For the past three months I’ve been quitting smoking. No, scratch that. I have given up smoking and haven’t touched a cigarette for the past three months. Giving up makes it sound like I just have the occasional one and am cutting down. It makes it sound like something I’ll stop after a while. I, for good or bad, have given up smoking.
I have given it up. I, a heavy smoker – I used to even smoke between smokes – have given it up. Totally changed.
The most extraordinary thing about giving up smoking; to non-smokers I’m a convert. I’ve come over. I’ve joined them. They’re proud of me!
They’re saying “Good for you, you’ve given up the filthy habit. Good good good good!”
To the heavy smokers, who used to be my allies, I’m a traitor.
“Bloody Judas, you of all people.”
I had my first experience of smoking back when I was eleven when my friend stole a pack of Hamlet mild cigars from her dad. My first cigarette was when I was twelve but that probably shouldn’t count as when I started smoking even if it’s when I’ve always counted from. You see kids having their first smoke and they look like such morons, sticking it directly into the centre of their lips and sucking on the damn things like they’re McDonald’s milkshakes fighting to stay in the cup, their eyes wide from the effort and the nicotine hitting them. Immediately after the smoke has entered their mouths it leaves again’ blown out with such force that you can almost see pigs being made homeless as straw and wooden houses fly off into the distance. I was no different and, like all other kids, I was probably like that for a good two years or so before I actually had a lungful of this stuff, walking around thinking I looked cool with my eyes so wide you’d think I’d seen the apocalypse coming and my mouth so pursed that I’d obviously eaten a field of lemons in an attempt to save us all from the coming fires.
Yeah, that’s as close to the expression as I can find. Every duckface has had their first cigarette cut from the photograph.
(Well, there was one closer image that I stumbled across with Safesearch off, but it wasn’t a cigarette in her mouth and I’m not convinced that was an authentic police uniform.)
Before going any further I feel I should clarify that I didn’t choose to do this for my health or even to save money. I’m far from that enlightened. At the end of the day I suppose I’m trying to spite the people who are insistent on putting gross warning labels on the cigarettes, not in an effort to get me to quit smoking but in an effort to stress me out about the fact that I smoke so much that I’ll actually smoke more as a result. That’s the only plausible reason governments would force manufacturers to put pictures of throat tumours and rotting teeth on packs of cigarettes rather than banning them outright. They look like they’re doing something to help you but still pulling in taxes from that sector. And that’s the kicker, right there. The UK government pulls in sixteen billion pounds every year from smokers and smokers cost the NHS three billion pounds per year, giving a profit of about thirteen billion pounds every single year to the government. Contrast that with other equally unhealthy things like overeating (obesity related problems cost the NHS six billion every year which, despite being a large number, is pretty easy to see as twice the cost of smoking related problems) and you’ll start to see a certain level of hypocrisy on the parts of those who say they want to make people quit smoking.
Actually being a smoker is very difficult in today’s society ’cause the pressures are on smokers. Society frowns upon smokers. There are signs everywhere.
SMOKING IS NOT ALLOWED!
SMOKING IS FORBIDDEN!
The Americans are totally lunatic about it;
When I was in America I was smoking and a woman stopped me in the street. She said “You’re smoking!” like I’d exposed myself.
I said “Yes madam”.
She said “You have a cigarette in your mouth”.
I said “I know, I’ve been smoking for years, that’s the only way I know how.”
Then there’s the people who have set up businesses around the idea of helping people to quit smoking. They con you coming and going it seems as all those highly expensive products used to help people quit smoking all have more of that addictive nicotine in them than most people smoke in a couple of hours. That sounds fine for patches and the like that are meant to release the substance over a period of time, but when it’s a spray for the throat you sit up and start to wonder whose side these people are on. The answer, as always is the side of their bank balances. Which is how I found myself trying to quit cold turkey with no help from anything.
I’ve been more successful at that than most people are even with all the help they’re offered, so there’s a potential lesson there.
Even I think that’s a bit young to start. Still, she’s mastered the art of not looking like a fucking idiot already, so kudos for that.
Today marks the third calendar month that I’ve spent with no cigarettes; my 92nd day if you want to be exact. Beyond that you can do your own maths. As is my way I’ve been treating myself with a little present for each month without, and a post here to pat myself on the back for managing to go without for so long. As this is the third month I’m starting to get some of my lung functionality back and this is kind of important to me. Years ago when I was about seven years old a member of my family was travelling around Europe and brought back Tuberculosis which was then passed on to me. My lungs, not being fully formed at the time, were devastated by the disease and were pretty much a mass of scar tissue last time I saw them (in a scan not some creepy knife-wielding way). And that was before I started smoking. It’ll be interesting to see just how much of my lung capacity I manage to get back. I’m not holding out for much to be honest due to the damage that was there before I started smoking, but anything new is a bonus. Remembering how long I’ve been smoking it’s fair to say that I’ve never known my full adult lung capacity. Isn’t that an odd thing to realise?
One of the good things, or one of the new things about giving up smoking is I now have my sense of smell back.
I can actually get up in the morning and open the window, throw it open and breathe in, smell again.
My sense of taste is going through the same comeback. That’s right folks, both of my tastebuds are regrowing, reaching out and making new friends in the tastebud community. They’ve even started throwing sheep at their new buds on Tastebook. It’s kind of like Facebook but with members that aren’t complete tossers. Of course, this expansion in experiences means that they’ve changed a little, evolved to become different people than they’ve been given the chance to for the past twenty smoke-filled years. It’s amazing to think that my tastes, evolving as they do from the time you’re a child, have been built up around a smoker’s palette and that I’m just realising this after quitting. I had hotdogs for the first time since quitting the other day and the mustard, which I had chosen because it is mild and I enjoy having on sandwiches and hotdogs, burned my mouth. The ratio of onions, which I had tweaked over the years until it was just right, was way off.
End of the day my meal wasn’t as enjoyable as I had expected and it seems like I’m going to have to relearn my own tastes for the most part. As someone who has developed a taste for spicy foods, perhaps simply to taste something through the smoke, this should be an eventful learning experience.
I actually thought that when I used to eat food it was the smoking that meant it had no taste.
Its not the smoking, its the food – its bloody tasteless!
Somebody said to me the other day “Shall we eat or have a McDonalds?”
I’ll never understand why smoking was such a reviled practice when other things that are equally unhealthy are pretty much cheered on. I can’t get behind the wheel of a car and kill someone while smoking like a drinker does while drinking – even if you turn the lights off and wait until they’re close before slamming down on the accelerator they still see the glow of the cigarette and get out of the way. Yet the drinkers are encouraged by their friends, cheered as they get more and more dangerous throughout a night. Smokers only get slightly sick feeling if they smoke a cigarette for every unit of alcohol a binge drinker has in a the same period of time, yet are treated like they’ve been rolling newborn babies in paper and setting light to them. The smoker who is only doing harm to themselves is reviled by those who have no problem with getting themselves into a state where they will do harm against others. People see it as the ultimate evil above all others. Even the fact that the background of the picture on the right contains a decapitated child wont deter most people from seeing the young smoking girl as the worst thing in the picture, some to the point that they don’t even notice the headless child on the slide at all.
Now that I’m no longer a smoker I can point these things out and people can’t immediately leap to the thought that I’m only arguing these things because I’m too weak to quit and looking for an excuse. Far from it my friends, I’m looking for some fair treatment here. We live in a world where alcoholism is called a disease due to the dependency that alcoholics have on the legally available substance yet smoking is “the filthy habit”, as pointed out in the wonderful quotes around this post from Dave Allen’s routine based on his experiences when he quit smoking. Why is smoking not given the same excuses and terminology as other problems in the world? Why is it singled out as the worst thing in the world? Why not treat all other problems in the same manner if you’re going to attack one group of people for the legal activity they’re indulging in?
In the words of the sadly deceased comedy genius whose words helped to add some colour to this article;
Thank you, good night, and may your God go with you.