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According to Tom Robbins:
"Three of the four elements are shared by all creatures, but fire was a gift to humans alone. Smoking cigarettes is as intimate as we can become with fire without immediate excrutiation. Every smoker is an embodiment of Prometheus, stealing fire from the gods and bringing it on back home. We smoke to capture the power of the sun, to pacify Hell, to identify with the primordial spark, to feed on the marrow of the volcano. It's not the tobacco we're after but the fire. When we smoke, we are performing a version of the fire dance, a ritual as ancient as lightning."
Still Life With Woodpecker.

Also, cigarettes serve as effective punctuation in several ways. A cigarette can be...
...a period: "I'll go right after this cigarette . . .".
...a <p>: A cigarette break during a long day at work does wonders for clearing the mind of frustration, confusion, etc; it gives you breathing room (pun very much intended). Cigarettes are particularly effective to this end, because to take a cigarette break, one usually has to go somewhere other than where s/he is working. This is a good thing.
...a comma or semicolon: When telling a story, a drag off a cigarette tends to fit perfectly into the pause that goes with a comma or semicolon.
...a tilda: Well, maybe this one's a bit of a stretch, but ~'s do look like smoke. heh heh heh.

I smoke because it makes me feel bad.

Sometimes, it's hard to make yourself feel anything. Sometimes it's just hunger and sleep and animal drive. Sometimes it's nothing at all.

When I drag myself from bed of a morning, cough until the blood comes, then light that first cigarette, it may not feel good, but at least it feels like something. At least I know I'm still alive.

That can be easy to forget.

Inhale. Breathe in that sweet cancer. There are countless carcinogens, toxins, and other nasty killing chemicals in your average smoke. You're reducing your lifespan by six minutes. You're annoying the non-smokers around you. You might as well milk it for all it's worth. Inhale deeply.

Hold it in. Feel that burning? That sweet, fantastic burning? That's the smoke killing you. But something else is writhing inside the burning chemicals in your lungs: every little tiny annoyance you've experienced in the last few hours. The forty minutes you wasted on the subway out of your own stupidity. Your fuckwit manager that can't slam two braincells together hard enough to call you back. The conversation with your grandmother where you were once again reminded that your life doesn't match up with what she expected of you. Every little thing that caused you more gray hairs today: you're killing them with the smoke too. Get 'em in there good.

Now exhale. Slowly. Watch the smoke roll out of your mouth and nose, lazily making its way into open sky. Feel the nicotine crawl its way into your brain and slow time to a crawl. Those problems that seemed so perturbing only seconds ago are escaping from your body with those fine gray wisps.

There, isn't that better?

Have another drag. It's been a long day.

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