Monday, July 13, 2009

Drugs Of Choice - Martial Law on Smoking?

Interesting how it works. You do something. It gives you pleasure. You do it again. It continues to give you pleasure. And so you keep doing it.

Doesn't really matter what it is you do, you do it enough, it becomes habit. You want it more.... and more.... until finding it... having it... ingesting it... consumes you. That's what's called an addiction and that's what's happening to me with this blog. It calls me all the time. The challenge is finding the time to write in it before it becomes static, dull, ignored.

Driving into Seattle to deliver cases on the early ferry this morning.... listening to B.J. Shea, on his wonderful radio show "The B.J. Shea Morning Experience (Google it - 6-10am, Seattle 99.9 FM)... B.J. was ranting about how the military is considering banning cigarette smoking among soldiers.

Being of a similar age as B.J., I share most of his rants. I feel the same way he does about certain idiots making idiotic decisions that affect the rest of decent folks out here who have a right to live our lives the way we choose.

However, I am not B.J., so I will spare my rant about politically and religiously driven B.S. Instead, I will weave his story about the ban on smoking in the military into this blog post.

Just one thing before proceeding: I am not a smoker and my father died from smoking cigarettes. I will also say I am married to a retired Marine, 14 years military who smoked from the day I met him and stops every now and then.

That said, I think it is absolutely ridiculous to tell soldiers, going to battle, that not only can they have no more than two beers a month... but they may not smoke a cigarette in
Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, on a ship in stormy or calm seas, in desert and foxhole, on Fort Campbell, Fort Lewis, Madigan, Bumfruck Egypt, anywhere they are stationed, away from family and friends, serving this country... putting their lives on the line for us.

One reason tobacco is the drug of choice for so many people...
one reason why people say it is as hard, if not harder than heroin to quit...
is because the powerful effects of the drug, the nicotine, have on the human body and psyche.

Unlike any other drugs, tobacco has a unique quality. For those addicted to it, it lifts them up when they are depressed, bleak, feeling dark.
It mellows people out when they are hyped, angry, anxious, feeling cornered, freaked.

I must also add that smoking tobacco blackens your lungs, creates a sludgy coat of tar in your body, clogs and ultimately chokes your heart, arteries, clouds your brain, gives you cancer and you die a premature and often painful death. So it's not all fun and games.

I recall working with one retired FBI agent. He laughed as he told me he used to "smoke like a fish, a smoked fish". However, he had a hole in his throat he spoke, then smoked the cigarette through, after telling me his story. It was hard moment to process.

However, those are not things a soldier thinks about after he or she has just deployed, is in a frightening foreign environment, is away from home for the first time, or just saw a buddy blown up.

For a soldier the positive effects of those already addicted to cigarette smoking , added to the camaraderie that comes from a close group gathered like birds (I call them puffins), wings flapping, and swapping stories... there is a something almost sacred among their smoke-filled circles.

And to demand the people in our society who are under stress the most, must not smoke, they must literally go through withdrawal and maintain sobriety in the military ....and have no release... is absurd to me. And in this blogger's humble opinion, worth a post.

I know so many people will disagree with my point of view. I understand every argument to the contrary. I hate the smell the smell of cigarette smoke. I hate that people I love do it. However, I respect every one's right to live their lives as long as it doesn't intrude on mine. So people who smoke in my personal life around me are respectful of how I feel about it. They have a right to smoke, just like I have a right not to.

There are moments, however, on the job, when I must have smoke blown my way to get information. I usually go into people's homes to meet them, it gives me and the attorneys a better sense of who and what we are dealing with.

In some cases, I walk into a living room, see a butt filled ashtray and a nervous subject. Ultimately they say, "Do you mind if I smoke?"
Meaning -- do you mind if I smoke right here in my own home while you talk to me?

I say, "No, of course not. It's your house. And, I'm a second hand smoker anyway."
That answer usually produces a a few seconds of silence... then a laugh.

I on the other hand, have carefully crafted a calculated response that establishes a rapport with someone I am interviewing, while showing respect for what they do even though I do not do it. Respect is key to getting information out of anyone.

And I think not allowing soldiers to smoke is showing a lack of respect to what they do for us. They put themselves on the line for us, so they have the right to make their own decisions on how to cope with physical and psychological traumas they face in the field.

To B.J. I say, "Right on." We need more voices to speak up and drown out the lunacy out there. The President of the United States smokes. Who's going to tell him to stop?

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