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Confessions and Musings of Former Smoker
Friday, 13 August 2010 15:58
August 13, 2010 — I used to smoke cigarettes, back when 4 out of 5 of us indulged. Deep in our hearts we knew it was a nasty habit, but since most everyone else did it, and examples of its presence were everywhere 24/7, we all became used to the lingering smell and the ubiquitous smoke.

Although difficult for someone who has never lit up to understand, there was great pleasure in smoking, but that enjoyment was driven primarily by being addicted to nicotine, which, I am told, is one of the most demanding cravings known.

I made it all the way through high school without smoking, and was a junior in college before I succumbed to the filthy weed. I even took pains to make it possible for me to inhale, which up to that time was not only impossible for me, it launched me into prolonged fits of coughing. Not to be deterred, and using a pair of tweezers, I removed the outermost ‘filter’ from a Parliament cigarette (are they still around?) and inserted the filter end of a pipe in its place — forming a sort of FDR-style holder. Doing so thinned the smoke down enough that I was able to inhale the carcinogen-laden air into my lungs with little difficulty.

Wasn’t I smart!

Smoking was a cheap habit in my day: A pack would set you back an average of 30 cents, and a full carton could be had for $2.50 for much of the time when I was inhaling. (Later, in the final years of my horrible habit, I recall an incident when in New York on business. While chatting in the hotel lobby with friends and colleagues, I realized I was out of cigarettes. I found a machine off the lobby near the men’s room, but was floored by the price I would have to pay for the pack I wanted: 85 cents!

I was never a heavy smoker, but probably averaged half a pack a day until that day 32 years ago when I cold-turkeyed after a lifetime of smoking took my father well before his time. I quit on a Monday, and the following Saturday we had been invited to a big party, where beer, wine and booze would be flowing, with the majority present smoking their cigarettes, pipes and cigars.

I don’t know how I made it through that week. The nicotine withdrawal was bad enough, and thinking of the upcoming party didn’t ease my pain, but somehow I did it. My suffering was eased to some degree when I stopped on the way to that Saturday bash and bought a sweet, cheap cigar, stuck it in my mouth and gnawed on it through the evening, unlit.

I began running again (had done a little in college) within a few weeks of going through the frigid fowl routine, and when able to actually run two full blocks without stopping and wheezing, I thought I’d really done something.

Considering today’s prices, dire warnings and anti-social attitudes now attached to the smoking habit, you’d think these negatives would be enough to make anyone give it up. But even though the percentage of smokers is way down, there are more of us on the planet today than when I was in college, so the subtle marketing remains and people keep lighting up.

How can these addicts be saved? My guess: Someone will soon develop a cigarette that looks, smells and gives off the same euphoric feeling as the real McCoy, but which will carry with it no carcinogens whatsoever. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see, assuming those of you still smoking are alive.



 
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