The Marlboro Man

Publicity for cigarettes used to be amazing. When I was in high school, I was (and still am) fascinated with the contrast of black, white, and shadow in art, and loved the stark image of the Marlboro man, with his strength and stoicism. For millions of young people and teenagers around the world, this image stayed in the back of our heads and gave us the impulse to try a cigarette at some point. I started smoking at 15 or 16 with my friends in parking lots and with co-workers behind the McDonalds I worked at. After high school, I went into the Navy, which is another easy place to be a smoker. Sailors light up in bars, on piers, and of course on the decks of underway ships, having a smoke under the stars on a pitch black ocean is an amazing experience.

When I started my own language school a bit more than 10 years ago, I was alone when I went to work. I had to make sure I was able to support my family, so those minutes outside smoking alone seemed a bit of a waste. I never smoked around my wife and two kids, it was an ugly habit that I felt guilty indulging in around not just my wife and kids, but almost anyone in my family. Almost. My cousin and I had some good times together smoking and drinking and philosophizing as know-it-all teenagers. The last time we saw each other was about 10 years ago, the cousins met up for a karaoke night, and he asked me if I wanted to step out for a cigarette. Of course I did. I remember that night very well, because I haven’t smoked another cigarette since.

When I returned home, I decided to swap out smoking for having a chocolate after lunch instead of a cigarette, and to start running to get my lungs back in proper shape. Changing a bad habit for a good one changed my life for the better, and definitely improved my prospects for keeping my business open. Smoking is less and less fashionable every day, which is fantastic news, but any addiction, whether it be alcohol, drugs, sex, social media, gambling, or anything else robs us of our ambition. Good habits, on the other hand, make you better each day.

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