I do not smoke. In fact, I do not like those who do. It has been severally said that smokers are liable to die young. This message does not appear to make a lot of sense to my undergraduate friend, Tayo.

I happened to meet him during our registration back then as a newly admitted student in the Kwara State Polytechnic, Ilorin. Tayo spoke loudly and quite confidently. Like me, Tayo hated injustice with a passion beyond description. Little wonder he clashed severally with fellow students and staff trying to play funny by jumping or disrupting the queue. This was what made me fall in love with him.

One hot afternoon, while waiting for some of the polytechnic officials to attend to us for registration formalities, minutes turned to hours. Tayo simply asked me if I would like to take something, or just to pass the time. Since he was then based in Ilorin and I was based in Lagos, he probably knew the polytechnic better than I did. I followed him to the “joint” where beer and other alcoholic drinks were served. Different meals were served in the “joint” also. He asked me if I took beer, I simply said “No. But I take wine, though not in public restaurants.” Having said this, my friend brought out a pack of cigarettes and began to smoke. My first instinct was to scream.

Noticing that the smoke from his cigarette was becoming so discomforting to me, he put out the light and smiled. I did not bother to ask why he did so. It was then he told me that non-smokers like me complain about everything. That was the most thrilling statement I had ever heard before then. He did not say more than that, but over the two years that we spent together in the polytechnic, I noticed the following about Tayo and by extension, smokers.

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Smokers, are generally more sociable than non-smokers. If you have ever been to a party where you have two or three smokers, you will discover that friendship starts immediately from the point of sharing the matchbox. They are generous with the sticks. They invite you to partake in the “blessing” while you hear them within few minutes of meeting each other speaking and laughing loudly as though they had been friends for years. The cigarette is a major uniting factor.

But quickly take a stroll to the “No Smoking” section. Everyone is a total stranger. The music? Uninviting. The faces are almost frowned. There is no “inspiration”. Someone is waiting for somebody to do something. No one wants to break the ice. This is the situation in the “No smoking” section. Lo, the difference!

Many smokers take their time to appear nice, but hardly do smokers complain about the way you look or anything. The unkept room? Who cares? Once the magic “stick” is between the index and the middle fingers, life goes on.

“Life is too short to be taken seriously” they seem to say. While a non-smoker complains about the bad service in the restaurant, the smoker just “games on” by “lighting one more stick.” This I found in my friend Tayo. Whatever he had no control over, he hardly complained about it. Sure, he would sort himself out when he could control the situation!

Do you have body odour? This is something a smoker will never complain about. Does this bother him? Does it matter? A “dose” of cigarette stick clears the odour away! Take time out with smokers and you will notice they are livelier than non-smokers. They laugh at one another’s jokes no matter how dry the jokes may be. When you’re in the company of smokers as a non-smoker, the only thing that can turn you off is the smell of the smoke!

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Is this then advice call to start smoking or to legitimise smoking? Far from it!

For every “good” reason to smoke, there are more than ten reasons not to. I will not bore us with the traditional anti-smoking arguments other than what I am going to say next.

Back to my friend, Tayo. I have not heard from him since I left Kwara Polytechnic many years ago. It was only recently – when an ex-class mate, Kabir, mentioned him to me – that I asked about reaching him. Kabir, who now works at the Policy Bureau, Governor’s Office, Kwara state, narrated what happened to Tayo:

After his classmates graduated from the polytechnic, Tayo found it extremely difficult to cope. It was at that period that his father, his main sponsor died of cancer. He could no longer afford to go to school since his Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) was too low to continue with his academic work.

After this, Tayo became extremely depressed taking fully to smoking as a way of escaping his predicaments. Severally, he was seen at the notorious Eleko pitch, close to Campus, smoking heavily with notorious campus cultists with whom he had started to associate.

The last time Kabir saw Tayo sometime in 2012, he largely appeared unkempt and sickly. He was so lean; he could not even eat well. It was at that point Kabir knew he must be having problems with digestion. Tayo was rushed to University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital (UITH) one evening, where he was diagnosed of complicated intestinal disorder. His mother, whom he hadn’t even seen in years, was told to cough out N200, 000 as an initial deposit. She could not immediately provide the said sum. He died three days after the diagnosis.

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I must say I was moved to tears on learning about the death of my friend. I bet Tayo would have been a better person if he had abstained from smoking. I was close to him. I knew he wanted very many things from life. He had ambitions, excellent ambitions. All those have now gone with the wind.

Should I smoke? I say no; if not for anything, because of my friend, Tayo!

 

Olalekan Adigun