(By John Boston) I started smoking at an early age. Seven, actually. I found a complete and unused cigarette on a department store floor and pocketed it. I took it home. When my dad was off at work, I lit it up to see what all this alleged adult smoking hoopla was about.

The problem was, we were a match-free house. I used the gas burner on the stove, lit the thing and tried exhaling mightily like I blowing bubbles. That didn’t work. So, I put my respiratory system in reverse and took a puff.

Oh cripes crap. Next to some of my marriages, high school algebra and listening to Curtis Stone sing “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” by Neil Diamond,* it was the singularly worst experience of my life. I made a face like a dog that had just licked a pineapple, spit, spit several more times followed by rubbing my tongue with a washrag. Sadly, the kitchen sink rag had remnants of Dutch Cleanser, mayo and counter top dust, so that didn’t exactly help my little baby tongue.

For the life of me, I couldn’t understand what people saw in smoking. I didn’t smoke again until my freshman year in college, where I would enjoy a few Budd’s Factory Smokers, cigars made from cat hair and hemp that sold for three cents each at Thrifty Drugs. I smoked a pipe for a while, and an occasional cigar. For some reason, I loved those birch-tipped Hav-A-Tampas.

I can’t believe I survived Monday night poker. I’ve never laughed more in my life. The usual inner circle quorum was me, Becker, Foonman, Foon’s kid brother Jon Foonman and that Lousy Mike Porter (below) (dubbed thus for his jackanape ability to win the first pot of the evening then sit on his chips for the rest of the month) would encircle a card table in a bunkhouse the size of a 3rd-grade desk. In winter, there was no ventilation. We might as well have scraped the inside of a glue factory chimney and injected it.

Over the years, I smoked less and less. Then, one day, I lit up a cigar. For some reason, it just tasted awful. Out of curiosity, I lit up another a few days later. Same thing. It was like licking the London Daily Mirror, which is dryer and more acidic than say, The New York Times.

Perhaps it was just God looking out for me. Cigarettes, since the age of 7, were out of the question. I might have a few puffs off a cigar every other year, to celebrate a birth or divorce, mine or someone else’s. I haven’t lit a pipe in 30 years. I certainly don’t smoke dope, never have, never will, because that’s a choice for Democrats or brain dead hippies with swollen ankles, bless their hearts and who am I to judge.

The other day, I was getting dressed. The TV was on. A commercial for a popular quit-smoking cure excitedly blasted.

This famous product — let’s just call it Nic-O-Bate to protect the manufacturer and avoid pesky 12-figure lawsuits — is essentially an antidote that blocks nicotine receptors in the brain. I’m guessing if I possessed this addiction, the brain in question would be mine. It seemed that five percent of the TV spot was dedicated to the joys of owning two pristine lungs. The remaining 55 seconds was a disclaimer seemingly penned by Monty Python.

Sure. Nic-O-Bate just might cure your cravings for Terrible Tobacco. But, there’s that possible nasty side effect that your gums might bleed. A mouthful of bloody Chiclets might be fetching to a vampire, but it’s certainly not what you want to see on a front porch first date good night kiss.

“Thankyouforthebeautifuleveningpleasedon’ttrytospoilit.” About –––––––– FACE! Sprint for the car.

Your date slurps blood and calls after you: “Call me!”

What makes these nicotine-craving cure spots so delightful is how the booth announcer breaks a land speed record by sneaking in 300,000 dire side effect warnings associated with their product.

Death is the least of them.

Smiling, I plopped down on the edge of the bed. Happy, productive people — people who could lift grandchildren or walk up stairs, were bounding about. Joyous cruise ship/elevator music soothed in the background. The announcer rattled on:

“Possible side effects might include suicidal thoughts or attempted suicide…”

Great. Instead of just ending the psychic anguish on a single, robust Ridge Route cliff dive, one gets to play out hourly their own, agonizing demise.

“Nic-O-Bate,” speed-reads the announcer, “may cause immense swelling and shrinkage of the prostate, often at the same time. You may have to purchase one of those walker shopping carts old people use to locomote your prostate. If you are going out in public wheeling said prostate, make sure to cover it with a blanket so it won't get cold nor will you want to startle widows, Mormons or orphans. Some may wish to seek legal council and name their enlarged prostate. Shirley, or Irene, are good choices.

 “Nic-O-Bate can cause excessive hair growth on the feet, testicles, eyelids, elbows, ears, toilet seats, and, in some cases, all over your body or the bodies of people or surfaces with which you’ve come into contact the past 90 days. As a public service, should this happen, stop taking Nic-O-Bate and move immediately to Washington, the only state where it’s illegal to shoot a Sasquatch. DO NOT MOVE — repeat — DO NOT MOVE to Texas, where there’s a $10,000 bounty — cash, no questions asked — on the North American Abominable Snowman, or, Armenian undergraduate students loosely involved with Occupy Wall Street.

 “Nic-O-Bate can cause irritability and, in some cases, is used to train fighting pit bulls. It has been known to cause flatulence at near Hiroshima-levels and should not be taken in igloos, near campfires, water heaters, gas or propane stoves, nuclear power plants, Eagle Scout campfires or in Jacuzzis smaller than 120,000 gallons.

“This product, in some rare cases, has been known to cause rage, delusion, delusions of grandeur, delusions of rage, violent self abuse, amnesia, convenient amnesia, hallucination and sometimes, Dobby Syndrome (where the stricken turns into an emaciated hairless creature from Harry Potter and repeatedly hits himself). In some, Nic-O-Bate can cause blind and schizophrenic support for Obama Care. In some females, a rare side effect can occur in them pressing down way too hard, applying lipstick and being off by three, maybe four inches. In females under 26, still living at home with their parents, it has been known to cause passive-aggression and a dogged “I know you are but what am I?” response to even the most innocent of questions.

“Nic-O-Bate may attract fruit bats, cause your nose to turn black like Mickey Mouse or create intoxication or alcohol poisoning symptoms so severe that when the Highway Patrol pulls you out of the car, they think you’re drunker than Jim Morrison drunk or are suffering from cerebral palsy.

“If taken in conjunction with Brie, dairy, bread, meat, carbohydrates, proteins, fruits, vegetables, liquids or semi-liquids (like Kraft Macaroni & Cheese or Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup) Nic-O-Bate can grow gills in just the craziest of places. On the bright side, tests have shown that people who have taken Nic-O-Bate who have passed out and fallen into swimming pools or one of the Great Lakes cannot drown, which is another reason why Nic-O-Bate should not be used to encourage confessions from terrorists or Tea Party members during water-boarding by our beloved federal government.

 “In some rare cases, like with that George Clooney scandal last year which we can’t talk about because it’s still under litigation, Nic-O-Bate can cause some patients to stare blankly into space and pass it off as acting.

“Nic-O-Bate can also cause maritime piracy, curious, sideways crablike walking accompanied by slurred words like “Aaaaargh, hoolie hoolie” and Elephantiasis. We’re actually embarrassed to admit this, but once, in the Congo, someone came down with Hippopotamusiasis after taking Nic-O-Bate. That’s where you get a really big mouth and you really don’t care who knows it.

 “Like Nancy Pelosi.

“In one study, an entire small village in Borneo was stricken with 120-pound Enlarged Testicles. That would be the gigantic male reproductive organs. Not the British rock band of the same name. Please note that a second village was stricken by 120-pound Enlarged Testicles, but that wasn’t from taking Nic-O-Bate. It was from our parent company, Pharmacide, accidentally dropping several hundred tons of Enlarged Testicles from helicopters at night, which unfortunately crashed through thatch roofs, killing 17. On the bright side, three of them were Green Peace workers from Berkeley and rather insufferable, like my nephew-like substance, Rio.

“Nic-O-Bate should not be taken by people not on Death Row. It would only give them hope. If taken in significant doses, Nic-O-Bate can cure Global Warming/ Climate Change/ The Four Seasons, making the atmosphere worldwide a just-right and cozy 68°F. While used as a thickening agent in Jell-O or to create a race of giant, angry lab mice the size of bison, Nic-O-Bate is so powerful, it can cause — o cripes. The horrors are too vivid to share. I know I’m paid to read this, but I’d be damning my immortal soul if I didn’t warn you: Don’t turn into a werewolf with temperamental heart valve issues. Stay away from Nic-O-Bate like it was an institutionalized ex-spouse. Save the $4,100, most of which goes toward the active ingredients of Salt Peter and and estrogen and quit cold turkey.”

That commercial got me to thinking.

You know what would be the absolute worst?

Imagine facing execution by firing squad. The captain of the guard offers you that final cigarette. You wave no and make a small face of misplaced nobility. “Sorry. Can’t. Trying to quit.”