Wednesday, May 23, 2007

An Ideal Vice

For my money, your best vices have three attributes:
  • Little or no wholesome benefit
  • An element of selfish indulgence (bonus points for substance delivery)
  • A pleasant, charming ritual (bonus points for required accessories)

You've got your drink. Sure maybe red wine has marginal health benefits, but really what we have is the slow enjoyment of wonderful, alcohol-infused liquids from glasses of unusual shape.

You've got your gambling. Not my personal bag, but I've got to admit that it hits the high points, although any game without a skilled human running it doesn't count. Scores extra for being in close proximity to most other vices.

Churchill, Bogart, Jameson, and Dietrich

And you've got your smoking. Perhaps the best of rituals, it gives you something to do with your hands, you can (in theory) do it anywhere, and -- let's be honest -- it's the ultimate coolness multiplier. It makes Humphrey Bogart more mysterious, Winston Churchill more cunning, Marlene Dietrich more sultry, and J. Jonah Jameson more brash.

If only it weren't for the problems. There's the offensive smell and yellowing smoke. Irritating, but from what I can tell from movies, more or less 98% of human beings did it anyway in the first half of the 20th century ... before we started figuring out that it also kills you in painful and humiliating ways.

So with that in mind, I can't understand why the makers of the "electronic" cigarette, a cigarette-shaped device that delivers nicotine in vaprous form without any of the downsides, have decided to market it as a tool to help smokers quit.

I think I may finally take up smoking, if they can figure out how to give the device a quick charge from the flick of a "lighter".

Once you have such a device, why stop at simple nicotine delivery? This should be the Nespresso of inhalants, with individual cartridges of all sorts of choices and combinations of taste, smell, and over-the-counter substance. The first smoke of the day has the flavor of bitter espresso with a powerful kick of caffeine. The "eastern blend" smells faintly of aromatic herbs and delivers a mellow ginseng boost.

You notice a woman at the end of the bar, gazing coyly at you through a thin haze of alluringly scented mist that she lazily blows from the corner of her mouth. Your heart begins to pound and your breath quickens; you feel an athsma attack coming on -- quick, have a FLOVENT(TM) Smoke (now in breath-improving formula)!

Update: Crown 7 seems to now offer cigar, cigarette, and pipe form factor devices to the US market, but still only nicotine!


exurban001 said...

Cleaning up the other day I came across a 9 year old pack of cigars, left over from my college days. I never really liked smoking cigarettes. In the 90s it seemed like had become post-cool, just a necessary act of nicotine addicts. I thought smoking cigars made me look cooler. Then I stopped. Maybe I'll pick it back up again too.

yian said...

you left drugs off your list?!

sherkaner said...

I did, although it took some thought.

I think most of your illicit drugs (and some other contenders like chewing tobacco) violate the third rule. They may have rituals, but they aren't very charming and/or they generally make you the user come across as less charming, which is a big minus. That drops them from the category of "vice" into the more mundane category of "bad habit" in my book.

yian said...

but think of the accessories!

sherkaner said...

I dunno, the cocaine-users mirror-and-razorblade kit is about as close as it comes, and even then, it's only so charming when you're snorting something up your nose.

Here's the ultimate test: if it's among James Bond's passtimes, it qualifies as a vice.

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