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A born-again nonsmoker.

When someone gives up smoking he or she wants the whole world to hear about it. I know you weren't ready for this, dear reader, but I have given up cigars. I am a born-again nonsmoker-a confessed sinner who can now walk into any crowded room without stinking up the joint.

Don't go away. I want to tell you the story of my conversion. It doesn't do any good to stop smoking if no one will listen to how you did it.

First, I have to give credit where credit is due. I couldn't have done it alone. I got some help from that Big Nonsmoker in the sky.

It all began six months ago when, after lighting up one of the six or seven cigars I smoked every day, I suddenly heard loud coughing in the heavens. Then a thundering voice boomed, Put out that d- cigar. "

I didn't pay any attention because I was sure He wasn't talking to me. After all, I had been smoking for over 40 years, and He never raised any objections before. So I continued for another week. Then my chest started to feel lousy and I became hoarse.

I looked up and said, "What's going on?"

The voice came down and said, I thought I made myself clear. What kind of message do I have to send you?"

"O.K.," I said. "I'm willing to deal. Let's just say I cut down to two or three cigars a day?"

"The number is nonnegotiable, " the voice boomed.

"How about one petit corona after dinner?" I said.

Don't you understand English?" the voice said. To make His point He shoved a hot coal down my throat, and I started to gasp for air.

Yes, He was responsible for my quitting, but He didn't give me that much help once I gave it up.

After I went cold turkey I had to face the prospect of earning a living. I could smoke a cigar without writing, but I couldn't write without smoking a cigar. In the beginning I just stared at the paper.

To get going I tried such typing exercises as "Now is the time for all good men ... for all good men ... for all good men ... for all good men to light up a Monte Cristo Havana No. 3."

My mind would work in curious ways. I would want to write about the MX missile system, and the only thing that came out was "Puff the Magic Dragon." The song "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" droned in my head, and the Marlboro Man kept riding across my computer screen.

Finally, in desperation, I looked up to the heavens and said, "How long do you expect me to keep this up?"

Then the voice came down, "Try chewing gum. "

I was skeptical, but the first time I shoved a stick of gum in my mouth it worked. I found out if you have to keep moving your jaws all the time, you don't miss having a wet stogie between your lips.

Well, it's been all uphill since then. After my decompression period I discovered the beautiful world of nonsmoking. My lungs are now getting all the oxygen they so richly deserve, and my brain cells seem to be relieved they don't have to absorb soot from morning until night.

What is even better is I am now a member of that band of brothers and sisters who can walk into a restaurant or get on an airplane and say loudly to the hostess, "No-smoking section, please! "

I admit that like all born-again nonsmokers I look down on those who are still hooked. I don't get angry with them but I do something even worse to them. I bore them. I tell them my story from beginning to end-how I was once a seven-a-day Dunhill man, but through the intervention of a higher spirit became a six-pack Doublemint gum fan.

Then I warn them that we non-smokers only consider ourselves holier than they, but believe we have a mission to convert all smokers or persecute them until we drive the tobacco demons from their souls.
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Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Buchwald, Art
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Jul 1, 1989
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