Tear Down the Wall
On Monday my favorite mayor — NYC’s Michael Bloomberg — introduced new legislation targeted at urban smokers. In essence it requires New York City sellers of tobacco products, with the exception of smoke shops, to tear down the wall of candy colored cigarette packaging found behind cash registers. His suggestion: cover them with curtains, stuff them in drawers, or stash them in cabinets. The bill aims to shield children from the suggestive marketing of tobacco products (remember the days when the friendly ol’ dromedary used to promote Camel cigarettes in cartoons?) and to curb impulse buys in those who have already quit.
As an on/off smoker, I love the bill even though it is directly targeted at my kind of folk. I can go weeks or months without smoking (when I’m of the mind to quit). And then, something unbearable barrels into me and my first response is nearly primordial: I need a smoke.
More often than not, these unbearable moments come while I’m out and about: frustrating drivers, obnoxious tourists, long lines, a new deadline dictated to me via email that my iPhone just loves to share. I couldn’t count on six hands how many times I’ve been at the deli counter, paying for my Luna bar and coffee, when the bright yellow box of American Spirits beckons me like a ray of sunshine in my darkest hour.
And, like Danes in the dead of winter, I’m desperate for some rays. I picture myself beating the pack against my thigh, unwrapping the cellophane, tugging at the shiny foil, and reveling in the woodsy smell. A deep, long, soothing inhalation … and poof! Just like that, all my troubles will be gone. At least for seven minutes.
My irrational self takes over and convinces me that I am strong enough to buy a pack, which in New York City is nearly $14, and to smoke just one. That’s all I need. Just one. Then, I can toss the pack in the nearest garbage can and go about my day, all the happier.
In reality, that’s not how it works.
I buy the pack and a lighter since as a non-smoker I don’t have one on me, and walk out the door already feeling the synthetic Vitamin D seep into my blood.
I perform my ritual and raise the cigarette to my lips. It feels wonderful. I’m at home with myself. The world is righted; my sour mood disabled; my worries blown into the ether with the slow exhalation of blue smoke.
The problem is, I’m an addict. And an addict’s willpower is, well, weak.
I can’t bring myself to toss them out. It’s as if Gorilla Glue has been slathered onto the little box, and no matter how hard I try, I can’t let it go.
And hence, my shift from being a non-smoker slides easily back into that of a smoker.
It’s as simple as that.
When I read the news about the proposed legislation, I thought: Who in the hell would come up with this idea?
And then it dawned on me.
Someone like me.
An ex-smoker who is routinely rattled by the wall of tobacco just screaming: “Buy Me! Buy Me!”
And in NYC, that ex-smoker happens to be Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
When he’s having one of those unbearable moments — I’m betting his daily stresses far outweigh mine — and finds himself in a deli buying an apple, he is just as tortured as the next recovering smoker by the wall of nicotine comfort looming in the background like the Empire State Building aglow for Valentine’s Day.
I’m not the betting type, but I would also wager that were I to walk into a deli or a Duane Reade and not be greeted by my yellow friends, my unbearable moment would pass …
… and I’d walk out $14 wiser. And healthier.
- NYC Plan Would Keep Tobacco Products Out Of Sight (npr.org)
- Bloomberg Seeks to Ban Cigarette Displays in NYC’s Stores (bloomberg.com)
© 2013 Lisa Rainwater