.5 years. This is harsh. Les isn't a spring chicken, but he is newly married to the woman he's been with for 15 years, and he's helped raise her daughters and see them into woman and motherhood themselves. He's a brand new grandparent, has sons of his own, and has brought math tutoring aid to thousands of post-secondary students as a retired Engineer. I work with him and his wife, so this will be a little closer to my day-to-day than Eric's cancer. It breaks my heart.

You know, I took Religious Studies as my university degree. A lot of the theory within religion is how people respond to good and evil, how they come to terms with misfortune, tragedy, death, life, and the corresponding rituals we form around those events. When I think of your visible power over humanity I wonder if you are indeed the devil incarnate. Mind you, I don't really believe in the devil, but I do believe in you. I believe you slowly talk humans into selling their souls to you, always with a price. The price might not even be definable, but it could be in the form of a cough, a raspy laugh, fatigue, shortened breath, poor mouth health, shortened life, and then the whammos like Cancer. It could be paid in friendships, accessibility to restaurants/etc, having to go outside to inhale, stained fingers, stained teeth, wrinkles around the lips and eyes, stinkiness, bad breath, or less money. A lot less money.

It seems you take any payment, but that ultimately it's the soul that is your prize payment.

Humans are already little flesh-cicles that are so fragile it's only by means of brains and opposable thumbs that we've been able to come this far and still survive. Our carnal desires, addictions and religious endeavors seem to be our downfall. With our own inventions we can kill ourselves, or those around us, or some people are set up with the power to kill millions.

You've done a great job of convincing us all to find more efficient ways to kill ourselves by being so powerful as to help usher in a world-wide industry that bows to you.

It's funny, because the same week I started to slack off on the letters to you I found out about Les. It's like you crave my letters enough to put all the pieces in motion to take someone else.

Tell me now, if I stop writing again who will you take from me next?

I don't appreciate this pressure. I'm not in a position to lobby the world against you, so this is what I can do. I can't guarantee letters daily, or even every week, but trust me each day is a new chance to see you everywhere and hate the power you have over my fellow flesh-cicles. I'll be back, as I'm sure you will be.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Dear Tobacco,

I've been thinking about what it might feel like to be addicted to you.

I can imagine the conversation in my head about how I would want to quit you, and reasons to belittle myself at the same time. I might feel that smoking, and continuing to smoke, was a sign of selfishness. So then because with addiction comes the power to self impose a guilt trip and yet still not be able to kick you, and then starts the pattern of self hatred.

I might feel weak, easy, victimized, powerless, and full of shame while still continuing to crawl back into your bed. I might feel angry at myself, angry at you, angry at your pimps and their pyramid of power. Perhaps I would want to rid myself of your touch, but find it too easy to slip back into your arms. I might cry at how much you'd made me feel like I'd sold my soul to you.

And if I were to then be rid of you, I might grieve that perfect moment where you filled my blood with calm and my lungs with a warm coating of your drug. I might want with all my soul to bring you back into my body, but know that to do so would only be a sign that I was still that person I hated that loved you so. Perhaps I'd avoid you so I could finally be proud of me.

I can't really claim to know your addiction since I did little more than flirt with you in high school, but sometimes I wonder if the only reason I haven't fallen into your arms is because my body rejects you despite what my mind might let me do.

You're the one in bed with so many - tell me, what do they say to you when you decide to reward their slavery with nothing but the need for more of you?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Dear Tobacco,

I got to go out for lunch today to do some errands at the bank. On the ride back to work I was in line for a red light and looked out beside the car to the beaten up grass median along the road.

It's bad enough that the grass growing in the median is clogged with weeds, salt, gravel, and exhaust, but it's also got to deal with you too. I was only briefly stopped, but in that time I saw:
  • The outer shell of a pack of tobacco rolls
  • The inner paper shell of the same pack
  • The inner foil lining of one side of the pack
  • Several old 'butts' leeching their way into the soil
  • Some gum

Then I started thinking statistics again. How could I not when you were the dominant cause of the litter on the side of the road? For instance, one tobacco roll/cigarette results in a fairly tangible amout of waste... and I'm not even thinking that big of the picture. I'll show you what I mean:

25 smokes = 25 filters = 2 to 4 separate pieces of foil per pack = at least two separate pices of construction type paper to constuct the pack = one plastic pack wrapper + 8 wrappers from the carton + paper to construct the carton = 16 total wrapper paper pieces = at least 24 pieces of foil = 200 toxic leftover filters = a lot of pollution!

This doesn't take into account lighters, their packaging, bags stores give cartons in, receipt paper, matches, boxes, wrappers, and anything else disposed as a result of the consumption of you. Nor does it take into account the various types of waste incurred by other forms of you - like the little plastic tubs that smokeless come in.

It's funny how much physical waste you contribute to, and yet all we are left with is smoke.

Smoke, addiction, and nothing tangible other than litter. Lovely.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Dear Tobacco,

I'm really mad at myself right now for screwing up with blogger and erasing a perfect post to you. I was in such the zone and totally getting down so many 'teen angst' moments I had that related to you, and now it will be a complete bummer to try to recreate.

I can't help but think that you had something to do with it. Go me and my conspiracy theory - only this one is all in my head I guess - heh.

In good news, my workplace has finally regulated it's outdoor smoking areas and will be eliminating all indoor smoking rooms(like the one in the staff lunch area). Also in good news, Canadians are smoking less even if they are getting tubby.

I'm still bitchy though.

I'll get to you later.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Dear Tobacco,

Heather Crowe's obituary really tells it like it is, and is a wonderful legacy for her cause. I signed the guestbook. I suppose you could read the obit, but unless you think you'll change your mind about continuing your stranglehold on society, you might as well just let everyone else read it.

Perhaps they won't want anything to do with you anymore either.


Monday, June 05, 2006

Dear Tobacco,

I saw that cameo you had on Smallville tonight... I thought it was important to mention because you were definitely in league with the bad guy. There was this guy that Luthercorp had hooked on a serum who could manipulate any nearby electricity to form tangible balls of electricity that he could use as weapons.

Your role was to help show just how evil/hooked this guy was. He took a small ball of electricity and lit his tobacco roll with it! It was perfect! I was initially just surprised that I was watching the show (it was on at the gym) but found myself actually tickled that you had been paired with the bad guy. It's taken some time, but I am finally seeing more of you as right-hand to the villain than to the hero.

Now my forgiving side was seeing the worst that addiction can do to someone. This dude was willing to kill Superman and his family so that he could get his fix. Thankfully he wasn't in need of a smoke or he might have killed sooner - but either way you would probably like to have a hand in his death. I wonder if that will work it's way into the plot sometime too... heh heh.

Yes, I thought it was great that I've found a show that portrays you as a subtle bad guy unlike the shows I've watched growing up that show you as the subtle good guy.

'Bout time.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Dear Tobacco,

Kathleen has something to say to you. Her letter sent chills down my body, but I don't mind that. They are a real reaction to a reality that is raw and vivid... you have caused so much pain in her life that I only wish she can keep you at a distance from now on.

She reminded me that I ought to have my email posted for others to send their letters to. I think I'll use an image of it so that the SPAM software doesn't get a hold of it. Spammers are as bad as you, except they don't kill I suppose.

It sucks that you still manage to be somewhere in our sights every day...

Dear Tobacco,

This weekend is the seventh anniversary of my taking Rick down to Columbia-Presbyterian for his second surgery. The incision from the first surgery a week before never healed, and when he coughed I could smell your triumphant, noxious exhalation from the hole in his back. For a week I slept on the couch by his bedroom, not because I could help him, but so he would not be alone as he racked and heaved and spat up dull pink and gray tissue. Before we left for the hospital, he wanted to sit down in the backyard. It was a beautiful June day, as lovely as the day we had wed, nearly 23 years before. He wasn’t one for open affection, much less for “talking things out.” In fact, he never admitted to anyone that he might not beat you. But in that green and golden sunlit space he said to me simply, “Thank you.”

We had to wait two days before he could be scheduled for another operation – days I spent sleeping in a chair by his bed, of the charity of the nurses, waiting, slipping outside – yes, to confide in you, comforter and killer, buying you guitily, stealthily, at the corner newsstand. He had surgery on Monday... and you know where I spent that night – in the psych ward of the same hospital, unable to deal with a husband’s dying and an adolescent son’s – 85 miles away -- inarticulate horror of that fact. But I saw him Tuesday, and on Wednesday I came to the step-down ICU where he’d been moved. I didn’t realize at the time, but they’d fitted him with a morphine bolus – every few minutes he’d groan and press the magic button. I didn’t realize at the time, but they had pretty much given him up and they didn’t care how much morphine he got. I guess by that time I was so exhausted or traumatized or perhaps deliberately oblivious that I didn’t recognize how close he had traveled to your final embrace. The oxygen indicator alarm on his forefinger kept going off and it irritated him, so I’d press the button on the console to quiet it. The nurses were too busy to check its frequent clamor. He couldn’t speak, just jotted queries – the last about his son, whom I was to bring to visit on the following day. He ate dinner with great appetite – I don’t remember what the main course was, but he loved the corn kernels, thought them fresh from the cob.

The nurse came to straighten the bed and check his dressings. When we helped him sit up, he grabbed for the paper cup and spat – and this time it was bright red, red as a rose, red as blood from an afterbirth, red fresh from an artery, and the incision in his back blew open and out poured lymph and blood and I said to the nurse, “He’s bleeding.” She was already doing her nurse things, calling the code, trying to get me out of the way. I said, for lack of anything better, stroking his arm, “It’s OK, it’s OK, you’ll be OK.” But he pushed me away, saying “Stop, stop.” And the blood gushed from his nose and mouth and he frantically put on the oxygen mask and as frantically tore it off as it filled with that merry color. I cried, “I love you, don’t you leave me, don’t you fucking leave me,” but I wasn’t any longer in his field of vision and I saw, yes I saw when he left. The code team came and worked on him, him who was gone, him whose clay-colored body jerked nervelessly under their pitiful devices, oh god his dear body and they tried to get me to leave but I wouldn’t and they joked and flirted even as they acted out the formalities of their training until his surgeon said to me it’s time to let him go and oh, you think I didn’t know that nine months ago?

His sister and father and widow and son and friends smoked like chimneys during his wake and cremation (oh lost and by the wind grieved ghost). ................. six months here and six months there without you, but it wasn’t until nearly seven years later that I finally hated you enough, Dear Tobacco, that I found the grace to leave you (which of course had been lying all along at my feet – how cleverly you weave your mists and myths of rationalization!).

Succumbing to your wiles and embracing you for over 30 years is the biggest regret of my life. Does that make you happy, thief and murderer?

Kathleen Chaffin

Friday, June 02, 2006

Dear Tobacco,

Last month you took an enemy of yours - also a victim of yours - to the grave. She was, and will continue to be, the face of second-hand smoke in Canada. What an extraordinary person she continues to be; a true role model for us all in terms of the choices she made to fight you while fighting lung cancer.

You see, she had nothing against you until you decided to convince the cells in her lungs to fight themselves and become a serious cancer. Then, without your blessing, she began to take your name in vain to anyone, and everyone, who would listen. She no doubt cried like I have upon hearing of others you've stolen, and her story brought both comfort and pain to anyone who shared her status as someone touched, or rather punched, by you.

She was a voice against you even when her breath wouldn't let her yell. She moved mountains and helped usher in a smoke free public Ontario and Quebec, and her whispers will no doubt be in the ears of those who legislate you around our country. You didn't want her to see how she had triumphed against you, instead you reminded her damaged body of your power as her cancer returned to ultimately claim her.

You might have taken her body from us, but her voice will live on.

I've had several search requests from people looking for the eulogy from her funeral last month. With permission, it is posted below.

Long Live Heather Crowe.

A few years ago, Heather Crowe would be the first to agree that her life was not extraordinary. She would have said that she was an ordinary woman, living in ordinary circumstances with an ordinary job and ordinary hopes for a comfortable life after retirement.

But when Heather learned that she was going to be forced into a retirement that would be neither comfortable nor long, she became a most extraordinary ordinary woman capable of doing the most extraordinary ordinary things.

In the three and a half years of her dying she was able to do something few of us are able to do in all our years of living – to make a lifetime of difference.

Heather was born the third of 7 children to a family in rural Nova Scotia. From her family, Heather learned the value of hard work, she learned courage and determination and she learned selflessness.

Like many before and after, Heather was driven ‘down the road’ to find work in Toronto and to build a more secure future.

Emotionally and spiritually, however, she never moved far from her family roots, from her connections to her brothers and sisters, nor from the native teachings of her Mi’kmaq mother.

It was the career she started in Toronto and continued in Ottawa that would eventually kill her.

For 40 years she served food, poured drinks, and wiped tables, but for 39 of those years she did so in venues where, as she put it, “the air was blue with smoke.”

Heather said that waitresses were often ‘invisible workers.’ Invisible too was the damage that was being done to the cells of her lungs by the smoke-filled air she breathed.

By the time these cells developed into tumours and became visible to CAT scans and X-rays machines, Heather’s cancer could not be reversed.

Heather said that learning that she had lung cancer was “like having a mirror shatter into a million pieces. You see the shards on the floor,” she said, “but you can't put them back together. It changes your life forever."

Most extraordinarily -- Heather decided to do more than just stare at the pieces on the floor.

She decided that she might have been an invisible worker, but she would not be an invisible victim. She set about to present her case – against extraordinary odds – to the workers compensation system.

Later, suffering from chemo-caused nausea, she made another decision. No one else, she decided, should have to endure what she was going through. She set about to present their case – against extraordinary odds – to the political system.

Heather became a woman transformed.

She stopped being a waitress, and became a woman with a mission.

She became a voice for hospitality workers, for prison guards, for casino workers, for home-care workers, for all working Canadians who were left unprotected from exposure to second hand smoke.

She became the ‘visible victim.’ Heather was unstoppable.

She pushed herself on trips across Canada to communities large and small, to meetings friendly and hostile, to politicians supportive or discouraging.

She searched out, and found, people who could help and then pushed us to be more ambitious.

She brought to her campaign a waitress’s sense of timing: she wasn’t satisfied with the idea that it could take years to bring laws into effect, and she didn’t see why we should be either.

During her 3 year campaign, Heather lived on borrowed time. She paid steep interest on that loan. In addition to the physical discomforts left by her cancer treatments, there was the stress of learning new skills, meeting new expectations.

Heather had become, in a way she never anticipated or planned, a public figure, a focus of attention.

She moved from waiting on tables to sitting at the head table. She stopped being invisible and became highly visible.

For a deeply private woman from a deeply private family, this was not an easy transition, nor always a comfortable one.

She had become well known as the waitress who was ‘dying’ from second hand smoke, yet she wasn’t dead yet.

People began to ask why. Sometimes they asked her.

There was always the dark cloud of terminal illness on the horizon. Waiting for it to darken further was very hard. In some ways, Heather was relieved when her cancer returned last September.

“There’s only so long you can cheat the devil,” she said. “And I feel I have already cheated him for the past three years. I am happy with the things I have been able to do in that time.”

In those three years she did truly extraordinary things and many of those things made her happy indeed.

She met, encouraged, cajoled, charmed and stared-down premiers and ministers. By putting a face to cancer from second hand smoke, she persuaded many of them to act on the knowledge they had.

These successes made her happy.

She touched the hearts of many, and received hundreds of letters of support and appreciation from people across Canada.

These kindnesses made her happy

She stayed in touch with Moe and “the girls” from work, and her visits with them made her very happy.

But nothing made her as happy in her mission as working with “the kids.”

Kids from Ottawa’s Expose mobilizing youth against tobacco.

Kids from Kingston rallying to support a tobacco treaty.

Kids from Commando Oxygene circulating petitions to support the new Quebec law.

Kids in countless classes watching the video about Barb Tarbox that Heather brought to share with them.

Heather insisted that she would not be in front of these kid – she would not be behind them – but she would stand beside them.

They were her future. They were her joy.

Another extraordinary thing grew out of Heather’s campaign.

A family of supporters grew around her.

Politicians, government workers, community groups, educators, student activists, journalists and her nursing and health supporters worked together as though no one had ever heard of federal-provincial tensions, or institutional rivalries or financial concerns.

Heather not only found the best in herself, she brought out the best in all of us.

And she brought us together.

Heather’s family of supporters was not the only family that grew closer during her final years.

Heather loved her daughter and granddaughter with a deep passion, even though, as mothers and grandmothers are wont to do, she sometimes expressed that love in unwelcoming worrying ways.

No granddaughter was more loved than Jodi Ann. No daughter more the focus of her mother’s life than Patricia.

Canadians responded to Heather in an extraordinary way. They realized that what had happened to her could have happened to anyone, but that not everyone would have responded as Heather did.

They were moved by Heather’s honesty, her selflessness, her determination – and her success. Heather was a true Canadian hero.

Heather met Barb Tarbox a few weeks before that other champion’s death.

“Barb Tarbox has been a fashion model with a glamorous career,” she said. “Beside her, I feel like the little red hen.

And then she added, with her typical grasp of the perfect metaphor: “I have been scratching around in the barnyard trying to find enough to eat. When it’s already too late, I discover the barnyard is a toxic waste dump.”

One day as the Little Red Hen was scratching in a field, she found a grain of toxic wheat.

"This wheat should be clean" she said. "Who will safeguard this field of wheat?"

"Not I," said the Duck.
"Not I," said the Cat.
"Not I," said the Dog.
"Then I will," said the Little Red Hen.

And she did.

Dear Tobacco,

You're just as good at making Heros as you are Victims.

You see, in this case you've bred a hero and a fatility in one fell swoop.

I still think you'd be happiest if the hero had a close relationship with you too - the more the merrier, eh? - Calgary news from CTV: "Heros in fire"

POSTED AT 11:15 AM Friday, June 2
Careless smoking is to blame for a fatal fire in the city’s southwest Thursday night.

The fire broke out in a condo complex at 4915 35th Avenue S.W. just after 11 p.m.
Before emergency crews arrived on scene, the resident manager of the complex burst into the residence and rescued a 67-year-old female from the second floor, saving her life.
Paramedics treated the woman for smoke inhalation and transported her in stable condition to the Foothills Hospital.
Her condition is not considered life threatening.
Firefighters located a second woman inside the residence.
Paramedics aggressively treated the 45-year-old unconscious woman and transported her to the Foothills Hospital in critical condition, but she did not survive.
Arson investigators say careless smoking started some bedding on fire and the flames were intensified by an oxygen system that had plastic tubing running throughout the suite.
The fire damage was confined to the bedroom and bathroom areas with smoke damage throughout the suite.
Officials say the resident manager and another man were instrumental in getting the 67-year-old woman out of the suite safely. The Fire Department will be recognizing the heroic efforts at a later date."

Thursday, May 25, 2006

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Dear Tobacco,

I learned a new term for you today. Or, rather, I learned a new word for Cigarette. It was a brief comment in the middle of a well written rant/blog that identified 'cigarette' as a capitalistic term, and that really all they are are tobacco rolls... tobacco rolls that sometimes have filters.

It makes sense that the term 'cigarette' is a marketing term in addition to the description of a mini cigar. So who thought up the term 'cigarello' then?

I doubt I'll make the verbal transition to using the term tobacco roll instead of cigarette, but I will try to incorporate that term into my letters to you.

Since Eric's death and my starting letters to you I've noticed you a lot more. The litter you help generate, the way you convince people that they need you, they way that your Addicted Truth is a lot like the same Addicted Truth that alcoholics and other drug addicts use, and that you often bring out the worst in people.

Remembering the ways that I've been impacted by you has been an enlightening and depressing journey. Everyone I know has had to consciously decide how they want to be involved with you. Everyone I know has a stance on you. Everyone I know hates you, or loves to hate you even though they smoke. I can't remember meeting someone who says they love to smoke, though I would probably silently pity anyone who did say that knowing their belief that they love you is an Addicted belief. You have this disgusting amount of power over people and this world - it's a toxic power that pulls the wool over so many eyes.

It's not just tobacco rolls that people turn to.. there are lots of ways to imbibe in your seductiveness, be it snuff or smokeless or whatever. Now I've got to think about what to call snuff and smokeless - perhaps powdered tobacco and shredded lip tobacco?

I get tired thinking about you, but it's worth it. It's worth it to keep talking to you so that I don't get tempted to go near you. So that I can help others see how you hypnotize us with your smoky haze. I'm not really giving you 'the time of day' when I write these letters, rather I'm acknowledging you and coming to a conscious stance against you. I am conscious of you, and look forward to seeing less and less of you.

Someday I might get to say 'bon riddance' to you, but in the mean time you'll be hearing from me in these letters.

Stay tuned; not that you're going anywhere....

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Dear Tobacco,

One thing you've got going for you is that you seem to treat everyone equally.

Going to a private High School on Vancouver Island gave me a wealth of opportunity to observe how you impact everyone with the same non-bias we all wish we had for the world. Be it the wise old instructor, the young 8th Grader, to the girl on the Greyhound bus in Vancouver - they all had relationships with you and all taught me things about you I hadn't thought about before. We'll talk about each of them in time.

The girl on the Greyhound wasn't anyone I knew, but she embodied everything I wanted to be at 16. I couldn't even tell you now what she was wearing then, but the sense I get when I remember her is one of patchoulie and hemp, cotton, leather, and earth. I think she had a hat, like a berrett, and had at least a sling bag (the big droopy kind that sways against your hip when you walk) if not a back-pack too. She was probably 18, and she was alone.

I've always admired solitary travellers. They know what they want, they are solely responsible for attending to their own needs, and they must be the ones to ask to make anything happen. It's an empowering thing to be able to walk confidently when travelling - even if you're totally lost :-)

The Greyhound had a 15 minute stop at the ferry terminal in which people could get out to stretch their legs before the ferry boarded. The hippie girl got out for a smoke. It was from her that I learned how to 'save a smoke' for next time, how to conserve you so that she could get another moment with you and that cigarette.

I observed her cherishing those moments with you, and then as we were called onto the bus she took one final romantic drag and then carefully pinched the tip (also known as the Cherry, as I learned later) so that the burning ember at the end fell to the pavement leaving only ready-to-burn tobacco left in her hand. She then popped the smoke back into the pack and brought herself and the scent of her satisfaction (you) back onto the bus.

This, to me and my 16 year old eyes - the ones that had only began to flirt with you - this was brilliant. Ingenious. It meant that there were no ashes, less stink in the pack, no squishing the end of the smoke, and no risk of the ember keeping burning. What a great trick!

I couldn't tell you if I ever employed this trick, but I did learn something about conservation and human nature that day. Humans savour their vices, and like to prolong them. If this means learning a new trick or developing a new tool we will! That girl was actually thinking ahead as to how to conserve her smokes either for reasons of money, addiction, availability, or whatnot... that mentality is impossible to ingrain in most kids most of the time, yet once you get them hooked on something they will find ways of keeping it around.

Pokemon might be addictive, but at least it doesn't coat everything it comes near in a haze of toxicity.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Dear Tobacco,

Heather didn't think twice about you when she was working at the smoke filled restaurant that led to her cancer, but now that she's gone all I can hope is that her last thoughts didn't even give you the time of day.

She had a voice. At least her voice will live on despite you doing all you did to choke her. : Waitress who got cancer from second-hand smoke dies: "Heather Crowe, known as the face of Canada's anti-smoking movement, has succumbed to lung cancer in Ottawa at the age of 61.
The long-time waitress, who never smoked, is widely known for television ads in which she describes how she contracted cancer from second-hand smoke at the restaurant where she worked for 40 years"

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Dear Tobacco,

I see you around a lot.

Enough already.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Dear Tobacco,

I've received my first letter to you from one of the folks that I found online.

He's going through a lot to try to get you out of his life, and it's a hard journey. The awareness alone of how addiction is different for each person is so apparent in his letter, I only hope you're listening. Either way, I think he's rid of you a little differently now than he was the first few tries.

Here's hoping.

Dear Tobacco,

Since the age of 12 you have ravaged my lungs with your carbon sandpaper.

With the carrot of nicotine and the comfort of sucking, you turned me into your willing slave.

I escaped for seven years; under stress at medical school, of all places, I relapsed into that concentration only nicotine provides. They didn't have patches or gum back then.

There was another three years in my thirties when I escaped your ashen clutches, but after my back surgery failed and I was in constant pain, I said, "What the hell, who wants to live? Give me a cigarette."

Afterwards six months off here, six months there, but I could never completely escape the spurs you had dug so deep in my brain.

Now I've got two months and I'm not going back. You are a great whore but a lousy master. I want to stay far from your bordello and your plantation.

I am not stronger than you, but pain is, and the pain of coughing and shortness of breath finally did me in. For me to smoke is to be sick. At the end I threw up when I sampled you on an empty stomach in the morning.

I will always envy those who can have a cigarette only when they go out to a bar, those who can keep a pack in a plastic bag in the freezer for weeks like my brother. It boggles my mind that any human could have such power over your black magic. Then there are exceptions to every addiction.

The best I can ever hope is to be a non-smoker, because, as you well know, I will always be a smoker at heart. They still smell good (Damn you!).

Should this ever change, I will have the brand removed from my forehead and proclaim myself "free." Until then I wave a wooden cross at you.

Thanks for the good time, but the price of your burning was always too high.

Go with God,

C. E. Chaffin M.D FAAFP
Editor, The Melic Review

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Dear Tobacco,

I've found a blog from a local that has been documenting some of his experiences with you. I really like the raw honesty, anger, pleasure, and reality of how you and he get along.

Perhaps you want to read it too?

Smoking - RaVeN's Nest - A Pagan's Rite - by Raven

I'll tell you there really is nothing like that first cup of coffee with a cigarette in the morning. It's the breakfast of champions. Caffine and nicotine - perfect together. Like a family reunion. There really is nothing to open your eyes like the "ine" sisters.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Dear Tobacco,

People get really good at finding ways to make their relationship with you more ritualistic & personal.

Derick was my Mom's brother who passed away earlier this year of a heart attack, likely a shriveled liver, tired lungs, and loneliness. His wife, Nicola, preceded his death a few years ago as a result of a swift encounter with pancreatic cancer. They are, as a result of Derick's death, the first 'couple' to both have died in our family other than his parents having died many years earlier - as well as the first couple that both took their addiction to you with them to the grave.

Derick was successful well before many of his siblings. He took an opportunity to sell his business to retire early and travel the land with Nicola. They became nomadic - investing in fancy 5th Wheel campers, staying in small towns RV parks for months, and generally just seeing everything they could together and enjoying life.

Even before I could judge right from wrong I remember my sister and I being completely fascinated by the process those two had for rolling their own cigarettes. Nicola had crafted a little assembly line for portioning, dividing, stuffing, packing, and packaging their smokes. She even hand-made the little board & gizmo that handled all the tobacco so that she could prep and roll about 20 at a time... a work of genius, really.

You helped open up her imagination so that she could maximize her time spent on/with you. If only she had as much confidence in herself as you did. Even Derick was as meticulous with you as she was - it was like the first thing they had in common. Maybe you were the first thing they had in common.

Maybe you're like the third angel sitting on our shoulders. The one that says "Hey, forget those Goog & Evil pussies, I'm where it's at!". You're sort of in your own little third dimension, hovering above the ability to reason, to rationalize right and wrong, pulling on the reigns that control either usual angel.

My sister and I were somehow given permission to assist with the rolling ritual. So we learned how much to pinch and where to sprinkle you, and then where to place the tubes so that nothing went awry. So that the brand name was facing just right. Lastly we got to finalize the process of the gizmo by sliding it together like an old credit card machine with a usually-smooth cha-lunk.

I didn't get to go to their funerals. I wouldn't have asked about that contraption either, but I wonder where it ended up. Burned, hopefully.

How did it feel to get them, too?

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Dear Tobacco,

You don't ask anything of your subjects other than utter devotion.

Sure, they can carry on their lives 'as normal' and all they have to do is devote anywhere from 10 minutes to even two hours of each day to time with you. You don't care if someone double-tasks, as long as you're part of the action. Like the businessman sitting at home, with the kids in the other room, shuffling through paperwork on the kitchen table. A dark Hollywood-like spotlight might seem to form around him from the potlight above as you dance around the table in gentle wafts, careful to spread out as you creep around the home looking for unsuspecting items to cling to... like cloth, walls, windows, furniture, lungs. You have to leave an impression on anything that might give him reason to not need you, or anything that might make him realize he is stronger than you when he has the right support.

He's allowed to keep you around and get work done; with you convincing him the whole time that he's not putting you in the wrong hands. He is, however, putting you into the wrong lungs. Any lungs. And he's letting you bathe his whole existence in you... to help keep the haze in this head as well as his body.

The irony? Is that much of the smoke he leaves around him literally leaves from him.

Talk about a breath of poison air...

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Dear Tobacco,

I just can't seem to escape you.

I went for a walk at lunch yesterday with a colleague of mine. It's Spring, and so we decided to risk the breeze in exchange for the sunshine and headed out the large main doors of the building to get to our favourite perimeter sidewalk. Not three steps out and I was reminded that you're always there...

It was like walking through a ghost. I felt you, smelled you, saw you, tasted you, and instantly - again - I loathed you. Swarms of hypnotized teens and adults were laughing and talking their way through the fact that a cloud of your waste was hovering over, in, and around them. They were nursing each other through a few minutes of semi-ignorant bliss.

I couldn't help think of the rush the Bison must have felt running in thunderous herds, lungs flexing & blood pumping, nostrils flaring & comradery abound only to find their deaths (sometimes slow) on top of the corpses of those that ran before them. The haze you held over the people I passed yesterday shadowed, to me, the dust and fellowship that blinded the Bison to their own demise, and reeked of the souls you've taken before.

I guess you don't have any qualms about making sure they don't see ahead of each dose. No light at the end of the tunnel with you - at least not the kind of light people would like to see.


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