Tobacco is interesting predominately because it is a source of nicotine.

It’s said that no smoker quits smoking just once, and this has been true in my experience.

Although I was exposed to tobacco from a young age, I didn’t start smoking socially until my freshman year of college. I did not start using it in earnest until my sophomore year of college.

Prior to that, I was a cross country athlete at my high school, and I competed in 5 km races. I worked hard to improve my fitness and my 5 km time year over year. Some of my classmates would visit establishments offering hookah every weekend. I smoked shisha just a few times in three years of high school, enjoying the myriad fruity flavors that were available to choose from. I probably would have done it more if not for the fact that we lived on top of a mountain, which made it very difficult to get into the city. Few cabs would willingly go up there to catch a fare, even when requested by dispatch.

I started college at the University of Tulsa in 2007, and I was living in what was then called the Honors House. It was a co-ed house traditionally meant for the University of Tulsa’s honors students, the second to last house along Fraternity Row. The story is that it was a fraternity house, until that fraternity lost its right as a student organization following the tragic death of a new pledge. It was said that fraternity members tossed pledges off of the roof of the house, sandwiched between mattresses. This went on long enough, until someone got hurt.

The Honors House played host to all manner of characters. It was during this time that I was introduced to Djarum Blacks and Djarum Bali Hais. Both were clove cigarettes, quite loved by their fan bases, and neither one is what it used to be.

During my sophomore year of college, I started to hang out with a Qatari student, Na-M. Na-M and I were in a number of classes together. He’d offer me a smoke after an exam: Marlboro Light.

I started catching smoke breaks with the Saudi smokers after classes. I started bumming smokes off of one of the Kazakhs. It wasn’t long before I started buying my own cigarettes: I stuck mostly to Marlboro Lights and Natural American Spirits in the mellow yellow..

At first, I would stop smoking during breaks when I was away from college. I would get through a break without buying any cigarettes. Then I started bumming a cigarette from a fellow smoker before catching a flight out of town. I’d step outside of the airport before a connecting flight to bum another smoke, even if it meant going through the TSA screening process again. I used to love flying into a transit airport that had a smoking area within the terminal. I wouldn’t mind paying for a beer if it meant that I got to enjoy a cigarette before the next flight.

I started smoking during breaks away from school. Every time that I encountered distress, I would take a walk and try to find a smoke. I got to the point where I would smoke inside of the house, exhaling through an open window while standing behind the curtain to keep the smell of smoke from mixing with the air inside of my bedroom.

Sparking up
Sparking up