Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Bad Old Days

"I don't think other people are cool because they smoke ... [But] I think I'm cool because I smoke."
A Harvard student really said that. On the record.
While reading about the recent discussion on campus about the potential for a campus wide smoke-ban, I came across this gem of an article from 1998 that profiles various students who smoke.
I find it worth reading for the following reasons:

  • Apparently Reverend Peter J. Gomes (now deceased, unfortunately) served as a faculty advisor for a Harvard Cigar Club, which held meetings at his house. The club was founded in 1997. Not sure how long it lasted. 
  • Samuel Sheridan '98 is the most interesting character of the bunch. Sheridan started smoking while working on a merchant marine ship after high school and gives "I think it's important for young people to carry around a reminder of death" as one of his many justifications. As a nonsmoker, I am naturally skeptical of all of his reasons and wonder why he couldn't pursue other avenues for his "reminder of death" (like reading sad books or something). Apparently, though, he has continued to pursue this "reminder" in other ways and has done some interesting things, which I found out from this Boston Globe article from 2007.
  • As for Gavin Moses: I'm glad he saved someone's life. That's great. Maybe he would have prolonged socializing with his friend anyway, but saving people's lives is always good. As for his initial reason: Who does something hazardous to one's health as a way to remember a past romantic relationship? When relationships don't work out, don't you try to forget them? Or take up healthy activities to help you move on? Moses took the complete opposite approach.
  • I'm not sure whether the quotes were taken out of context, but some of these interviews give very stereotypical justifications for smoking. Aaron Mathes's thoughts on being cool are the most obvious; "It's part of the way I think of myself. It helps me constitute my identity." But many of the interviewed discussed how smoking helped them make friends. Isn't this why D.A.R.E. was founded in the first place? To combat this kind of peer pressure? It's sad that these pressures were so evident at a place like Harvard.
  • There's nothing really wrong with the opening paragraph, but I find it interesting that the author takes the time to note that smoking is indeed bad for you. Didn't everyone already know that?
  • Harvard's been a part of the cigarette-cancer connection from the beginning. Its researchers have contributed to the discovery of it, and one scientist, Dr. Carl C. Seltzer, refuted it. (Yikes)

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