Your Smoke or My Smoke?

As an occasional cigar smoker, I have always been intrigued by the extreme reaction to smoking by mature adults. It seems that, on the one hand, we have vilified and demonized smoking in any form, while at the same time we have glorified and glamorized alcohol consumption and the use of cannibis. Just look at commercials on television to see the image of young, hip, sexy, adults swaggering with a drink in their hand. The scenario I often use goes something like this…

Imagine you are at a bar or party. On one side of you is a person who has just consumed an excessive amount of beer and chased each bottle with a shot of whiskey (I just witnessed this at a bar in Northern Virginia, where I saw a stranger drinking excessively, and wondered whether the individual was going to get on the Beltway and endanger the lives of others). On the other side is a person who has one beer and smokes a cigar or a cigarette for the pure enjoyment of it. Which person do you want to get into his car and head down the highway you happen to be on traveling at 60+ miles per hour? I think the answer is obvious to most rational, thinking people. I know that I would rather face the person who just enjoyed a cigar or cigarette and one beer. Clearly, the alcohol lobby has done a far better job of marketing its addictive products than the tobacco lobby has done marketing its addictive products.

I have been similarly intrigued by the national trend (some would say movement) in favor of the legalization of marijuana. Again, imagine you are at a bar or a party. On one side of you is a person who has just smoked marijuana and is clearly under the influence of an intoxicant. On the other side of you is a person who just smoked a cigar or a cigarette and drank a cold beer. Again, the question is, who do you want to face you on the highway on your way home?

It has always seemed to me that this boils down to “your smoke or my smoke.” It also seems to me that many of the same people who oppose cigarette, cigar, or pipe smoking are often the same people who favor the legalization of marijuana. Correct me if I am wrong, but is smoke not smoke in any form? Is one not putting a potential carcinogen into their body when they smoke marijuana, just as when they smoke tobacco? And, if the argument is that marijuana smoke is not a carcinogen, do we really know that to be factually accurate? Is second-hand smoke the domain of tobacco only? Do the same people who are clamoring for the legalization of marijuana not see that second-hand smoke is also present in their actions, and that they may be annoying and potentially harming those around them, particularly young children?

In addition to this argument is the neuro-psychological effects of marijuana smoking on the brain? In a society that already has far too many addiction problems (alcohol, opiods, heroin, amphetamines, etc.) why are we introducing yet another potentially addicting, if not socially damaging, substance to an already drug-dependent society? My mother always advised me, “Everything in moderation, Ralph, everything in moderation…” Her words ring true in this instance.

As always, your civil, educated thoughts and comments are welcomed.


About Dr. Ralph G. Perrino

Biography: Doctorate, Education, George Mason University, 1998; Masters Degree, Public Administration, George Mason University, 1980; Graduate study, Sociology, University of North Carolina 1971-74; Bachelor's Degree, Sociology, Catawba College, 1971. Associate Professor, Sociology, Northern Virginia Community College, 1984 - present; Founder and Director, Northern Virginia Tutoring Service, LLC, 1995 - 2018; 35 years teaching, coaching, mentoring, and tutoring experience with elementary through college-age students. Founder and Board President of Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization (1986-1998); Board President, Residential Program Center (1998-2009); Chairman, Greater Falls Church Chamber of Commerce (2009-2011); Vice Chairman, Fairfax Partnership for Youth, 2010 – 2016, Board Member, David M. Brown Planetarium, 2010 – 2018; Advisory Board, David M. Brown Planetarium, 2018; Board Member, Creative Cauldron Theatre Company, 2012 – present; Co-President, Faction of Fools Theater Company, 2016 – present; Board Member, The Hub Theater Company, 2018 - present; Washington Independent Services for Educational Resources (WISER) past president and Board member, 2001 – 2015. Outstanding Citizen Award, Arlington County Public Schools, 1992; Nominated for Outstanding Citizen Award, Arlington County Public Schools, 2005; Arlington School Administrators 2006 Civic Award; Arlington County James B. Hunter Community Hero Award, 2009; Northern Virginia Community College Outstanding Service to the College Award, 2012; Jean C. Netherton Award of Excellence, Northern Virginia Community College. 2016.
Uncategorized. 7 Comments


7 Responses to Your Smoke or My Smoke?

  1. Avatar Tony M says:

    Dr Perrino,

    Thank you for enlightening me as to current trends in the field of cigar-smoking.  Quite fascinating!  Looks like me initial analysis warrants a reassessment. Thanks again!

  2. Avatar Anwar Y. Dunbar, says:

    Hello Ralph.  This is an interesting discussion.  I've never smoked cigarrettes.  I always thought it looked cool but even before I acquired my backgrounds in Pharmacology and Toxicology, I thought that they would be harmful to my lungs.  My mother was a regular smoker for a while, and we begged her to stop.  Smoking cigars seems to be a popular thing to do now socially – there's a level of sophistication to it which I think people like to show.  In terms of Marijuana as you know there are some medicinal properties to it, and I think the legalization of it as with most things is money-driven.  I personally never got much from it other than coughing and getting sleepy.  A lot of folks swear by it though.  As with your closing point, no matter what our vices and indulgences are, it's important not to make ourselves dangers to others.

    • Avatar DrPerrino says:


      To some extent, you proved my point. Whether someone is in favor of, or opposed to tobacco smoke, alcohol, or marijuana is largely, as you note, “money-driven.” One’s position on the issue always seems politically (and economically) motivated to me. I do agree that cannibis has medicinal value and, prescribed by a physician, can be beneficial to many sufferers of chronic pain and other maladies. Hence, I take no issue with medical marijuana. It’s use in the public square where its effects may be dangerous to others just baffles me. As I have said so many times, in a society that has so many serious addiction problems, why are we introducing yet another intoxicant to an overly drugged population. Again, to your point, money is clearly at the center of this development. 

      As always, your insightful thoughts and comments are appreciated.

  3. Avatar Tony M says:

    Dr Perrino,

    As always, you've struck another sensitive nerve when viewed through the sociological lens.   Very interesting comparisons!  As a former cigar smoker, I can empathize with your position.   The answer to your overall question may lie in the scenario that you yourself like to invoke. Specifically, you mentioned that commercials nowadays advertise "young, hip, sexy adults" associated with drinking and cannibis.  On the other hand, perhaps the image that has long been associated with "cigar smokers" lies somewhere at the polar opposite of that same advertising spectrum.  Could it be that cigars have been traditionally (and certainly more recently) associated with well-heeled, generally, White, middle-  and upper-class males?   Could it be that the negativity towards second-hand cigar smoke is not as much directed towards the smoke but rather to the smoker?   Is the prevalent anti-cigar smoker sentiment a visceral reaction towards what was once a cherished pleasure and tradition?   Is it to be swept up in the continuing purge of yet another male-only prerogative, i.e. what was once a predominantly male pastime?   Is cigar-smoking doomed to "the garbage heap of history," not necessarily because of bias towards the smoke, but because of bias against the traditional male cigar smoker?   By the way, where does burning incense smoke fit on the spectrum?  Cheers!

    • Avatar DrPerrino says:


      I hear you, but keep in mind that cigar smoking among college-aged millennials is very popular, even among a segment of the female population. I have gone to weddings and other social functions where a young person broke out a cigar box full of primo stogies and shared them with his (and sometimes, her) friends. “Cigar chic” is the in thing with many young people.

      In addition to that, my wife and I just returned from a trip to visit friends in Asheville, N.C. As you may already be aware, Asheville is the center of craft beer brewing in the south. It has been transformed from a sleepy southern mountain town when I was a student in N.C. years ago, to a young, hip (and very expensive) center of entertainment. We visited several breweries while there and, although smoking was permitted outside only, I would estimate that a third to half of the people under thirty smoked cigarettes or cigars. No one seemed to care, nor did anyone seem to be bothered by it.

      I do hope your assessment of cigar smoking by White middle and upper class males is incorrect. That, of course, is a topic for another future blog!

  4. Avatar Anonymous says:

    testing 123

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