The year was 1967 when Montreal was host to Expo 67, the international world fair.
I was thirteen, and both my father and mother smoked heavily, and in fact, both eventually died from direct and indirect illnesses caused or made worse by cigarettes.
My friend Louie was fifteen but could pass for older, and stores back then didn’t really check proof of age for cigarette sales. One could often use the “they’re for my mother” line.
So after much research, I asked Louie to get me a pack of Alpine menthol cigarettes, the selection based on the cool-looking package with my favorite color teal, which remains my favorite color to this day.
Once received, I treated them like gold due to the skulduggery required in acquiring them and my first time breaking a promise to my folks about never smoking, as I’d always been a very obedient son, making all this very exciting.
Not wanting to store this illicit object in my home, I went a few blocks down the street from our apartment on Bourret street to a small forest on Cote Ste-Catherine Road, directly across from the Saidye Bronfman Center, now known as the Segal Centre.
Once there and armed with a plastic bag, I found an appropriate hollow log to use as a cache.
I removed the plastic wrapping from the top opening pack with uncontrollable anticipation and slipped out the first of many cancer sticks I would consume in my lifetime.
I clearly remember the intoxicating smell when I opened the pack.
Lighting up this all-white wonder, I took progressively larger and larger puffs, which I have to admit I found very tasty, and then finally inhaled one.
My pink and perfect lungs threw a fit, of course, and I remember coughing for 15 minutes until my face turned beet red, and I was sure my head would explode.
I thought something this popular couldn’t be this painful and took another puff with the same effect as the first one, but a little less and it became less painful with every puff.
Every day I would visit my forest cache and smoke one, thumbing my nose at authority and becoming enamored with the incomparable feeling of headiness these little sticks provided.
New bear in mind that I grew up in an era when physicians endorsed certain cigarette brands over another, you could smoke everywhere including hospitals, kindergartens and planes.
Fast-forward some fifty-four years, and I have about six hundred thousand smokes inhaled.
That’s a line of cigarettes placed end to end stretching nearly thirty-one miles at an adjusted cost over time of some $460,000 as a very conservative estimate when compound interest is factored in.
I’m now pretty much pre-emphysemic, can’t run half a city block to save my life, and I know for a fact that I’ll die from lung cancer or most likely emphysema like my father did when he was seventy-five, some fifteen years after quitting cigarettes.
And guess what?...
Believe it or not, while I’m fully aware of all of the above and surrounded by the finest vaping and smoking cessation products available, I'm still struggling to kick this vile tobacco habit to this day.
Excerpt from my upcoming e-book... "Recollections from my time on earth - snackable short stories."
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