Have I Ever Smoked? Only Once.

I was chatting with a patient yesterday about the need for him to quit smoking. He understood the reasoning. He had the desire. He even had a financial incentive in a lower insurance premium. “Doc,” We Clean Up Nicehe asked. “Have you ever ACTUALLY smoked a cigarette?” The unspoken implication was that if I had, I might understand how difficult it is to quit.

I froze.

The expected answer was “No. I am a doctor, why would I ever put that poison in my body?”

The truth? Yes, in fact I have smoked a cigarette…or actually a pack of cigarettes. All at once.

I do not recommend that.

You will not be shocked to hear that the following debacle was 100% Chris’ fault. And, it was his fault on SO many levels.

We met on August 9, 1993: the first day of med school (post on his Paul Simon t-shirt and flannel shorts later.)

Pretty much from day one, we were study partners. Even though it would be a full year before we dated, we were instant friends. Since med students are a poor, lonely lot with lots of studying to do, that’s what we did together. We studied. A lot.

I had a great memory which obviously has since left me. For example, a few months ago Maisy was in one of her rare moods when I was an acceptable person to speak to. We were chatting about music, her love of cello and how she would like to write songs someday. I was relishing the “supportive mom” role. Without thinking, I blurt out: “Hey Maisy! Know what would be GREAT for you?–PIANO LESSONS! How about when Tracy comes to teach Sam and Haddie, you can have a lesson too?” She stared dumbfounded at me. “Mom?” Now she appears frightened. “Um, I’ve been taking piano lessons for three years–it’s ME and Sam that take piano Mom…me and Sam…not Hadley.”

Is It These Two That Take Piano?

Well, I can’t possibly be expected to remember everything. It’s enough that I knew two of my kids took piano. I’m expected to know which two?? But, back in 1993 I was unstoppable. I could fire off drugs, equations, and anatomy parts in seconds.

Chris only had a so-so memory. He needed to “understand” everything–not just memorize it.

Me: Penicillin is effective against gram positive bacteria
Chris: Why?
Me: They attack B-lactam
Chris: Why?
Me: To destroy the cell wall
Chris: Why?

Repeat times 1000 for all the drugs we needed to memorize one spring night.

Since we were “highly educated” scientific types–in med school a grand total of 9 months–we decided to use our vast pharma knowledge.

Somewhere in his quest for answers to his “Whys” Chris had read that nicotine improves short-term memory.

We walked the block to Wawa and purchased two packs of Marlboro Lights. Unfortunately, our decision-making only got worse as the night wore on.

Nutrition was needed along with the nicotine. After 10 pm, Wawa sells their hotdogs 4 for a dollar….apparently 14 hour old processed meat in a steam bath is not considered a luxury food item.

How could we not? Make that four old hot dogs with ketchup and relish, two Welch’s Grape Sodas and two packs of smokes please.

Bring it Pharmacology. We got this.

Well, we sort of did.

Chris dumped over 1000 neatly written index cards into a jumbled pile on the floor. One of us would grab a card and put the other to the test. We fired away. He asked his f*&^&* “whys.” We ate hotdogs. We drank grape soda. We smoked cigarette after cigarette after cigarette. The night wore on. The pile thinned. Our memories strained. Then just as the sun was coming up, a realization.

Our pharmacology final exam was in two hours..not enough time to sleep. But, know what it is enough time for?


FYI, old hot dogs, warm soda, and chain-smoking DO NOT make you smarter.


  1. Shannon Stanek says:

    Jamie and I were study partners in undergrad. He smoked I didn’t. How did that final go??

  2. hahaha. Don’t even remember Shannon!

  3. Ugh. so gross! But lesson learned! A friend of mine’s mom found cigarettes in her room (we must have been 14 or 15) and made her smoke the whole pack! She had the same outcome as you…

  4. I have never smoked and have talked to my son about it!

  5. Both my parents and siblings all smoked – mother died of cancer and father from a lung disease, I am happy to say I have NEVER smoked a cigarette never saw the point of it.

  6. I have never smoked and have told my children they are not allowed. My father smokes an dwhen he comes to visit I make him go out in the street to smoke.

  7. HA! Love this! Never smoked at all and neither did my husband. But then again, I was the studious one. He is one of “those” people (the ones that never took a note and it just worked out). Grrr.

  8. My dad died from cancer when I was young, so I learned my lesson early. Sorry you had to learn your lesson that way, but glad you learned it.

  9. I am not saying smoking is like heroin, because i have never used heroin, But here is two good articles on what the addition is like. Every day is a struggle because tobacco is so easily accessible.




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