Vice Squad

As a New Yorker (and not altogether illiterate), it’s been fully ingrained in my sense of morality that smoking is a physical evil. It’s bad for you, science and health are conclusive on that. Those who smoke on a consistent and lengthy basis are in for a world of hurt later in life, and, for many, even sooner than that. We’ve all seen the anti-smoking campaign ads on TV. The blackened lungs. The electronic voice box. The escalating body count. And it’s all true. There are no real smoking-truthers out there. Even the occasional human who makes it to 90 smoking two packs a day knows they lucked into the 3rd standard deviation; a statistical anomaly.

But the truth goes beyond billboards and television screens. Even at the point of sale, cartons and shelves speak out against the horrors of tobacco products. It’s unavoidably in your face. To smoke is essentially to give one giant middle finger to life. And in no place is that middle finger more vertical and erect than in Amsterdam, where I’m currently visiting for work.

If I tried to count every person I passed who was lighting up, lit up or exiting the nearest tobacconist (and lets exclude marijuana to keep things focused), I’d run out of fingers and toes before I reached the next canal (note: this city has canals like Chiquita has bananas).

Of all places, I observed two old ladies vaping at the top floor cafe of Amsterdam’s public library. At the library.

I’m not a stock market prognosticator, but no matter what’s ailing the world’s economy—housing bubble, tech bubble, low oil prices, China’s floundering manufacturing sector—if you need a guaranteed winner you can always count on humanity to not give a fuck.

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