Last night I bought some cigarettes for the very first time. It’s not the first time I’ve smoked them (that was when I was 16 and wanted to fit in with some friends), but it was the first time I had walked into a shop and asked for them over the counter. I used to work in a newsagents and would sell them all the time but never actually bought any.
I ended up in the local off-licence at 7pm because a friend and I were plastering my kitchen wall and I went to pick up a pizza for dinner. My friend, a regular smoker, asked me to get him some more fags (that’s cigarettes to you Americans) as he’d run out. Seeing as how he’s done a LOT of work at my house recently, it was the least I could do.
The reason i even mention it here is because I actually felt very uncomfortable doing it. Walking into the shop and up to the counter, I kept thinking “What will I say if someone I know sees me?”, “What message does this send the children and young people that I work with?”.
I found myself getting quite paranoid about this simple act and I’m sure the shop keeper looked at me strangely as I grabbed the gold packet and shoved it into my pocket quickly.
The scenario may seem quite trivial, but it got me thinking about my values and what I stand for. I have never encouraged anyone to smoke and generally dislike smoking due to the health problems that it causes (although I believe people should make their own choices). But by buying cigarettes for someone else, was I actually endorsing smoking? Is selling them the same thing?
I once went to Racial Awareness Training where I was told that by doing nothing when racism happens, I was contributing to that act. Is the same principle true in this situation? I would certainly never buy cigarettes for a young person, so why should I do it for an adult friend?
I love it when something really challenges my thinking and makes me evaluate what I believe. Maybe next time we can discuss it for an hour or so first…