Sunday, January 6, 2013

Every puff is like a little hug

Some people choose to have many children, other have decided to stay childless.

Some people choose to have unprotected sex, even though they know for sure it may be fatal.

Some people keep worrying over every small stuff, even though the science is definitely proved that this is the gateway to all health problems on the Earth.

If you decide to quit smoking, you should make this as informative decision, based on your fully commitment and your health demand, and not because of the government or peer pressure.

 In this post, we are offering you a small essay by James Rhodes. James is a concert pianist and has made television programs for the BBC and Sky Arts. He tours extensively and has recorded three albums for Signum and Warner Brothers.

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Why I love cigarettes: every puff is like a little hug

The other day I was sitting outside a cafe in Muswell Hill enjoying a coffee before a business meeting. Ashtrays were provided on the tables and I asked the waitress if I was allowed to smoke. She gave me the go-ahead and so I lit up. Within 30 seconds a lady at a nearby table asked me if I would stub it out as it "smells really bad and contains all sorts of awful chemicals". I asked her if she'd ever tried one and, when she told me that she hadn't, I offered her one. "They're really quite yummy," I added as she tutted and scowled and studiously turned to ignore me.

Smoking is banned almost everywhere now, with talk of banning it in cars and parks as well. The Government, whilst making billions in taxes from the sale of tobacco, continues to bleat about the dangers of smoking, and when I can actually hear them from all the way up there on the moral high ground, the anti-smoking brigade, whilst reeking of smugness, dare to criticise the informed choice of adults who want to enjoy one of life's last great pleasures. Do they think we smokers aren't aware of how damaging smoking is? I know exactly how bad cigarettes are for me. And yet I also know the wonderful benefits of it. It dampens my appetite (no bad thing given that I live off takeaway food), dampens my feelings (which keeps me out of prison given my dangerous levels of barely contained anger when not treated with nicotine), provides welcome relief from the mind-numbing hours of piano practice I do every day, gives me something to look forward to every morning, allows me to remove myself from dull conversations at parties and dinners and miraculously helps me both relax and concentrate all at once. Everyone is like a little hug.

Alexander Graham Bell, Einstein, Orwell, Freud, Roosevelt, Kennedy, Wilde, Camus, Twain, Frank Zappa, Miles Davis and Stravinsky were all smokers, as is the universally delightful Avril Lavigne, and in an age where everything from driving to TV to eating red meat is apparently bad for me, if I choose to commit suicide slowly, over many years, then why can't I be left alone while I'm doing it?

I had my first cigarette aged four when my grandmother gave me one and showed me how to smoke it. During a somewhat tumultuous childhood, cigarettes and music were my two constant companions that never let me down. I'm not going to go on Grumpy Old Men, I don't want to encourage children to smoke, nor do I want to foist it on anyone else. I support the ban in general, especially in enclosed spaces, but cigarettes are as much a part of my life as food, coffee, friends and fresh air, and I want to be able to smoke in peace and without criticism. iPhones and BlackBerrys are just as addictive as smoking (take a look around you at any cafe, airport, foyer) and perhaps even more offensive – at least while I'm smoking I am present, focused and responsive to my environment. As I shall point out to the next jaywalking, tweeting/texting idiot who ambles into the road narrowly avoiding one of those stealthy, self-satisfied, vomit-inducing Priuses.

So if you're sat in an increasingly hard-to-find smoking section of a restaurant with plenty of fresh air and empty chairs and someone lights up, suck it up or go sit inside. And do let me reassure you that should I get cancer, my health insurance will keep me comfortably in morphine for my remaining months and it won't cost our glorious NHS a penny.

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James Rhodes, 35, started playing the piano at the age of seven, but stopped when he was 18, and did not play again for 10 years. He turned down a scholarship to the Guildhall, London, and instead studied psychology at UCL, before working in the City. In 2004 he quit his job after rediscovering his passion for music, and five years later, after a breakdown and nine months in psychiatric hospitals, he released his first album, Razor Blades, Little Pills and Big Pianos, which reached No1 in iTunes’ classical chart in May 2009. His latest album, Bullets & Lullabies, is out now. His television show, James Rhodes: Piano Man, is currently on Sky Arts 2 on Sunday nights at 9pm and he will be performing in the Elgar Room at the Royal Albert Hall on February 7. He lives in west London.

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