One Won't Kill You: Why Smoking Might Be The Best Way Into New Social Situations

by Lauren Martin

I’m not a smoker, but if you saw me on a Friday night, you’d think differently. I’ll deny it if my parents ever ask, but sometimes I will buy a pack on Thursday in expectation of the night to come.

I will willingly walk into a deli, ignore the disapproving looks of the blonde mother of two and ask for some Camel Blues.

I will not touch the pack besides opening the plastic around it and pound the top into my left hand like I’ve seen all those other smokers do before flipping open the top of the cardboard lid.

Why do I do this? Why do I buy a pack and refuse to smoke it before Friday? Why do I spend $12 (yes, it’s that expensive in New York) on something I will indulge in only once? Well, because for $12 and some disapproving looks, it’s a great way to meet people.

“Why would you want to meet people who smoke?” would be the first question to come out of my mother’s mouth. Well, mom, because a lot of people still smoke, especially when they are drinking, and it’s probably the only activity in the city where people remove themselves from the masses and become individuals.

Because in a city of 8.4 million people, it’s a rarity to find moments when just you and a few others are alone, meeting as people, instead of just passing faces, another pair of eyes, another reminder that you’re alone in this cold, enormous playground we call New York City.

In a place, and time, where people are starving for some personal connection, smoking may be the last dying act of human interaction we’ve got.

They say we never really leave high school, but I’d say the social structures of city life are most representative of kindergarten, more specifically, recess. You never talked when you were running across the bridges and up the slides.

You didn’t chit-chat while jumping off the swings and pushing your friend on the tire. There was no conversing on the jungle gym. You had to get across it, through it and down it before some other kid’s shoes came barreling down on your back.

The only time you ever really talked to your fellow peers was when one of you had some candy or caught a frog on the side of the playground. The only time you made real human connections was when you left the playground for a moment to take a break by the side of it.

And isn’t that what smoking is? Just this time it’s no longer candy cigarettes, but the real grown-up thing.

Yes, the only downfall to the master plan of getting some friends to the side of the playground is that it’s a habit known to kill us. But really, what’s a few cigarettes a week? Isn’t alcohol going to kill you? What about plastic water bottles and UV rays?

It’s all going to kill us, so we may as well indulge in the ones that will make our limited time on earth most exciting. Because, mom, sometimes a cigarette is just so damn good.

It’s good for the break, the introductions and the four to five minutes of uninterrupted conversation with a new confidant. It’s asking for a lighter, bumming a smoke and lighting up together.

For a span of time you’ve shaken a new hand, learned a new name (even if you forget it the moment you walk inside) and quite possibly made a new friend, lover, acquaintance or boss.

So next time you pass by a bar and cast some disapproving looks at the group of people outside, indulging in a “disgusting” and “unhealthy” habit, just think about all they're gaining from that dangerous activity because it’s most likely something that makes them feel quite alive.


Despite what your college counselor told you, career fairs are for squares and the real networking is done in the real world with cigarettes, alcohol and sometimes a little bit of flirting. You never know who you are going to meet when you walk out that door.

However, you know you are immediately going to like who is out there because they, just like you, get it. They are people who are open to all that comes with enjoying a cigarette and will give you the attention and approval you would have never gotten near the bar.

For a few interrupted minutes you have their undivided attention, and if you make a good impression, it could lead to the right connection.

Yes, boys clubs and brandy are a more established way to court your way to the inner circle, but if you have the right timing and a good personality, a cigarette can get you a job without all the schmoozing.

Picking Someone Up

There’s no smoother entrance to talking to that hot girl than asking for a light. And, ladies, for all of you too proud to go up to the man first, bumming a cigarette does not equate to making the first move. For all they know, you’re just using them for some butane.

Because after the death tolls of Tinder and Grindr are finally reported, cigarettes may just be the safest new dating app out there.

You subscribe to a pack, let it take you out to the club terrace and walk left or right to the man or woman you find most desirable. Seems like a pretty safe bet to me. Not to mention, you don’t have to rely on a picture, their face is blowing smoke right in front of you.

Getting On The List

The best way to get on smokers' good side is to give them a cigarette, light or share the corner with them. Smokers are social creatures by habit and the camaraderie formed between people while smoking is one similar to those playing on the same World Cup teams. They are in their own league and you are part of it.

In a world in which everyone and their moms are against them, smokers stick together like a pack of expatriates in a country they don’t recognize and don't want to be part of anymore. You are their ally, their sibling and their fellow team member.

They like you for the sole purpose that you are on their side and against everyone else. If you ever need to get in good with someone who holds certain keys or ropes, just flash the pack, smoke with them for a few and you’re sure to be on the list.

Meeting New Friends

Like networking or picking someone up, smoking also brings new friends. In a city in which you feel more alone the more people you're around, it can be hard to make friends. In this exhausting and large city, there's only about one or two spots you go on a daily basis that you could turn acquaintances into friends.

Smoking is a way to open up to new people because you're indulging in a habit the two of you already know you have in common. What better start to friendship is there than that?

Photo via We Heart It