Fooling Addictions

I bought one of those electronic cigarettes. It’s a part of my campaign to quit smoking without letting me know I’d quit. I’m very right-brain left-brain about this, which is, of course, ridiculous. But then again, that’s the thing about addiction. It’s very non-sensical in the first place. There are two camps within me, each is a powerful force and in total opposition to the other. Both sides are respectable entities, erudite and personable, both able to make their cases convincingly. One side says “Smoke, damn you! Smoke.” The other side is replying “No! No! I want to live!”  The battle is almost endless, raging on and on, often keeping me awake with all the racket. I’d call the cops on them, but hey, both are really good friends of mine and I really don’t want to cause any trouble for them. But never mind that, let’s get back to the point.

So I bought these electronic cigarette thingies. The advertising says they have hundreds of flavors, and so I’m picturing the distinctive tastes of Camels and Pall Malls, Marlboros and Chesterfields. There really are hundreds of flavors, what with all of the different blends of tobacco and the various processes that produce the final product. So here I am with my rather expensive electronic cigarette and I’m all ready to start trying out the different flavors so I can get the one closest to the American Spirit additive-free lights I’ve been smoking. “This is going to be great!” I say to myself, mentally dry washing my hands in gleeful anticipation. “I’ll be puffing away not smoking while Bob thinks he smoking like a chimney.” I think I even said “hee hee.”

“How can I help you?” asked the pert young thing behind the counter.

“I bought one of your electronic cigarettes and now I need to choose a flavor blend for my refills. The ones that come with it taste like burning cat hair.”

“Ooh! Well, we can’t have that. What flavors interest you?” she cooed.

“Well, something between a Marlboro and a Lucky Strike, I think.”

“We have strawberry, cherry, blueberry, cinnamon, regular… and you can mix them around too remember. We have kiwi and..”

“Wait, those are fruits. I want cigarette flavor, not Kool Aid or Pop Tarts.”

“That would be the regular. We have that in high, medium and low nicotine levels.”

“Aren’t those the ones that come with the cigarette when you buy the kit?”

“Why yes!” she beamed, admiring my steel trap mind.

“That’s the stuff that tastes like burning cat hair. I was wanting something a bit less fruity. You know, more like fetid ash tray and second hand cigar smoke.”

“Well, you can mix the various flavors. Everybody is able to get a flavor they like.”

“But I don’t want a mix of fruit. No matter what, it still comes out like fruit. My cigarettes don’t taste like fruit, I want something that tastes like my cigarettes.”

“Perhaps if you mixed the regular…” she said, sounding uncertain. “We also have spice flavors, you know, cinnamon, licorice, there’s a lot of them.”

“You’re not getting me. I need something that tastes like burnt tobacco, not macerated fruits and spices. I want to take a hit off this thing and feel the comfort of fearful taunting of tuberculosis and the baiting of black lung disease. I want to exhale skulls and crossbones.”

“I don’t think we have that.” she said. She was whimpering a little.

“Come on,” I said. “You have to do better than that. Your product is trying to replace one of the most toxic substances on earth. Thousands, maybe millions of people die every second from smoking cigarettes. I’m sure someone just dropped over dead as I’m speaking. That kind of crap doesn’t happen because of the scent of strawberry. You guys have to have a flavor that evokes the sulfuric bowels of hell, the odor of ozone tinged brimstone, seasoned by the tortured souls and the lost dreams of the hopelessly addicted.”

She was weeping. “We have menthol.” she whined.

“Menthol?” I thundered. “You want to compete against the dark lord with a hint of mint? Come on! Trot out the stench of tortured souls, the flesh ripping greed of corporate avarice, the smouldering crater of civilizations lost and the ruination of endless doom, despair and destruction!”

“I want to go home.” she sobbed.

“Jeez, lady. I’m just looking for a replacement for regular cigarettes, there’s no reason to be upset.”

“I don’t like you. You’re mean.”

“I’m not mean. I’m a really nice guy. It’s the addition that’s so unpleasant. It can be very powerful.”

I went home disappointed. I have the electronic doodad here in my hand, and I am puffing on it now and then and it does occupy me to a degree. But I find myself looking forward to a cigarette even as I blow rings of pseudo-smoke that quickly vanish. Considering all of the technological might we have at our disposal, you’d think we could fake a simple cigarette.