Baby, It’s Cold, but Smoking Outside!


(Picture by Ray Johnson)

Last week, I noticed three young men clustered around a metal ashtray bolted to the outside of a building. They didn’t mind an impromptu interview and willingly posed for the picture. It wasn’t as cold that particular day as it has been these past few, but even bitterly cold weather doesn’t stop the truly addicted from stepping outside to get their smoke on.

Just as I was saying how nice it was for them to smoke outside where they can neatly discard the butts in the tray, all of our eyes got fixated on a number of discarded butts on the ground. They all protested, “Oh, no, that’s not mine.”

It has always fascinated me that smokers can be so attached to the cigarette that they literally risk life and limb to get that smoldering fix. Speaking of being attached – smokers who don’t mind standing outside in the winter cold may also be putting themselves at greater risk of frostbite and having some of their parts (heaven forbid) – detached.

Read more about our neighborhood puffers after the jump.

The guys didn’t really tell me too much about themselves or what they were doing, other than bonding-by-puffing, at Grand Prix Motors at 1408 Avenue X – but it seems that they also share a love of cars. According to the website, Grand Prix Motors does leasing, financing, and trade-ins for all kinds of cars, not just race cars like the ones pictured on the darkened store window (hmm, wonder where in Sheepshead Bay, one might find a hot rod like that one tooling around the streets).

Being banished to the freezing cold outdoors to sneak a cigarette is something that these guys share with none other than our President-Elect Barack Obama. According to a Yahoo article, Obama told Tom Brokaw in an interview on Sunday’s Meet The Press, that the White House is a no-smoking zone. I can only assume that when he needs a nicotine fix, that he’ll be forced to huddle outside the Oval Office.

The guys I spoke to weren’t at all concerned by the health scares associated with smoking. One of them, who was smoking a cigar proudly, asked me, “Have you ever heard of George Burns?” and he proceeded to tell me the anecdotal data about the cigar-smoking icon’s long life.

There must be a lot of cigar smokers in Sheepshead Bay that Brooklyn Cigar has been able to maintain a hub (and it very own website) on Avenue Z, between East 17 and East 18 Streets. With the way that doutnik smokers like to mention the NYC-born-and-bred George Burns as their cigar-smoking “god”, it’s a wonder that Brooklyn Cigars doesn’t have his picture on their website like they do on Cigar Aficionado.

These guys might be better off saying “nyet” to the game of Russian roulette (puns intended) they seem to be playing with their health. It might be that they are part of the 30 percent of by-choice smokers who say they don’t want to quit. Or, then again, it might be that they are part of the 70 percent who do want to quit, but something is holding them back. In an AOL article entitled, Why You’re Really Not Quitting, Kathryn Steinberg writes,

Seventy percent of current smokers want to quit, according to Dawn E. Wiatrek, Ph.D., Quitline Director, National Cancer Information Center, American Cancer Society. So why aren’t more people stomping out their cigarette stubs? There are a variety of psychological reasons you’re really not quitting, in addition to the very real physical addiction of tobacco.

She goes on to outline the major health problems associated with smoking and some of the psychological barriers holding addicts back from smoking. In answer to my question about how many years they had been smoking, one of the guys seemed startled by his own statement that he was thirteen years old when when he first started smoking. After clearing the smoke from his brain and thinking deeply for a minute, he said, “Seventeen, yeah, I was seventeen”.

All of the guys said that they had health insurance. That’s a good thing, because should they decide to go from “I love standing out here in the freezing cold with my smoking-induced asthma that I can no longer ignore” to “I’m so glad I finally got rid of that dirty habit, once-and-for-all”, their insurance might cover various types of smoking cessation plans. One of the unique and interesting choices out there is medical hypnosis and according to the American Psychotherapy and Medical Hypnosis Association, this therapy is also available to the Medicaid-insured.

Since these guys like smoking so much and they like cars so much, there is the possibility that they might be combining the two pleasures by driving while smoking. While studies show that a comparatively small percentage of car accidents are caused by drivers distracted by smoking, this has not stopped controversial legislation all over the nation and the world to be introduced attempting to ban this activity. It’s just a matter of time that something similar becomes a controversy in New York.

According to this article at FOX news, studies show that in cities where smoking while driving is banned, there is an increase in driving while drinking. To avoid the cigarette while behind the steering wheel, it seems that many may be coping by taking to the bottle, instead.

So, my Grand Prix-smoking-club friends, let’s hope you can beat this thing and get out of the cold, soon.

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