I love cigarettes.

Now, I am sure the majority of readers' hands are already trembling with anxiety as they think of how to reply to such an egregiously taboo admission.

Before my inbox is assaulted with more anti-tobacco literature than could ever be handed out on Pedestrian, let me preface by saying I do not smoke tobacco. My list of vices is already substantial enough as it stands – I'm looking at you, Cookout and dollar wells.

How many conversations would have never started were it not for the swift intervention of a quick light and the subtle relinquishing of responsibility? I always carry a lighter with me when I go out, and I have met more friends and colleagues over offering a simple bit of butane than with a firm handshake and an exchange of cliché formalities.

Although I do not smoke them, I find an immense value in cigarettes.

I am very aware that I am in a striking minority of people who feel this way, but, as a film buff, I cannot help but find something terribly aesthetic in cigarettes. Where most see dully-colored teeth and smelly clothes, I see Humphrey Bogart in "Casablanca," Audrey Hepburn in "Breakfast at Tiffany's," and Edward Norton in "Fight Club," all of whom have had profound effects on our cultural zeitgeist.

"Mad Men's" pilot would never have been picked up were it not for Don Draper's struggle with the Lucky Strike brand.

It pains me when a fellow student scowls at another for enjoying a cigarette. It is usually not out of concern for the other student's health, but out of some moral pretension that the other student is obviously morally unfit to realize what he is doing to other people's moral livelihoods.

I hate to inform you, readers, but everyone knows smoking is life-shortening and makes you smell like your grandmother's musty attic.

And in related non-news, alcohol destroys your livers and gives you a John Candy beer belly; Adderall can cause psychosis; unprotected sex can cause... babies.

Driving a car puts out carcinogenic and smog-producing fumes by the millions of liters a day.

Are these vices not even in the same reprehensible ballpark as smoking? No one dares to stare at the mother carrying her kids to school in her mobile daycare/carbon monoxide factory.

But oh – we will most certainly be interrogating someone who walks with a cigarette dangling from his or her mouth.

Therein lies the problem. There is just not as much moral imperative to pass judgment on those decisions in comparison to tobacco.

Smoking is no longer a concern about an individual's health. It is a question of morality. People who are offended by smokers no longer construe them as people who do not understand the dire health risks of cigarettes.

Instead, smokers are now selfish and amoral individuals with no concern for those around him or her.

I find this to be a terrible fallacy in simple human compassion. We drive cars that destroy our atmosphere and lungs, and yet we scoff at someone hoping to calm down after being over-caffeinated and strung out from a week of studying for their finals.

We have become so self-entitled that we consider air to be "our" air, and how dare someone be so selfish as to light a cigarette in your general vicinity, even if they are far enough away for the smoke's effect to be fairly negligible to your health and the way your day is going.

I know not all smokers go out of their way to avoid making you breath their carcinogenic fumes. I am not making the case for smoking to be allowed in public places such as restaurants, and I especially do not condone smoking in the presence of children, the infirm, etc.

I am merely asking that we consider what vilifies smoking so much more than other parts of our lives we hardly consider being such crimes against humanity.

The next time you see a fellow classmate walk out of a class and anxiously reach for a pack, don't be offended so immediately. Remember, without cigarettes, perhaps we would not have had the opportunity to vilify and legislate against them in the first place.

Anybody got a light?

Chase Parker is a junior in biochemistry and cellular and molecular biology. He can be reached at sparke23@utk.edu.