I have a good relationship with my 18-year-old son and I encourage our communication by using openness and honesty with him when he asks me questions.
Because of his mathematical mind, I also must ensure that my answers are logical and make sense. So, when he asked me why I smoked, I could not simply dismiss it by saying it was "because I wanted to" although, caught napping, that's exactly what I said.
He is fit and powerful and sports driven and, I'm happy to say, he doesn't want to ever smoke himself. He also wasn't letting my dismissal of a perfectly good question go.
I have mentioned before on this blog that I have never tried any of the cocktail of illicit drugs available on the black market, save a drag from some sort of fat tobacco-filled reefer in 1975, which did nothing for me.
But I have frequently asked users of same to explain the attraction to me. Words like the "buzz" or the "high" mean nothing to me and when I enquire closer I discover that some experience violent illness while others become so docile they could be robbed and not care. I never heard a description that sounded in any way attractive to me and, indeed, most of it appalled me.
But, like me, my son was simply asking, "What's the attraction? Why would you knowingly suck smoke of any kind into your lungs, just to blow it back out again?" When he heaped on the cost and potential dangers of all of my years of smoking, it began to seem utterly stupid.
Then I recalled a research project I'd read several years ago that claimed that the act of smoking releases a surge of the body's natural opiates: endorphins. These are the body's natural pleasure inducing chemicals that are responsible for other things such as orgasms. (For the benefit of non-smokers, I hasten to add that the sensations are not similar between the two. though smokers will swear by a cigarette after sex.)
My lad laughed heartily at the endorphins and speculated that they must be set off by glue too as a friend of his loves sniffing the stuff (not snuff!).
By way of illustration I was able to trot out the various pleasurable smokes. The relief one after an exam, the good cigar that always complemented a good meal, the last reflective one at night etc. I left out the one after sex because, as we all know, parents do not have, nor have they ever, engaged in sex.
As an exercise, though, the conversation was very useful. It forced me to think the thing out and I arrived at a few clear personal conclusions. I like smoking - it gives me pleasure. I don't want to give up smoking, though I do want to control the amount I consume daily.
Having read the available science from both sides of the argument, I do not believe my smoking harms anyone but myself.
Lastly, therefore, I will not be forced to quit and indeed my resolve to continue grows firmer the more I am pressurised. And that is my New Year's resolution!