I Will Not Buy You Cigarettes

A lesson in listening to my gut.

Throughout the course of 2017, I had three different men call me when I was on my way to meet them, asking if I would be willing to stop and buy them a pack of cigarettes.

“I forgot to stop at a gas station earlier. Can you grab me a pack of cigs? I’ll pay you back, don’t worry!”

The first guy was someone I was meeting for a first date. I had just pulled into the parking lot of the restaurant, so the subject was dropped. He proceeded to talk about how terrible his ex was all through dinner, detailing all the awful things he believed she deserved, and I told him I was feeling too sick to go see a movie with him afterwards. I went home and never saw or heard from him again.

The second was a business contact that I would meet in Nashville from time to time. Most of the time he’d drop it right after I’d say I wasn’t comfortable with purchasing cigarettes, but sometimes he’d push, asking why. The one time he rode in my car with me, he complained the entire trip about the fact that I wouldn’t let him smoke, even if he rolled the window down.

The third was a guy I went on several dates with — before I cut him off after realizing he was not only emotionally manipulative, but physically abusive as well. He became angry every time I told him he couldn’t smoke in my car, and is somehow the one person I did eventually give in and buy a pack for. Despite his insistence that he would pay me back, he never did.

None of these men are a part of my life anymore. Cigarettes were obviously not the only reason for ending my relationships with them, or even anywhere close to the main reason. But the entitled behavior of these men in regards to their smoking habits — expecting a non-smoker to buy cigarettes for them, demanding to be allowed to smoke in my car despite knowing that I also work as a rideshare driver — is one of the things that seems most telling when I look back.

To me, it’s a matter of awareness and respect. You want to smoke cigarettes? Fine. We all have our vices, and I am of the opinion that you should do whatever you damn well please — as long as it doesn’t financially or negatively affect other people. If your friend were a recovering alcoholic, you wouldn’t ask them to buy you a six pack on the way over and then drink it in front of them. If your significant other were vegan, you wouldn’t ask them to buy you a cheeseburger and then offer them a bite as you chowed down. (Or maybe you would, and have hopefully asked these people how they feel about it. Sure, drinking alcohol in front of someone who’s sober or eating meat in front of a vegetarian isn’t going to physically affect their health like second-hand smoke — but it could potentially be emotionally distressing.)

Don’t misunderstand— this isn’t a diatribe against everyone who smokes. Several people I love very much are smokers, and I don’t mind if they smoke around me as long as I can sit upwind. These people are always very respectful of myself and any other friends who choose not to smoke. My concern is with people who show an obvious lack of awareness and respect for other people.

I’ve had to learn the hard way to trust my gut, even for seemingly small signs like this. In my experience, it seems clear that even the little things showing a lack of awareness and respect can manifest in other larger areas of their life as well. That’s why moving forward, it’s a boundary I personally have to set. Whether you’re a friend, family member, co-worker, or romantic partner:

I will not buy you cigarettes.