Looking for something? Start here!

To acquire wisdom, one must observe

Looking for something? Start here!

Why smoking has become cool again

Counterculture must be a circular process wherein one strain of thought, as it gains influence, suddenly becomes less appealing to the misfits of society, and its previous tyrannical overlord becomes the new status symbol for the trodden-upon in a perpetual cycle of shifting cultural attitudes. As an admittedly disgusting broad overgeneralization, let’s look at how music fads have worked in the past.

In the 60s and 70s, rock music was synonymous with long-haired youth rebelling against their elders, using illicit substances, and promoting peace in the face of a war they deemed senseless—in other words the very definition of “cool.” Then, as these people and genres aged, folk and psychedelic rock became definitively doomed to the fate of rather uncool “dad music.”

That is, until recently. A new subculture of young people pride themselves on their taste in this same music and relish in their status as atypical or even outcasts, making it “cool” once again to wear a Led Zeppelin T-shirt to your family reunion. There are ample examples like this in other places, like the swing revival in the 90s, nu metal in the early 2000s, and the “hip-hop revival” I would argue we are witnessing right now.

Now, without letting the reader poke any holes in that argument, let’s turn to tobacco. Cigarettes were once very commonly used as a symbol for the refined, the erudite, and the sexy. With the advent of knowledge about the dangers of tobacco use, and a subsequent decades-long effort to weaken the stranglehold of the companies that sell it and to enlighten the public about the risk they take when smoking, we’ve reached a point where most people you ask will tell you that choosing to smoke is dangerous and leaves a bad impression.

This is the mindset that permeated the culture of my peers and that I had adopted until a recent realization: smoking is paradoxically cool.

My generation has, for its entire life, been made abundantly aware of the laundry list of diseases and complications directly related to tobacco. We have been advised to avoid their use and bullied into making pacts to never touch the stuff at unreasonably young ages.

The dogma of Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) and Truth, organizations that lead the fight against cigarettes, might as well be found inscribed on our DNA. Now, I pose a semi-rhetorical question: what is the “cool” way respond to perceived excessive authority and social obligation? The obvious answer is rebellion.

Smoking now has the potential to develop its own stylish and exclusive counterculture as a representation of those who have been stomped on by the cultural norm of being drug free. This is not even to mention the inherent “coolness” of understanding the risks associated with an act so clearly dangerous and considering the benefits to be worth the cost.

I foresee the future of recreational tobacco use as a battle between the brainwashed acolytes of the middle school health class scripture, and the outsiders who, with the same information, have decided to set themselves apart with a certain style and access to stress relief that they are willing to martyr themselves for.

The curious reader may now be asking, “Well, James, which side do you find yourself on?” Contrary to my arguments, I have decided I will likely never become a habitual smoker for two important reasons.

Firstly, I’m not cool, and would therefore be lying to myself if I pretended to fit in to this niche. I’d be a “poser,” if you will. Secondly, I calculate the opportunity cost of smoking much like most of my peers to be overwhelmingly in favor of abstinence. I’m not the type of person to risk later years of my life in favor of immediate gratification and stylishness.

Tobacco isn’t in line with my personality.

This article, furthermore, is not an endorsement of cigarettes or anything of the sort. That smoking now is on the very verge of becoming cool again doesn’t make it a good idea. Plenty of far worse examples of self-harm have masqueraded as fads before. However, this new classification should at the very least give the reader a certain comfortability with their choice either way. From now on, rather than look upon the inevitable horde of students smoking five feet from the library every night with only disgust, I will attribute another element, my own petty jealousy and respect for their sacrifices in the name of looking cool.


Get Our Stories Sent To Your Inbox

Skip to content