In a 48-year on-again, off-again relationship with cigarettes, John Jones explains why he smokes.
John Jones smiled as he thought back to the first time he smoked a cigarette. At 13 years old, he lit up a Camel and has smoked on and off ever since.
“I can’t say I was hooked since,” Jones said, flicking a cigarette butt to the sidewalk. “A couple of times I stopped smoking, but then I went in the service. I had to do something while being in the service.”
From 1966 to 1975, the years Jones served, he said he mostly smoked a pack a day to fit in.
“Everybody smoked and drank,” he recalled of his time spent stationed in North Korea. “[We] had to do something to not think about going to Vietnam.”
Now 61, Jones said if he were 13 today, he would never have picked up a cigarette.
“Back then it seemed like you were smoking natural tobacco,” he said. “Now they put all types of chemicals in it to alter the taste.”
Acquainted with the side effects of smoking, Jones has quit before – including a three-year tobacco-free stint – but still smokes a pack of Newports a week, an improvement compared to his days in the service and his subsequent three-packs-a-week habit.
“When I smoke now, it’s sitting around like this right now,” he said, seated on a curb outside Rite Aid on Broad Street and Susquehanna Avenue. “I don’t have a soda pop, I don’t have candy, so I light a cigarette.”
Regardless of his own smoking routine, Jones noted all of his four children are nonsmokers, something he encouraged while they were growing up.
“I tell them, ‘Just don’t get started,’” he said, “because when you start adding up the money that you pay for them, whew, that’s a lot of money. Five dollars a pack. seven packs a week, that’s $35. And that’s just one person.”
Ashley Nguyen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.