You may have noticed that there is a tremendous promotion going on for cigar smoking. All over the world, rooms are being reserved for people to smoke $10 and $20 stogies, and photos keep popping up in all the swell magazines showing women smoking up a storm.

As a born-again nonsmoker I am appalled that this is happening. I lit my first White Owl when I was 16 years old and only dropped the filthy habit 15 years ago. There's nothing worse than an ex-cigar smoker who is now clean.

In my time I experienced all the joys of smoking and also suffered the slings and arrows of friends who disapproved of my habit but didn't have the nerve to complain.

In the golden days of Cuba I blew smoke in people's faces and ruined their clothes, driving hundreds of people I knew to the dry cleaners.

One of the reasons I could get away with it was that the movers and shakers of the world, such as Winston Churchill and Fidel Castro, always smoked cigars, and they had created an image of power.

I was so closely identified with cigars that I was once made "Cigar Man of the Year" by the manufacturers. This was the equivalent of a knighthood and guaranteed me a year's supply of Romeo and Juliets from Cuba.

So what happened? It was not a human being that made me give up smoking--it was God. One day as I was puffing away, He grabbed me by the chest and said in a booming voice, "Knock it off!"

At first I thought He was kidding, but He wasn't. He tightened His grip on my chest and said, "This is the last time I'm going to tell you, put that thing out. If you continue to smoke, I'll do terrible things to you."

I said, "I'll quit next week, I promise." He thundered back, "TODAY--NOW--THIS MINUTE!"

At that moment I put the last cigar I ever smoked into an ashtray.

It was one of the best moves I ever made, because I am now accepted in social circles wherever I go and people don't turn green in the face when they talk to me.

Based on the people I know, the new cigar craze won't last. As soon as God hears about people trying to sneak a puff, He'll start holding people by their chests until they get the message. The word on the street is that the Almighty is no longer fooling around.

(C) 1999, Los Angeles Times Syndicate