National Non-Smoking Week January 18–24, 2009
Above link takes you to Cancer Society of Canada quit smoking page
Go to the library with the "geeks", or step out back behind the school with the more cool crowd. In hindsight my teen years probably would have fared better if I followed my instincts and went to the library. With a not so completely developed self esteem I felt like a dose of coolness would do me good.
While the geeks were busy doing their nerdy intellectual stuff, I was about to get a lesson in socialization that ultimately was one of the most stupid decisions I have made in life. One of the bad-boy cool guys was appeasing his flock by handing out smokes, and I was at the end of the receiving line.
Each person who accepted a smoke seemed to be more accepted by Mr. Cool and as he got closer to me my nervousness increased. I don’t smoke. I tried it before and threw up. I hate smoking. I hide my grandmothers cigarettes because I know smoking hurts her.
“How ‘bout you? Smoke?” The subliminal message was, “if you don’t take this smoke you are weak.” “Oh yeah, I smoke all the time, give me one of those.”
The first puff was disgusting and made me cough. “Are you sure you smoke; ‘cause you don’t look like you do.” “Oh yeah, I just have a bit of sore throat today.. no big deal.” After a few more puffs and a world of willpower to suppress coughing I started feeling dizzy and ill, but at least I was cool.
It all made sense now, the Marlborough Man, Joe Camel, various movie stars.. If you have a smooth and confident technique when you take a drag, especially if you can pull off the advanced and uber-cool “French inhale” where you let a fine whisper of smoke escape your mouth and direct it up your nose- you were tough, sophisticated and cool all at once.
Of course now you look like a jackass who’s stinking out the joint. The socialization of smoking has evolved; you’re no longer part of the in-crowd if you smoke. Now you’re outcast, banned, and shunned. Good thing I sold my shares when I did. There is a problem with the shaming of smokers though, aside from being a little on the inhumane side, it has also led to more closet smokers. Closet smokers can feel embarrassed or ashamed about their habit and are less likely to tell their doctors about their habit, and less likely to seek help with quitting for fear of being shamed. Shaming someone who smokes doesn't work, encouraging to quit by emphasising health benefits may. Nagging doesn't work either, as nagging is offensive.
Even though there is greater social pressure than ever to quit smoking, nearly 20% of the population still smokes. This should be zero as purposefully inhaling smoke from something that is burning is just plain stupid, no matter how you look at it.
Nevertheless, I do understand and fully comprehend the inner pull to smoke and how difficult it can be to quit. I remember prior to quitting the more people told me to quit and about the negative effects, the more I rebelled. It took a long time to accept that these people were not selfish or naïve, they were not hapless do-gooders, they were not control freak conformists trying to control me. They were not trying to push me into something I needed to do on my own terms. They knew I was harming myself and knew my life would be better if I didn’t smoke. They also knew something I didn’t; I had the power to quit any time I wanted; and the sooner the better.
I remember all my denial strategies:
You can’t tell me what to do, It’s my life and if I want to smoke then that’s the way it will be. (Control and authority issue)
I’m “addicted” and addiction is beyond my control, what can I do about it? (Just plain denial)
I’ll quit on my terms, don’t bug me! (Control and authority again)
I like smoking, it calms me. (Yes, sometimes I liked smoking and felt it calmed me, but in the back of my mind I knew this was a lie to myself- it was denial)
There were other things I told myself and others who smoke will have their own ways of justifying smoking and although I don’t believe it, some people claim to enjoy each and every smoke they have, even the ones that make them go into a coughing fit where they hack up gooey phlegm.
What I really believe is that on different levels, from those ready to quit today to those who’s desire to stop is more deeply suppressed, no one who smokes actually wants’ to keep smoking. That may sound patronizing to some, but I really do believe it.
It was the fear of death and disease that drove me to stop smoking, but it was the health benefits of not smoking that kept me from starting up again. I had failed at quitting smoking several times before.
The strength of my will and my personal convictions were strongest on my last attempt, which is why I succeeded. I quit on my own, but studies show that being part of a group that quits or having peer support can increase your chance of success by 50%. What really helped on the last day was crushing my last pack of smokes, then tearing it up and trash-canning it. I also threw out lighters, matches, ashtrays; anything to do with smoking I threw out. I swore out loud at the cigarettes and declared victory, then went for a long and hard bike ride. These emotional and physical actions helped me seal the deal
Whatever path to quit smoking one takes the end result is the same; you will make the decision to not light up despite having a desire to do so. Every smoker has this ability, although some will deny this until the day they quit. Funny how that works.
I replaced smoking with exercise. I did so unwittingly, I didn’t know what we know now: exercise reduces the responsiveness to smoking related cues. Of course exercise makes you feel better than smoking does, but at the time I used exercise to divert me from smoking. Some use eating, and gain weight.
We know now that quitting smoking does not cause weight gain; only eating more does. So when you quit be aware of feeling tempted to occupy yourself with something to overcome the craving to smoke. If you suppress smoking cravings by eating more, you’ll get fat.
Some positive effects of quitting smoking:
You get rid of that damn ball and chain that has been eating away at your inner self
Within 8 hours of not smoking carbon dioxide levels in your blood reduce and oxygen levels increase
Over the next two days to two weeks sense of smell and taste improve and lungs work better making it easier to breath.
1 year smoke free reduces risk of smoking related heart attack is cut in half.
I know there is challenge involved with quitting, I also know every smoker can do it and will experience immediate benefits.
The Cancer Society of Canada has helpful info for smokers who want to quit and for non-smokers who want to help smokers quit.