Smoking and not smoking

Yesterday I went to a “smoking cessation clinic” at my local GPs. It was half an hour with a pleasant nurse, who measured my carbon monoxide level (It was 16. Apparently a non-smoker has a level of 1) and discussed whether I would prefer patches or gum. I chose lozenges. Ever the non-conformist.

She asked me why I wanted to stop smoking and I hesitated. It’s a long story.

I explained that every time I smoke I cough explosively and that I wheeze and struggle for breath, and that I have stomach problems that are exacerbated by the smoking. And of course, my doctor told me two weeks ago that if I continue smoking I’ll get an obstructive pulmonary disease like emphysema. Which isn’t good.

But I had hesitated because I like smoking. More than that, I like being a smoker. It’s part of my identity. If I picture myself at my glamorous best, handsome and windswept outside a stylish bar, I’m smoking a cigarette. If I imagine a series of arty black-and-white portraits of myself, I’m smoking a cigarette. It’s endlessly romantic, cool, and since I don’t feel endlessly romantic or cool, I cling to it. And that is going to be tough to change.

I told her how I felt, and she replied that surely nowadays, with the smoking ban and general social disapproval of tobacco, it was easier to be a non-smoker. I shrugged. I told her that it’s more that there’s not really such a thing as a casual smoker anymore. The battle lines have been drawn and a lot of smokers are digging in. You can’t be a weekend smoker anymore – you’re either a non-smoker or a proper, hardcore, committed smoker. This is no time for amateurs.

Between 1998 and 2002 I didn’t smoke a single cigarette, but mentally I was in a different place back then. I can’t say I was happier or stronger, but I felt more certain about life. Nowadays things seem far more uncertain and it’s much easier to draw comfort in a cigarette.

We agreed that Monday would be the date I officially quit. I managed to avoid buying any more cigarettes in the evening, although I pinched one off my girlfriend. Today I bought 20 Marlboro Lights, but I’ve hardly smoked any of them. At the moment I’m not terribly optimistic about quitting, but we’ll see how it goes.

I don’t want encouragement, I just want to take a mental leap to somewhere else.

4 thoughts on “Smoking and not smoking

  1. Hi G u y…

    A LUNG full of P-O-S-I-T-R-O-N-I-C g o o d n e s s will V A N I S H the n-e-g-a-t-r-o-n-s from your C-o-r-r-u-p-t C R A N I U M of Filth…..

    If YOU w-a-n-t it, and F-E-E-L WILL h a p p e n….

  2. Stop smoking you fuckwit. It kills you. Dead. Cancer is not pretty or glamorous or romantic or cool. It painful and obscene and disgusting. To make out that smoking is an almost medical prop to help you through “uncertain times” marks you out as a wanker with a persecution complex as well as a complete cunt. The battle lines are drawn. You may have noticed from the skull and cross bones on your uniform that you are not one of the good guys.

  3. Try to encourage the girlfriend to join you on your campaign of change. Please. She might take some notice of you.

  4. Rubbish! You totally can be a casual smoker – I got so bored of getting cold/wet/up in order to smoke at work that I’ve slowly stopped doing it altogether. Now I only smoke if I’m drinking alcohol – I can’t resist the lure. Weekends it is, then.

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