STOP SMOKING FAST read the advertisement on the subway car, and it is probably good advice for people such as my father, who continues to smoke even after having had two stents inserted into his badly clogged arteries. I wanted the opposite, however: I wanted to start smoking fast.
There are no 12-step programs for would-be smokers. I assumed the tobacco industry would offer support, but I was wrong: Even they insist on warning would-be smokers about the hazards of addiction and stubbornly aim their advertising at those with preexisting habits. “If you do smoke, try . . . ” In other words: If you don’t smoke yet, you’re on your own.
Since I recently turned 30 and had never so much as held a lit cigarette, my decision to become a smoker strikes a lot of people as bizarre. But there are, I have discovered, good reasons to smoke. Cigarettes offer real benefits for the elderly, the clumsy, the forgetful, and the easily distracted. (These benefits have been intentionally underplayed by the public-health community.) My decision to smoke was much less sound. It was based on a phenomenon too recent to have been the subject of statistical studies or biological analysis: New York City’s ban on cigarette smoking in indoor public spaces.
I bought my first pack of cigarettes on a Monday. I knew I wasn’t going...