Burning Desires

I recently watched the first part of a two part BBC documentary called Burning Desire, which I think could fairly be described as an anti smoking, anti tobacco industry program.
Some reluctant credit was given to British American Tobacco for allowing access to the program makers, and for admitting that tobacco can do harm. Perhaps there was also some credit for developing safer products but I suspect from the tone of the first part that the second part (which I have not been able to see yet) will still emphasise the evil of tobacco companies rather than any benefits of e cigarettes and other safer tobacco products.


It is pretty clear to me that when evidence started to mount that cigarettes could be a serious danger to people’s health the big tobacco companies were at a loss as to what to do or say. So many of them lied or tried to hide the truth. They were indeed corrupt. I don’t think however they were any more evil or corrupt than any other industry would have been in the circumstances. If substantial evidence emerged that hamburgers or cola could give you cancer, does anyone really believe that MacDonalds or Coca Cola would instantly accept the findings and agree to recompense anybody who had been harmed by their product? The politics and structure of the capitalist economy does not promote total honesty and I think if you favour a capitalist economy you have to take that fact on board. Moreover if the big tobacco companies had thrown their hands up in horror at the thought that their products might harm people and decided to instantly stop producing cigarettes, millions of people would have lost their livelihoods and there would have been a serious economic depression which may have resulted in more ill health and death than smoking is said to cause.
Peter Taylor, the presenter of the program is an award winning journalist with a very clear agenda. He hates smoking and considers it to be a huge problem for public health and welfare. In the 1970s he made some ground breaking documentaries in which he exposed some of the dangers of smoking and the degree to which producers were ignoring or hiding that fact. I applaud his journalistic skills and tenacity and would fight for his right to go on making documentaries that vested interests would rather he didn’t. However, on the subject of smoking he is not neutral and his documentary has to be seen in that light. There are things he could have said which he chose not to; in fact various health lobbies are often guilty of that.


There were a couple of things in his documentary which I thought could easily be interpreted differently if one’s mind was not already made up to see things in a certain way…


In one section of the program he interviewed a couple of life long smokers who were clearly suffering from serious, life threatening health problems. The thrust of this section of the program seemed to be to demonstrate the harm smoking can do and to put the responsibility for these people’s illness onto the tobacco industry. The man and woman filmed were in their late fifties or early sixties. At one point the woman said that several years ago she had been given just months to live. Well, I am truly glad she proved them wrong, but, you know, she is still alive… The man said that for much of his life he had been smoking up to 100 unfiltered cigarettes per day!! To me it was amazing that he was still alive at all. If I was smoking 100 cigarettes per day, I wouldn’t expect to reach my fifties. ANYTHING taken that excessively is bound to be bad for your health. I very much suspect that eating 100 apples a day would also lead to an early death. Sorry, but I don’t think the tobacco industry should be held responsible for other people’s lack of intelligence or self control.


The other thing that stood out for me in the program was a statistic that was mentioned somewhere. It is claimed that half of all smokers will die prematurely from a smoking related disease. That’s terrible, isn’t it?


Or is it?


If half of all smokers die early of a smoking related illness, what about the other half? Perhaps we have been so focused on the half empty part of the glass for so long that we have lost sight of the half full part. Taken at face value this statistic would actually seem to imply that half of all smokers suffer no ill effects and may live just as long as anybody else. I wonder if any money has been spent on research to find out why that is? Surely that information could be useful to both smokers and non smokers.


And finally something that is never mentioned in documentaries of this type is that non smokers are not immune from the medical conditions associated with smoking. Some non smokers will still get lung cancer, heart conditions and strokes. And some will die from those things. Moreover even the healthiest, non drinking, non smoking, clean living individuals can still get sick, can still get killed in accidents.


We will all die one day. Surely it is how we choose to live and enjoy our life that really counts.





Sunday Cigars

image..Sophie’s Bit…

Cassie and I both smoke cigars from time to time. I generally smoke them more often than Cassie; although I think that may be changing…

Cigars trigger pleasant memories for me. Both my parents used to smoke but it was my father who smoked cigars and I liked the smell of them. He had a ritual of lighting up a big cigar after dinner on Sundays. As a teenager I used to nag him to let me have a puff on his cigar. Usually he refused of course but one day he said yes; I think he was expecting me to cough and choke and that would be the end of the matter… Well I did cough and choke but I didn’t want to lose face or feel defeated so I persevered. I probably did feel sick and I didn’t ask again for quite a while but somehow by the time I was about sixteen, the Sunday cigar was a ritual that I shared with my father. It was only on Sundays but I wanted to do it right… He bought different cigars for me to try and taught me the right way to cut and light them. I really liked all those ritual elements (Cassie hates those). I think in a strange way he was rather proud of me. He once joked, “I have a daughter who swears all the time and smokes cigars, what did I do wrong?”

So the Sunday cigar is a tradition I have kept up. I guess it is partly because it reminds me of those times with my father. I love my mother very much but sometimes there is a special bond between father and daughter and in my case that bond was cut short when my father died so all memories of my times with him are special.

Cigars are one of the many things that trigger sweet memories of my father, but because the memory is so linked with the sense of smell which is such a powerful catalyst, those particular memories seem to go straight to my heart and soul.

Anyway… Normally I only smoke cigars on Sundays or special occasions. I usually buy Davidoff 3000s and have introduced Cassie to them and she likes them too. They are quite long and thin, but not too thin. I admit the way they look and feel in your fingers is somehow important. Some types of cigars just don’t look very feminine. Mostly I like these cigars for the taste. They are quite strong but the smoke has a balanced and silky texture so they don’t seem harsh at all on the throat.

Even though I smoke cigarettes regularly I can understand that other people may not like the smell of cigarettes on me. And nobody wants to kiss an ashtray! I think there is a myth that smokers smell bad all the time, well speaking for myself and Cassie we take a lot of care of our hygiene and I honestly think that unless we were smoking a cigarette at the time or had just put one out, most people wouldn’t know we smoked; there are ways to keep your breath fresh after all… With cigars however it is different. The smell and the taste of a good cigar does tend to stay with you; sometimes I think I can feel it in my skin. But with cigars I like that sensation and I like it in other people too. For me the taste of Cassie after she has been smoking a good cigar is the best aphrodisiac I can imagine!


…Cassie’s Bit…

I also used to like the aroma of my father’s cigars which he smoked at weekends or occasionally in the evenings but I think the reason I started smoking cigars myself was less poignant than Sophie. With me it was more a case that once I had been smoking regularly for a while I was just curious about other things that you could smoke. I experimented with different brands of cigarettes and occasionally experimented with cigars and cigarillos. There were a few brands of cigarillos that I liked but I was less keen on actual cigars.

I found I could smoke cigarillos in the same way I smoked cigarettes. They were stronger, but I quite liked that. Cigars on the other hand did not fall into my routine or lifestyle. Smoking a cigar seemed like a rather pretentious event rather than something natural. I felt self conscious and uncomfortable smoking them and consequently very rarely did.

Then, about eight years ago, I had a boyfriend who’s job was importing and exporting fine cigars. He was quite an aficionado and he tried to educate me on the subject. His education of me was not a complete success! I hated and still do hate all the ritual and pretentiousness of smoking cigars; but I did discover some cigars which I really liked and continued to smoke occasionally long after he had become an ex.

As Sophie enjoys cigars a lot, I have found that I have been smoking them more regularly and often since we have been together. The main thing is that it now fits into my life in a way that feels natural and enjoyable. In fact one of my greatest pleasures now is our Sunday afternoon routine in Zurich…

When I am at home on Sundays (which still isn’t as often as I would like) Sophie, Tina and I go for lunch at a restaurant overlooking the lake. They have a nice, well ventilated, smokers lounge but if the weather is good we prefer to sit outside anyway. We treat ourselves to a nice meal although unfortunately nothing in Zurich is cheap. The food in the restaurant is always good though. After the meal Sophie and I smoke our cigars while finishing the wine and then some form of coffee. We sit there smoking and drinking for an hour or so watching boats on the lake and chatting about everything. Tina usually finds some friends to play with down by the lake or she goes off collecting insects or sometimes she just stays and chats with us. All in all it is the most relaxing way to spend a Sunday afternoon. I have taken to smoking Davidoff Panatellas and I like the way the taste lingers in my mouth and seems to permeate my whole body. And, as Sophie has said, I also love the way we both taste later in the day when we relax in other ways!



Ephemeral Smoking


The above image is something I made while playing around with photoshop. I like it. I think as an image it says something which words alone can’t say. It alludes to something ephemeral and mysterious; spiritual even. There may even be something slightly erotic or sexy about it, which in the politically correct era we live in also makes it taboo or forbidden. And perhaps it says much more besides…

I smoke because I like the taste of tobacco and I enjoy the kick of nicotine, but there is also something more… I like the sensation of breathing in and exhaling ┬ásmoke… I like the “something else” which this picture conveys.

But what is it exactly…?

Polite comments and discussion welcome.