One Cigarette Won't Kill You or Will it?
Are you a former smoker?
One man's journey to quit smoking. The best way to quit is to not start at all!
The year was 1974 and a pack of cigarettes in New York was about 35 cents. Smoking was not only considered cool by young kids, it was the norm. It was what you did if you wanted to fit in. Every kid in the neighborhood smoked and why not, all of our parents smoked. So did our roles models, favorite athletes, teachers, priests and even our doctors!
Like most 12 year olds, I was impressionable and followed the rest of the gang. My buddy Scott and I would go down to the corner store and buy a pack of Parliaments and then make our way to the school yard to smoke. Imagine that, 2 young kids buying smokes with no problems. Back then there was no age requirement and we never realized just how dangerous cigarettes were for our bodies. As it turns out the Surgeon General was already placing warning labels on cigarette packs in the United States which started on 1966. But who read labels back then?
In 1966 the labels simply stated that “Smoking may be hazardous to your health”. It was not until 1970 that the warning was revised with stronger language advising that “The Surgeon General has determined that cigarette smoking is dangerous to your health”. By 1974 these labels did little for me and my friends and possibly the nation as a whole!
Back in those days everyone smoked and they smoked everywhere. People were smoking on trains, in restaurants and even in the movie theatre -last ten rows please! It would be interesting to see people’s reaction back then if they were told that smoking would eventually be prohibited in all of these places in the future.
I continued smoking as the years rolled on. Little by little we as a society were slowly indoctrinated as to the harmful effects of smoking. Unfortunately for most of us it may have been too late. At 22 years of age I had already been smoking for a decade and it was part of my life albeit a part that might eventually end it! I had no intention of quitting now.
Eventually I met my future wife, a non-smoker, and like many smokers before me I made the hollow promises to quit smoking. The months and years rolled by and I continued to smoke and make promises. I promised not to smoke in the car but I did – I did crack the window! I promised not to smoke in front of her parents but I did – I did go in the back yard!
Married at age 24, I finally made the most solemn promise to my new bride that I would definitely quit smoking when she got pregnant with our first child. Little did we know that I would have another 7 years before I would have to live up to that promise!
Fast forward, the year is now 1992 and I am 30 years old having just received the exciting news that we had a baby on the way! Panic slowly sets in as I come to the realization that I may actually have to give up my one and only vice. No cigarettes? What does one do while drinking coffee or socializing with friends? This was going to be perhaps one of the most difficult challenges of my life but I was determined to hold up my end of the bargain!
For several days I thought about my dilemma. How could I give up one love for another? How would I attack this problem? Finally after much thought and reflection I accepted the fact that I was addicted to cigarettes and the only way I could quit smoking was cold-turkey. Yes cold-turkey, it had to be done, there was no other way as I simply did not have the will power.
And so it began- day 1. I literally threw away a couple of unopened packs of cigarettes; I even tossed my lighters- except my gold plated Zippo! I read up a lot of what to expect so I thought I was ready. I changed my morning routine, chewed a lot of gum and drank a lot of water - all to no avail. The withdrawal process was slow and painful. I was irritable and short tempered, after a couple of days it got so bad that my friends and family were actually telling me to have a cigarette!
I had to stay strong, I could do this!!! I found myself very sleepy during the day which was somewhat helpful since I was not craving cigarettes while I slept. Little by little it got easier and easier. One week turned into two and then three! People were starting to tell me they were proud of me which gave me even more motivation! Finally weeks turned into months and I was convinced that I kicked the habit!
Fast forward (again); it has now been twenty years since I had my last cigarette- not even one! Many friends and family have also quit over the years. The weird thing is occasionally I will still have a craving when I get a whiff of tobacco. I guess one is never totally cured. I am now 50 years old and feeling relatively healthy- except for my diabetes diagnosis but that is another story!