The other day I read an article about a guy who’s stepping down from his job leading a huge cigarette company. According to the article, during this guy’s tenure an estimated 30 million people died from tobacco-related illnesses. My first thought upon reading this was: No wonder the guy’s retiring — you must have to put in excruciatingly long hours to play in the same league as Stalin.
According to the article, this guy once told the audience at a shareholder meeting that “it’s not really that hard to quit smoking”. Which is true if you’ve just died after a lifetime of smoking. But for the still-living it’s an ordeal like no other.
Trust me, I know this firsthand. I used to be a smoker. I was one of those guys you hear breathing hard as they try to conquer a small set of stairs. But I somehow managed to stop and avoid becoming a statistic-for-profit. In quitting I used a rather unconventional approach – I traded in the smokes for Big Ed ice cream sandwiches and 24-ounce Heineken bombers. My plan worked brilliantly for a while. It was actually quite fun. But one afternoon my rapidly expanding gut shifted while I was cruising down a ski slope and I threw my back out. After a month of screaming in agony whenever I tried to get up off the can, I abandoned my approach and started using Nico-gum.
My other thought after reading the article was: How do people who work for cigarette companies handle cocktail parties? Ya know, you’re mingling in the living room and you meet someone for the first time. And they ask “So, what do you do for a living, Bob?”
Do you smile and say “I’m just like Jack Kevorkian. I help people kill themselves.”?
Chances are you keep it vague and professional-sounding. You probably just say something like “I’m in marketing” or “I do product development.” And then head off quickly to refill your drink, before the follow-up question arrives.