My best friend Kate and I shared our first cigarette when we were 14 years old.
We swiped a Pall Mall from her mother's purse and stood on the side of the house, hacking and wheezing our way through the carcinogenic rite of passage.
I quit cold turkey the same night, but Kate continues to inhale two packs a day.
She always has a cigarette sticking out of her face and punctuates every sentence with a loud exhalation.
When local government officials started toying with the idea of a county-wide smoking ban, Kate fumed like the end of her ever-present Marlboro Red.
"I thought this was a free country (pffft)," she grumbled while hunched over a smoldering ashtray. "I mean, what about my rights (pffft)? This is ridiculous (pffft)! Dude, pass me my Zippo (pffft)."
Kate breathed a labored sigh of relief when the ban was extinguished by the state Commonwealth Court.
As much as I want my friend to kick the habit, I have to admit that taking away her signature cancer stick would be tantamount to removing the Statue of Liberty's torch.
Besides, I've seen the mind-altering effects of nicotine withdrawal and it isn't pretty.
On a recent flight from Jacksonville, Fla., to Charlotte, N.C., I was seated next to a woman with model-caliber good looks: blonde hair, blue eyes, a lean body, flawless skin and diamonds dangling from her neck and earlobes.
When the plane reached 30,000 feet, the dainty Southern belle fished through an enormous Coach purse and, much to my surprise, pulled out a can of Skoal.
With her manicured fingers she took a large pinch of long-cut, wintergreen snuff and tucked it between her cheek and gums.
She spent the rest of the flight spitting brown tobacco juice into a plastic US Airways cup.
Glancing up at the "No Smoking" sign above my head, I suddenly felt a twinge of sadness for this nicotine-addicted debutante who couldn't endure a 45-minute plane ride without a fix.
I relayed the story to Kate as we sat inside a smoky bar, hoping she'd realize the absurdity of her own vice.
"That's why I don't fly (pffft)," she said through the haze. "Dipping is such a disgusting habit (pffft)."