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An unsubtle metaphor
“I just hope I can teach her how to be a sensible user.” Carolyn says, taking a long drag off an unfiltered Pall Mall. “They put so many bad chemicals in cigarettes these days. I want to teach my daughter to navigate the many brands and flavors and learn to smoke intelligently.” She ashes into an empty can on the table. “See- she’s turning eleven soon and all her friends will be smoking. That’s all the kids do these days, you know. Hang out and smoke. I’m not saying I was a puritan in my teenage years, but you know we didn’t have cigarettes then.” She takes another drag. “At least not like they do today. It’s important for girls that age to have a social life.” She glances out he window, the sun highlights the tobacco particulates as Carolyn exhales. “And the people who run these companies are just awful, you know. They don’t care about how it affects us users, they just care about their profit.”
She leans over and without standing up, opens the door to the fridge. Inside is a bottle of cola (caffeinated) and one of seltzer. She briefly considers the options before her and grabs the soda. “Actually, I don’t blame them totally,” She says, closing the refrigerator door. “I don’t think anyone expected cigarettes to become as popular as they did. And so fast! It’s unreasonable to expect them to know EVERY chemical that’s being put into these things. And even if they did there’s no way they could inspect every single cigarette. It’s just way to big to be monitored. The costs associated in doing so would obviously be huge. Yeah yeah, ‘they are some of the most profitable companies of all time’. That’s capitalism for you, though.” She takes another drag, and thumbs open the cigarette pack to see how many remain. “Nothing will change until the whole system does.”
“Still-” She says, cracking open the cola with a pop, “I wish there was some more obvious solution. I mean- these things give some people cancer! And even if you don’t get cancer, the stuff they put in them can cause anxiety, stress, depression… you name it.”
“Now some people say the government should regulate, but what I say is- what would that even look like? Can you tell a company ‘you can sell this flavor, but not this one’? Are they going to put a warning label on the packs? Or prevent kids from using? Say a guy smokes cigarettes and they give him cancer. Should the tobacco companies be held responsible? It’s not like they forced him to smoke. Besides- if he didn’t, he could have got cancer some other way. Cigarettes aren’t the only thing that does it. People will find a way. If you don’t want cancer, shop somewhere else, right?”
“And who’s to say which of these chemicals are worth having? Y’know- what if I wanted to consume an addictive carcinogen? I don’t, obviously. And for that matter I don’t know anybody who does. But I also don’t like the idea of a multinational conglomerate telling people what’s good and bad for them. It’s not their job to decide that. I mean, c’mon, half the reason these things are so popular is because they appeal to everyone’s need to smoke. If they decided they didn’t want to sell something cancerous they would probably lose twenty percent of their users.”
A pause, followed by another drag, another exhale.
“Filters, of course.” Carolyn says, pivoting back to the topic of her daughter. “She should definitely use filters. It’s a start for sure. But I do wish there was a more obvious solution.”
The cola quietly but audibly fizzes. Carolyn coughs.
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