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Someone who doesn't smoke is, for whatever reason, trying to act like he does. He lights the cigarette, takes a big drag and...
COUGH COUGH COUGH GAGGHHHH!
This, of course, completely ruins the act. Most commonly done by teenagers trying to look cool
, but sometimes done by adults in order to maintain The Masquerade
. Compare Of Course I'm Not A Virgin
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- In Thoroughly Modern Millie, Millie does this to act casual outside of a Chinese opium den. It didn't end well.
- In Legend Of Zorro, Elana gets rid of Armand so she can talk to Alejandro by asking him to buy her a pipe. Much later, after she and Armand have had dinner, a servant brings "her" pipe. Initially she says she needs her stomach to settle first, but when she needs an excuse to be out on the balcony, she's forced to light up.
Armand: Are you all right?
Armand: My God, you're turning green.
- In Smokey and the Bandit, Sally Field's character, Frog, takes up smoking the Bandit's cigarettes, and is obviously a non-smoker.
Bandit: "I think you should give it up." (referring to the cigarette on which she's choking)
- Variation in Being There. Chance and Ben Rand are having an after-dinner discussion and the latter enjoys a cigar. Chance has a habitual tendency to imitate what he sees others do, so he tries to do the same, but finds he cannot light it — as he didn't see Ben slicing off the tip of his cigar beforehand. Ben doesn't notice his problem, but Dr. Allenby does, furthering his suspicions about who Chance really is.
- In The Spirit of St Louis, Charles Lindbergh is offered a cigar while meeting with prominent businessmen about obtaining funding for his flight. Hilarity Ensues because he isn't sure how to light it.
- In The Hunt for Red October, the first meeting between the Soviet officers and the Americans is tense and silent. Jack Ryan breaks the tension by asking for a cigarette from Chief Engineer Melekhin, even though Ryan had refused cigarettes over the course of the film. His cough amuses the Soviets and lightens the mood for them to begin talking.
- Anna does this once in My Sister's Keeper when she's in the car with Jesse.
- In one of Isaac Asimov's Black Widowers stories, the guest specializes in job interviews, and he relates the story of a man who nervously lit up in the middle of an interview, suffered a coughing fit, and admitted that he really didn't smoke—he was just trying to look cool. Of course, the job went to the other candidate. However, the Black Widowers deduce that the man was an ex-smoker who staged the scene in order to force the interviewer to choose the other candidate; they were accomplices in a plot to embezzle money from the company. He faked the coughing fit, but forgot to conceal the fact that he could light a match with one hand.
- The first time Pudge smokes in Looking for Alaska, he tries to act cool about it and then nearly coughs up a lung, though he ends up smoking pretty regularly.
- In The Hunt for Red October, Jack Ryan was an occasional smoker: Smoke for a while, quit for a while, but never more than two or three a day at his worst. He tries to break the tension of the initial meeting between Americans and Russians by bumming a smoke off the Russian engineer. He immediately begins coughing; fortunately, this provides the levity needed to break the ice. The Russian cigarette was described as "like smoking asphalt through a cardboard tube."
- Esme Squalor in A Series of Unfortunate Events is obsessed with what is "in", and in the 10th book, she smokes what she thinks are cigarettes (they're actually flares), and despite bluntly stating she hates the smell, the taste, and the fact that they're bad for you, she remains on the hunt for more to smoke which the Baudelaires use to bait her.
- Happens with the female journalist Raffles hires to help run his sporting magazine in "The Raffles Bombshell" by Barry Perowne:
"She made out that she smoked Sullivans, Like Raffles, but I knew this was just a gesture of emancipation, as cigarettes made her cough."
- In the first story in The Wonder Spot by Melissa Bank, the protagonist smokes for the first time at the age of 12, when a bullying classmate offers her a cigarette and she tries to play it cool. She is initially overcome with nausea and pretends she dropped an earring so she can put her head between her legs. However, she's a smoker for the rest of the book. (At work one day, while commiserating with a nerdy co-worker who's just been screwed out of her big break, the heroine offers her a cigarette "almost as a joke," but is pleasantly surprised to learn that the co-worker really does smoke and doesn't "just hold it and take non-inhaling puffs like my grandmother.")
Live Action TV
- Greg did this in The Brady Bunch. Ironically, Barry Williams (who played Greg) had just quit when they did the episode, which made him start up again.
- The old Batman TV show used this when Robin/Dick was trying to infiltrate a gang of "delinquents".
- On The Wonder Years, in an episode where the Arnold family goes on a vacation at a lake house, Kevin tries to flirt with a girl who smokes that he just met by showing that he smokes, too, resulting in a coughing fit.
- On Seinfeld, George tried this to get out of the planned marriage with Susan. It doesn't work, either.
- In an episode of Friends, Rachel tries to take up smoking because her boss and other assistant make all their decisions in the smoker's lounge. She is not successful.
- In the Small Wonder episode "Smoker's Delight", Jamie experimented with tobacco in hope of becoming more popular as a freshman in junior high school.
- Donna does this in the first season of Twin Peaks. Apparently she's the only person in her high school who doesn't smoke.
- In Frasier, Niles ends up pretending that he came outside to smoke, too embarrassed to admit that he and his brother couldn't get tickets and are waiting for them in the cancellation line.
- Captain Picard in the season one episode "The Big Goodbye", during his first time on the holodeck as Dixon Hill. He takes a drag on a cigarette very suavely, and then chokes and puts it down. He may have become more accustomed to smoking, though, because later on in the series he smokes as Hill again, with no trouble.
- In Breaking Bad, Walter White bums a cigarette from Jesse Pinkman in an attempt at conviviality. It's obvious that Walter has never smoked a cigarette in his life.
- Peggy (before she started smoking) and Pete have both done this on Mad Men. Peggy also chokes on a drink to similar effect while trying to act like a flashy Manhattanite for a blind date. ("My friend Joan orders them for me. They're usually sweeter.")
- Terri from The Thick of It has a cigarette with hapless Opposition MP Peter Mannion, in order to flirt with him. (He doesn't notice either the flirting or that she is rather obviously not a smoker.)
- One quick scene from "The Rise of the Nutters" shows Malcolm Tucker, of all people, having a cough attack over a cigar. The waiter seems amused.
- Happens on Puberty Blues when the Alpha Bitch offers the two protagonists a cigarette as a thank you for not turning her in for cheating and, wanting to be in with the cool girls, they accept.
- A variation occurs in Full House; Stephanie is offered a cigarette by her peers, and she declines, saying she's trying to quit.
- School Shock: Hao Xuan went through hard times, and tries calming down with a smoke - it ends as expected. He still pulls it through, though.
- In Calvin And Hobbes, Calvin tries smoking a cigarette. At the end of the strip, Calvin comments that it was trusting parents that caused him to smoke and therefore damage his health.
- It should be noted that his mom knew this trope was coming and let Calvin smoke in order to teach him a lesson.
- Katawa Shoujo plays with this in Rin's route. She asks for cigarettes as inspiration and winds up smoking in the studio with Hisao. She makes a note of never having smoked cigarettes before, but doesn't cough when she inhales. Hisao does though.
- Syrus "the Virus" in Exterminatus Now did it on the cast page. Discussed on the next page:
Harold: You mean it was a lame attempt to look like a badass.
Syrus: Did it work?
Harold: Nah, you just looked like a regular ass.
- Dominic Deegan does this to himself. He lights his pipe, inhales, and... discovers that when his white mage brother Gregory healed him earlier, he also cured his smoking habit.
- Averted in Homestuck by Cronus Ampora, who constantly has a cigarette between his lips, despite never having it lit, merely because it looks "cool". Helps that he is almost fetishizes humans, and has gone to almost every length to resemble them.
- Goblin Hollow: Lily's cousin carries lit cigs around without ever actually taking a drag merely to annoy people and because "trashy women all smoke, it's in the union rules".
- The Simpsons:
- In "Homer vs. Patty and Selma", Patty and Selma are caught smoking at work and are about to be fired when Homer, in an uncharacteristically gallant mood, claims the cigarettes are his and smokes them, claiming between coughs and gags that he is "in flavor country".
- In 'El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer (The Mysterious Voyage of Homer)', Marge (a nonsmoker) claims she "just felt like filling the house with the rich, satisfying smell of tobacco." She's trying to overwhelm the smell of the chili cookoff so Homer won't go to it.
- Also happens in "Brother's Little Helper" to Ned Flanders as he and Maude play hippies in a fire safety play. Though his cough from smoking is the least of his problems as he inadvertently sets his pants ablaze.
- Parodied in "The Great Money Caper". After failing to con Flanders, Homer and Bart hide in the treehouse, where Grampa is waiting for them in a dark corner with a pipe.
Grampa: Amateurs! [lights up]
Grampa: That's right!
Bart: You don't smoke a pipe.
Grampa: That's right! [coughs]
- On Futurama, Kif does this, causing incredible reactions from his alien body.
- In The Cleveland Show, Tim the bear becomes an evil boss so Cleveland has to smoke to get a break.
- The plot of the Family Guy episode "Secondhand Spoke" starts when Peter tries to pick up smoking to get breaks at work.
- An early example can be seen in the Rankin/Bass Tales of the Wizard of Oz animated series episode "Get Out the Vote", when the literally-brainless scarecrow Socrates tries smoking a cigar as part of his getting into politics. He figures "all politicians smoke cigars," and mentions he'd never smoked before, and then he takes a puff and immediately starts coughing and hacking, to the shock of the other Munchkin politicians.
- The Nostalgia Critic attempts a moment of suave smoking during a parody of The Twilight Zone, only to collapse in a coughing fit.
- But subverted and justified in his review of Double Team, where he lights up a cigarillo in celebration of the film's climax. Cigarillos are classed as less harmful than cigarettes, as you don't inhale; you just keep the smoke in your mouth and breathe out.