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Tuesday, January 2, 2001

I'm not saying I'm perfect, just because I don't make new year's resolutions. In fact, it's probably just the opposite. I probably have so many failings that I can't even label them all well enough to resolve to correct them. Or maybe it's just that I know my own weaknesses well enough to recognize how little I want to improve myself.

One resolution I never have to make is to quit smoking, since I never started. I don't make this declaration to claim any kind of moral superiority over smokers. But I don't think smokers should claim the high ground, either. I can't imagine anyone who cares about their health wanting to smoke, even if they can't stop themselves.

The fact is, I inhaled enough second-hand smoke growing up that I never had any desire to take up the habit myself. I wasn't even tempted, never considered it. Whether it's from the smoke in my childhood house or not, I've had a chronic sinus problem all my life, and being around cigarette smoke now aggravates it.

One of the reasons I'm glad to live in California is that those of us who are susceptible to second-hand smoke are protected more here than in most places. Most public space is smoke-free, and I'm grateful for that.

I grew up in a house full of adults who smoked heavily. I also grew up in a time when the truth about the tobacco companies was just starting to be hinted at. If we rebelled in those days, it was by not smoking. I never hung out with people who smoked, not by choice but because the non-smokers were the cool kids.

Mom quit smoking years ago, and I'm proud of the strength of will she showed in sticking with it. I'm also grateful, because she's still around. My dad died of mouth cancer and never could quit smoking completely, even after he knew about the disease. Other factors contributed to his inability to fight the cancer, but he wouldn't have had it if not for his habit.

I don't blame anyone for not being able to stop smoking. I don't think it's a brilliant or sexy or cool thing to start doing, but I sympathize with the addiction. I'm especially sympathetic with smokers who are older than me, because they grew up in a time when less was known, or certainly when less was admitted, about the hazards of tobacco. At that time, maybe it was cool.

On the other hand, now that I think about it, there aren't that many smokers older than me, for some reason.

No one smokes in my house or in my car. I always sit in the non-smoking section. And when I see someone smoking on the street (as is their right), I move away. Because if I don't I'll start coughing, and my eyes will water, and I'll get nauseous, and then I'll feel guilty because I'm afraid the smoker will think I'm doing it all on purpose.

In other words, I'm not writing this to make anyone feel bad. Anyone who's trying to quit smoking has my unqualified admiration and support. I'm just saying that of all the vices I have, of all the self-destructive facets of my character, of all the things I might resolve at this time of year to give up, smoking isn't one of them.

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And the banker never wears a mack in the pouring rain. Very strange.