You know, they say every cigarette you smoke makes your life seven minutes shorter, and I know that's true because I had an uncle, and the first cigarette he ever smoked was on an airplane. Smoked the cigarette, and he immediately dropped dead of a heart attack. Seven minutes later, the plane crashed into a mountain.

Now, I don't want to get off on a rant here, but America's attitude about smoking has become more hostile than a militia member at a tax audit. These days even the Philip Morris employee cafeteria has a no smoking section. If you walked into a restaurant and loudly demanded that they serve you a charbroiled live puppy, you'd probably cause less of an outcry than you would simply by sitting down and lighting up a smoke.

When I say "smoke," I'm talking mostly about cigarettes, although I guess with the increasing popularity of cigars, we have to include them in this discussion. For years, cigars concerned only half the population, but their usage is growing more prevalent with the fairer sex. For women, smoking cigars is like going to Chippendale's: You're basically saying, "Look, guys, we can be just as big a bunch of assholes as you can."

Now, it's been proven that tobacco company executives' sworn congressional testimony concerning the addictive properties of nicotine had all the sincerity of a defense attorney's tie rack. But who can possibly be shocked by this?

Tobacco companies will stop at nothing to win the smoking wars. Now their scientists are saying some of the smoking research data is no longer valid because the contemporary mores dictate that rats have to step outside their mazes to have the smoke.

Hey, don't blame the cigarette makers. Tobacco companies are being sued way too much. I admit they're evil poison-mongers who give other poison-mongers a bad name. Yes, they lie about the addictive nature of their products and get rich doing it. But come on, tell the truth, we knew they were lying all along. If you're saying you didn't know cigarettes were bad for you, you're lying through that hole in your trachea. Of course it causes cancer. Of course it causes emphysema. It's fucking smoke. Would you build a campfire and every hour stand real close and take deep breaths? How could you not know smoking is bad for you? Is having teeth the color of caramel corn normal ? Is coughing up your lungs one smoldering loogie at a time normal? God gave you two lungs, so don't be an asshole. Think. Use one lung for smoking and the other one for breathing.

Here are some signs that it might be time to quit smoking:

1. Before you light up, you wrap a nicotine patch around your cigarette.

2. Your newborn twin sons are named Benson and Hedges.

3. You name each cigarette and have a personal conversation with it while you smoke.

4. You're at Arlington Cemetery, paying your respects to JFK, and you lean over and light one up off the eternal flame.

And 5. You shit pure tar.

Listen, the bottom line on cigarette smoking is it's really just the way you interpret things. I mean, they say smoking gives you cancer. Sure, you can be negative and look at that as a bad thing, or you can see that smoking gives you cancer. It gives it to you. It's a present. Here, here's cancer. . . . Why, thank you very much, Mr. Cigarette.

You know, when I find myself in a room where everyone's smoking, and it gets too intense, you know what I do? I don't start waving my hand around and fake coughing; I don't start rattling off heart disease and lung cancer stats like some autistic surgeon general; I don't lecture anybody about their lifestyle choices. . . . I leave the room, okay? My acceptance of smokers is one of the compromises, one of the little negotiations that once must make if one is to live in modern urban society.

I don't know why people complain about secondhand smoke. At nearly two dollars a pack, don't you realize how much money they're saving you?

Plus, if you smoke, you get to read the matchbook covers and learn about the exciting career opportunities awaiting you in cartooning.

And hey to all of you militant antismokers whom I see screaming at strangers for lighting up: If you were that concerned about your lungs, what in the fuck are you doing living in L.A.?

Of course, that's just my opinion, I could be wrong.


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