In defense of cigarettes: A chat with a smokers’ rights advocate

GOB_Smoke_0109
The official policy of The Metro — and this writer — is that smoking is super bad for you and, if quitting was your New Year’s resolution, kudos. But if you’re a tobacco connoisseur who doesn’t give a damn what we say, and strives to improve your multi-day nicotine injections, you might give a damn what outspoken smokers’ rights advocate Stephen Helfer has to say — especially with the newly instated smoking bans now in effect. The onetime co-leader of Cambridge Citizens for Smokers’ Rights prefers roll-your-own cigarettes to conventional butts, and strongly encourages dodging those perpetually brutal tobacco excise taxes whenever possible.

Let’s say, hypothetically, I’m a typical smoker with no aspirations to quit: how could I enhance my smoking experiences?

Tobacco is more flavorful when smoked slowly. Sometimes I see people smoke one drag after another, which makes the tobacco heat up too much. So it’s important not to smoke too fast. Another thing I would advise is to enjoy the cigarette. Remember that tobacco has been smoked in the New World for 8,000 years. Simply because it’s under siege these days, and people want you to feel bad, don’t let that get you down.

You’re saying smokers should stop and smell the roses, except the roses are cigarettes.

Well, in a small way, tobacco induces a kind of contemplative thinking and being. Smokers are more apt to be musicians, writers, philosophers and artists, and there is a kind of push in the world, certainly in modern America, where if you’re not working, you’re supposed to be on a treadmill like a rat at the gym. I’m not pretending that if you smoke a cigarette, you suddenly become a philosopher. But it makes people think a little bit more, and makes them more apt to smell the roses, for example.

Did you ever see “The X-Files?”

You know, there have been periods of my life when I didn’t watch any television. I don’t even know what it’s about. Why did you bring it up?

I was wondering what you thought of the villain on that show — The Cigarette Smoking Man.

Well, in popular media, villains are often depicted as smokers. For example, in the Downton Abbey household, the only people who smoke are the evil people. This is how the anti-smoking movement has infected popular media.

Doesn’t having villains smoke just make smoking look cool?

It might, but I think it’s part of this push to de-normalize smokers, and make them appear to be unsavory, evil people. I think it’s pernicious, myself.

Well, it could also say, “Hey kids, want people to think you’re edgy, rebellious and maybe a little dangerous? Try cigarettes!”

I see what you mean. But I would say, for smokers, enjoy your cigarettes and smoke them slowly.


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Memorial held for Sean Collier, MIT police officer…

More than 1,600 people gathered at MIT on Friday for a memorial service for Sean Collier, the police officer shot to death a year ago in the aftermath of the…

National

Florida man charged with murdering son to play…

A Florida man annoyed that his 16-month-old crying son was preventing him from playing video games suffocated the toddler, police said on Friday.

International

Powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake rattles Mexico

A powerful earthquake struck Mexico Friday, shaking buildings and sending people running into the street, although there were no reports of major damage.

News

OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…

Entertainment

Whoopi Goldberg makes her debut as marijuana columnist

"It helps my head stop hurting, and with glaucoma your eyes ache, and she takes the ache out. It's wonderful," she said.

The Word

Kate Middleton made fun of Prince William's bald…

Kate Middleton and Prince William are in Sydney, Australia, right now, and it sounds like that brash Aussie sense of humor might be rubbing off.

The Word

Is Tom Cruise dating Laura Prepon?

"Mission: Impossible" star Cruise is said to be dating Laura Prepon, star of "Orange is the New Black."

Television

'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…

NHL

NHL video highlights & analysis: Red Wings dump…

NHL video highlights & analysis: Red Wings dump Bruins in Game 1

MLB

MLB video highlights: Orioles top Red Sox, 8-4…

John Lackey roughed up for second straight outing

MLB

MLB video highlights: Red Sox score two in…

Lester shines in Red Sox win over White Sox

Sports

2014 Boston Marathon preview: Elite American, International runners…

2014 Boston Marathon: Elite American, International runners to watch

Tech

VIDEO: 'Vein-scanning' may become the future of paying

Designed to make transactions quicker and easier, the technology works by scanning the unique vein patterns in each person's palm.

Tech

#FollowFriday: 10 of the smartest Twitter accounts

Spending lots of time on Twitter? You might as well learn something. Here are some of the smartest accounts to follow.

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.

Wellbeing

Why is dance cardio taking off in NYC?

Instructors at some of the city's hottest classes explain why.