Fired up about smoking

Sep 7, 2005 at 12:00 am
Q: I am a big fan. You often nail it with politics and advice, but I disagree with your answer to Committed To Quitting.

First, there are a number of regular guys who post on the Smoke Signals website ( who are married and faithful to nonsmoking women. For many, watching attractive women who smoke is just a voyeuristic delight and nothing more. So CTQ’s relationship is not necessarily doomed.

Second, while smoking is unhealthy, so are a lot of other things, like wars, driving too fast, drinking booze, getting a tan, eating yummy food or riding a bicycle in the suburbs. Once you and the antismoking zealots have made the world a better place by reducing the smoking population to the point that smokers are a vulnerable minority, tobacco will be criminalized like hemp. You always thought it would go the other way, didn’t you? Use your political sense.

Third, your advice is anything but GGG. There are different strategies CTQ could try if she were committed to her guy and wanted to have her cake and eat it too. Smoking fetishists are a particular bunch. Most like certain brands of cigarettes, some like only cigar women and some like both. It’s conceivable that she could smoke cigars, cloves, or a "non-additive brand" rather than her preferred brand. This could limit the potential for a relapse to being a regular smoker and provide some "controlled enjoyment" of tobacco.

Fourth, your characterization of smoking as vile and disgusting is a half-truth. Smoking has enjoyed mass popularity since World War I. It was once the province of Prussian artisans who defied bans on public smoking in the 1840s, and Virginia Slims flappers in the 1920s, and glamorous movie stars in the 1940s and 1950s.

Finally, your intolerant and puritanical tone in this letter is very uncharacteristic of you. It must be Seattle or something. —James2

A: Perhaps I was too quick to urge CTQ to dump her smoking-fetishist boyfriend. In the interest of full disclosure, I should cop to my bias: I find smoking revolting. It’s always been a deal-breaker for me, romantically speaking; it’s easier for me to picture myself making out with a woman than with a dude who smokes. My towering aversion to the sight and stench of cigarettes no doubt prevented me from considering other accommodations CTQ could make, GGG moves that would allow her to have her health and the love of her smoking-fetishist boyfriend too.

Still, James2, I have to take exception to your cavalier attitude toward the health risks of smoking. Yes, we’re all going to die of something. But even if we set aside death, the other health impacts of smoking should be enough to inspire any sane person to quit. Smokers are likelier to be impotent; their faces are likelier to be covered in ghastly wrinkles; women who smoke and take birth control pills are likelier to have heart attacks; smokers’ teeth are likelier to fall out; smokers have poor circulation; smokers are likelier to have ulcers, heart disease, limited senses of taste and smell, etc. All of these things diminish quality of life for smokers even if they live long enough to die of something else. And then there’s the damage smokers do to the health of the nonsmokers in their lives. Children are especially vulnerable to the effects of secondhand smoke.

And, I’m sorry, but the fact that smoking once enjoyed mass popularity — and that glamorous movie stars in the ’40s smoked and rebel Prussians smoked and on and on — can’t be held up as proof that smoking isn’t disgusting. Something can be disgusting and enjoy mass popularity, James2. Take, say, female genital mutilation. It’s very popular in the parts of the world where it’s practiced, but it’s still vile and wrong.

Finally, I’m against criminalizing tobacco — in private. People should be free to pollute themselves in their homes, if they so choose, but smokers do not have the right to make nonsmokers (including their children) share in their toxic behavior in public spaces.

Q: Hi Dan. As a guy with a smoking fetish, I’d like to add my existential 2 cents.

First, CTQ, Dan is absolutely right that smoking is risky. No doubt about that. However, not everyone finds it quite as disgusting as he does. You indicated that you "really enjoyed" indulging your boyfriend’s kink, after all, so it doesn’t sound like a completely one-sided thing.

The other part of it is that even though smoking has well-documented health hazards, nonsmokers die all the time. The fact that you smoked for 5, 10 or 15 years might not matter a whole lot when you get hit by that bus next week. Or, OK, so you die of cancer before you’re 60. At least you won’t have to worry about incontinence or Alzheimer’s.

Whenever people say, "I don’t smoke because I don’t want to die of cancer," I follow up with, "What would you like to die of?"

But back to your specific situation: You seem to think that because you’re an addict it’s got to be all or nothing, that there’s no way you could only smoke on occasion. But have you tried? Perhaps you and your boyfriend can both agree that the only time either of you will smoke is during sex? It will take some willpower (for you and him), but either you’ll end up smoking a lot less or having sex a lot more! Sounds like a win-win to me. —Sensible Smoking Fetishist

A: Yes, nonsmokers die all the time. But at least we’re likelier to be able to get it up until we die, and die with all our non-stained teeth still in our heads, smooth skin on our faces, guts free of ulcers, our non-asthmatic children at our bedsides, etc.

Q: To Committed To Quitting: Would the bubble-gum fake cigarettes satisfy your partner’s fetish? These are cigarette-shaped sticks of bubble gum, wrapped in paper to look like a cigarette, and filled with powdered sugar that you can blow outward like smoke. They’re available at many candy stores and are probably cheaper than real cigarettes too. —Candy Man

A: Do they still make candy cigarettes? If they do, ban them. While I don’t support the prohibition of tobacco, anything that encourages little children to take up smoking should be banned.

Q: I’m rather aghast at your advice to CTQ, Dan. Advising her to dump her smoking-fetishist boyfriend completely sidestepped her first request: "…a way to replace his need for smoking with something that won’t kill [her]." Given the usual level of thought and research evident in your column, all I can assume is that you let your own hatred of smoking interfere with your due diligence. No doubt, she should quit smoking and have his full love and support if that’s her desire. But the fact is, nicotine-free cigarettes are available under the Qwest brand. If the mere taste of tobacco proves too enticing, there are a number of varieties of herbal cigarettes available at any hippie store. They’re kinda gross, but a lot less gross than some of the things we do in an effort to be GGG. You kinda jumped the "DTMFA" gun there, don’t you think? —Careful Advice Never Condemns Excusable Requests

A: About the only things that smell worse than regular cigarettes are clove or herbal cigarettes. Almost worse than the stench they give off is the smug look that is always—ALWAYS!—plastered on the face of an asshole smoking a clove or herbal cigarette in public.

Q: Can’t CTQ try fake cigarettes? Good fake cigarettes are just that—damn good; they blow smoke, they light up. Unless CTQ’s fetishist boyfriend is particularly turned on by the cigarette smell, perhaps these fakes can help save the relationship: —Used These Often In Middle School Plays

A: Thanks for sharing, UTOIMSP.

Q: Your response to CTQ seemed to leave no possibility that a man can live without his fetish. Must fetishes always dominate a person’s life? Is there no situation in which a person decides his fetish is incompatible with his love life? Aren’t there plenty of people out there with fetishes who also enjoy non-fetish sex? Can’t those people commit to monogamy (augmented by fetish porn, daydreaming, etc.)? Many people fantasize about things that would jeopardize their relationships — so they keep them as fantasies. I’m not suggesting that realizing our fantasies is bad, or that we should all repress our fetishes, simply that there’s more to life and that, for many people, it’s possible to have fulfilling, loving, and sexually gratifying fetish-free relationships. Am I totally naive? —Committed To Optimism

A: Yes you are, CTO. You don’t say so, but I think it’s safe to say you don’t have a fetish. It’s not only possible for someone to have a "fulfilling, loving, and sexually gratifying fetish-free relationship," it’s easy. But if you had a fetish, CTO, you would despair at the prospect of never having your fetish indulged. People with fetishes can and do enjoy non-fetish sex all the time; most fetishists only indulge occasionally, their fetish being something they enjoy in addition to "normal" sex, not in place of it. But people with fetishes are happier, more content, more loving, and less likely to cheat if their sexual needs are being met, not denied.