This image provided by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday, June 21, 2011 shows one of nine new warning labels cigarette makers will have to use by the fall of 2012. In the most significant change to U.S. cigarette packs in 25 years, the FDA's new warning labels depict in graphic detail the negative health effects of tobacco use. (AP Photo/U.S. Food and Drug Administration)
Well, that's icky.
I have a history with cigarettes that goes back to a girl named Stephanie Pottle. I was thirteen, she was a bit older . . . and she smoked. Since Stephanie was beautiful and glamorous, I decided smoking must be, too. I started out like everyone else, with furtive drags in secret places.
I progressed to a pack a day within a year or two and began a love affair with fancy gold lighters and antique cigarette holders. (Hey, if you're going to do it, do it with style, right?)
The idea of smoking while pregnant seemed very, very stupid, so I quit some time before we planned to have our first child. Cold turkey. New Year's Eve. I didn't look back, though I'd have an occasional dream I'd started smoking again—I felt guilty on those mornings for a microsecond, then congratulated myself.
When we moved to Alabama, it seemed like this state must be second only to North Carolina in its dedication to the tobacco leaf. I was surrounded by smokers. It looked fun. I had a . . . you guessed it . . . furtive, secret drag or two. I progressed to (fill in the blank).
On December 25, 2010, standing in three inches of snow behind my grandmother's condo, I enjoyed my final eight drags of nicotine. It felt pretty stupid, standing out there freezing while my cousin covered for me (not naming names . . . but she's a wonderful cousin). I have been smoke-free ever since, and try not to be all Reformed Smoker around my friends who still inhale. I don't tell them that everything tastes better, and most days I feel like I could walk forever without pausing for breath, or that my teeth are whiter. Sometimes I even look longingly at their Marlboros, but I think my beloved strawberry gum is easier on my lungs.
That new warning label is pretty graphic. I'm pretty sure it'll stare back hard at me if I'm tempted to peruse the latest from Big Tobacco. I hope it will stare at other people, too.