Anders Sandberg <email@example.com> writes:
>Of course, it would be nice if we could find a way of
>reducing the damage done by tobacco smoke to the
>lungs at least. Or would that reduce the pleasure?
Interesting question. If part of the pleasure of smoking is derived from the social and cultural significance, which I believe it is, than any form of "safe" smoking will lose some of its appeal. Consider the disasterous market performance of 'smokeless cigarettes'. These contraptions virtually eliminated the tar inhalation from smoking while delivering the same amount of nicotine. They were healthy, hence more socially acceptable, hence hopelessly uncool.
The discussion about water pipes is interesting, but pretty impractical for most cigarette smokers. These devices are used primarily for smoking marijuana in one's dorm room, and would look pretty suspicious anywhere else. Imagine Humphrey Bogart pulling a plastic bong out of his pocket as he eyes Ingrid Bergman from across the room. You get the idea.
Smoking is usually tied up with a hedonistic, devil-may-care attitude, which in my case that means I'd rather take my chances in liquid nitrogen than refrain from smoking until mature nanotechnology makes it safe. Once smoking is entirely safe people may continue to do it out of nostalgia, but It will lose all the social connotations that it has now. And in an era where smoking is entirely safe, the array of safe designer drugs available will likely eclipse any potential pleasure of a good 20th century smoke.
Future hedonists will probably have to resort to more drastic measures to achieve the same thing culturally that smokers do today. James Halperin captures this attitude nicely in The First Immortal. He breifly mentions the appearance of a new blood sport in 2098 where people allow themselves to be killed in hand-to-hand combat and then molecularly reconstructed and revived moments later, all to the shock and horror of most decent world citizens who find such nihilistic behavior "unconscionable and borderline insane."
Lesson? The pleasure of rankling your fellow man is a joy for all ages :)