Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Smoking, or Non?

So I was just standing outside the building where my office is located, smoking a cigarette. There's a little hybrid Buick SUV out there with a sign in the window that says, and I quote: "If you had quit smoking 10 years ago [I have, incidentally, been smoking for about 10 years], the money would have save could have bought yourself a brand new car." Of course, there is an implicit conclusion: Therefore, you should have quit smoking ten years ago, and are fucked now.

I'm not even going to go into the grammatical problems with the sign.

What the sign was trying to tell me was that if I had quit smoking a decade ago, I would, today, right now, be going out to buy that SUV, or one just like it, or already have that SUV, or one just like it. But it's a bullshit argument.

First of all, I haven't the slightest desire to own an SUV. Even a hybrid one.

But even if I wanted the SUV, I would not have it today if I had never started smoking. Do you see non-smokers driving around in brand new cars all the time? Of course not. Why? Because non-smokers do not put the five dollars that they would have spent on cigarettes away in some special bank account every day. They just don't do that. That five dollars gets spent on something else. What? I can't say. It's in our nature to spend money. We do it compulsively and without joy.

Perhaps this is just the American Way. Most Americans don't save money at all. They almost always buy on credit and pay back later. This being the reason we're in the financial crisis we appear to be in. Perhaps the argument on the sign would hold true in Singapore. Or perhaps Germany. It seems to me that those are countries where they save money and don't buy on credit.

Now, if I had good credit--which I don't--I could go out and buy that SUV today and drive around in it, and smoke in it all I want and I would flip the bird at the smug asshole that parked his SUV on the lawn today to tell me I'll save money by not smoking.

The bottom line? People do not save money by not smoking. Oh, sure they might have a few more material things here and there, but not really. They'd probably spend that money on equally frivolous things. Like iPods. Blackberries. Incidentally, I own an iPod. And I'm a smoker.

What the sign might as well say is, "If you had quit smoking ten years ago, you would have saved enough money to buy yourself a ten-year supply of cigarettes."

At least that would make me laugh.

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