The World Stinks

We live in a world full to the brim with sensory input for us to devour.  The deep blue landscape of skies dotted with fluffy white clouds, the tactile smoothness of a stone ground down by the elements, the screeching screams of a bustling city street at midday, and that distinctive citrusy taste of a perfect Florida orange cover four out of our five basic sensuous interactions with the world.  And then there’s the olfactory.  The sense of smell not only augments our taste buds, but also alerts us to very important aspects of the world which the other senses are denied access.  Just think of how important a role smell played in hunting before the modern era (other mammals can currently attest to this) or how certain objects might smell offensive and detour us from harmful interactions (e.g. feces or burnt flesh).  And then there are cigarettes which are a true trickery of human invention, for cigarettes have always smelled alluring to me and have seduced me into their cancerous waltz for twenty odd years now.  Now I have almost broken those bonds completely (sans the occasional drunken binge), and in doing so have found some curious phenomena associated with smoking.  Of course we all know about the cancer, lung disease, tooth decay, hair loss, COPD, and all other diseases which have been linked to smoking, but something nobody ever talks about (besides Bill Hicks and probably others) is the way cigarettes affect smell.

Perhaps how much smoking cigarettes affects your olfactory isn’t as significant as how much quitting does, and let me tell you it’s powerful.  Imagine having shitty, blurry, basically blind eyesight which is completely correctable by putting on glasses and that’s the difference in forcefulness of scent between smoking and cessation.  It’s intriguing how some aromas are greatly magnified while other times some things will smell (and taste in some cases as the two are interconnected) completely different.  For example, dirt really fucking smells!  And I’m not talking about that city dirt full of homeless piss and broken dreams, but that clean, fresh, untouched deep forest dirt you come across when hiking in some out of the way place.  It has this crazy strong smell of roots and plants and animals that doesn’t exist when I smoke.  Also cities can REALLY stink when I don’t smoke.  Gross smells emanate from all those dull, plain crevices and back urban alleyways nobody pays notice to.  It’s disgusting and is actually quite a good reason to smoke.  However there are a bunch of different stuff including foods, clean air, and flowers that have a much stronger pleasant smell as well, so I guess as far as the olfactory sense is concerned, smoking is a double-edged sword.

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