Hello, I’ve come to plague/enhance your life again. It’s just that feeling of incompleteness in your solar plexus/belly region I have to come back and fill. Those bursts of bad temper I have to soothe. The feeling that time is standing still. It was you that invited me in, all those years ago, as a rebellious teenager, imposing his supposed individuality onto the world. When you boot me out, with much moral stamping and pawing on the dusty, shared ground, with your fasts and meditations and treks into nature, I am not particularly concerned; all I have to do is wait. It might be in a few weeks, months, even years – yes, you rejected me for two years, twice – but I will be back. I am the call of Pall Mall and I will be back. Arnie had that one right. No matter that I make you cough and wheeze, no matter that I cost you more each time you invite me back, no matter that I make you constantly micturate, drain your energy, block your sinuses and feed your guilt. I am the temptation pulling you from your path of wholesome, healthy living. I make your walking, running, drumming and yoga harder. I am the anti-pranayama. Your partner hates the way I make you smell. But have I ever let you down? Am I nothing if not consistent? I am always there to create the same reactions in you. I kept you company in school, and you maintained your love affair with me despite a dozen humiliating canings from the principal. I made you cool, different, adult. I was with you on guard duty in the army, and don’t forget how you loved your smoke breaks after hard exercise. I kept your company in your university residence, and all those years beyond in digs and communes. I am the little friend who counters that feeling of being alone. I provide the full stop at the end of a meal, I go with a drink, I give you something to do when you have a break. I weigh almost nothing, and fit in almost any pocket, even that breast pocket directly over your heart. I can be summoned by the slightest desire, the tiniest irritation, an imagined slight, a work problem. Just a flick of a bic away. I will instantly kill your clean time at the news of anything stressful: the loss of a job, a new, unwanted responsibility. Who did you reach for first both times, when your parents died, four years apart? When you are on holiday, I give you your reward when time-out is declared, when you have fought me hard and long enough. You stayed with me even when you coughed up blood, which was at least four or five times, remember. I provide the company of other smokers, the way in at any new place, position or party. I provide the ad inifinitum conversation of yes, I must be kicked, quit, given up that smokers endlessly repeat. Such cruel words. Is there any distraction greater than me? I, the Call of Pall Mall, represent the failure of will, the weakness of habit, the most banal of addictions. Yet I am the original entheogen, the first plant known and documented to produce a high in you, mankind. Amazonian hunters would dip their pinkies in my juice and run for days. I have been used as a bridge to the divine and still am by the followers of the Red Path. The chanupa is the holy of holies, the peace pipe concludes deals and opens any door. Miracles are performed using my sacred leaves. I was revered for thousands of years, before I was denigrated as the foulest cause of disease, the corrupter of youth. No modern organization would dare advocate my usage except the tobacco companies, and there are thousands scapegoating me, yet a third of humans continue to inhale, puff and chew me despite the toughest legislation, the most ridiculous prices. Italians crossed the Alps to be reunited with me when I was banned in their country. People have killed for me, children have slaved in factories to roll me into tiny, presentable tubes. Jobs have been lost and homes unfilled because of man’s love for me. Millions have died for me and many more shall continue to do so. But you, you will never forget me. I will be in your heart, mind and soul till the day you leave this earth, and possibly beyond that, whether your body is addicted to me at that particular time or not. Am I not the most intelligent of plants? And you, you two-legged, hairless ape, you rate yourself above me? I was here long before you, and, at the rate you guys are going, I bet I’ll be here long after your kind are gone. Certainly after YOU are gone.