It was brought to my attention shortly after Christmas. Six of us, Shar and I and our two adult children and their spouses, were walking out the front door of Cup of Joe in downtown Cedar Falls. Five of the six of us were carrying one or another fancy coffee drink. Joe held his out in an exaggerated dramatic gesture of appreciation, and made a grand proclamation. “Coffee. The new cigarette.”
Is coffee really the new cigarette? I think so, and several facts point to that conclusion.
Coffee is an acceptable addiction in spite of the fact that it is, without a doubt, a physically addictive substance. If you doubt the biological reaction of withdrawal that occurs when caffeine is discontinued, just ask anybody who has suddenly had to go without. Several years ago, I spent a week in the hospital following a serious abdominal surgery. By the third day I suffered from a pounding, painful headache that made me forget the surgical pain. In my naiveté, I blamed the hard pillow. By the fifth day, the headache improved, but mostly because I was again able to ingest my required caffeine. And I’ve been sipping ever since.
Nationwide, cigarette consumption is down. My own observation is that fewer and fewer of my friends or acquaintances still smoke. The ones who cling to the habit, smoke a lot less and tend to smoke privately. Public consumption is way down. It’s just not all that acceptable anymore. For those who need numbers or research, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention says “From 2000 to 2011, total cigarette consumption declined from 435.6 billion to 292.8 billion, a 32.8% decrease. Per capita cigarette consumption declined from 2,076 in 2000 to 1,232 in 2011, a 40.7% decrease.” That’s a lot of relatively new nonsmokers out there.
In contrast to the nicotine statistics, coffee consumption is up. Way up. You’ve observed it, and so have I, but anecdotal evidence isn’t always convincing. I went looking for more statistical evidence and found it from the Small Business Development Center. The SBDC serves America’s small business community, and they say “over 75% of U.S. adults drink coffee, and 58% reported drinking coffee daily.” and “In the same National Coffee Drinking Study, 54% of adults age 25-39 reported drinking coffee each day, another significant increase from the 44% who reported drinking coffee daily during 2010.”The jury’s in. Coffee is the new cigarette. Frequently, we see people carrying their cup of joe with them as they shop, do errands, or just hang out. Whether this is a good thing, we’ll have to leave for another discussion. Summing it up, John Sylvan, inventor of the Keurig coffee system, said of his invention, “It’s like a cigarette for coffee, a single-serve delivery mechanism for an addictive substance.” And the comparison holds up.