I used to smoke.
I used to scoff at non-smokers.
"What.. are you too weak to handle it?" If one of those do-gooder non-smokers told me about the risks of smoking I would reply, "hasn't done anything to me yet!" Or the infamous, "So and so smoked until they were 90 years old.. didn't bother them."
Of course these reactionary words from me were simply an expression of denial and my inability to come to grips with the reality of my own ignorance and addiction.
I remember feeling cool and tough looking when I smoked. Or perhaps even sophisticated if I took a drag in just the right way;
The "French inhale"- letting smoke come out of your mouth and be drawn up your nose in two silky streams..
The long hold- holding the smoke in your lungs, then speaking without releasing smoke until you finished your sentence, which concluded with a sigh where you let the smoke out. If you were really good at this you could hold enough smoke in your lungs to allow smoke to percolate out of your mouth on the start of your next sentence. Apparently this advanced smoking technique shows how in control you are.
And who could forget blowing circles? While I never quite mastered this pinnacle of smoking prowess, I was able to blow off a few good "o's" now and then. Impressive.
What a wicked irony wherein the smoker is actually displaying the various ways they can introduce toxic chemicals into their bodies under the guise of modelling self control, intellectual superiority, entertaining party tricks, or perhaps even freedom to choose.
After a while those superficial ego based attachments to smoking wained and I had simply become a habitual smoker. It was part of life (sic). Cigarettes were on the grocery list; milk, eggs, bread, veggies, oh yes, and the other necessity; a pack of smokes.
I would receive as gifts fancy ashtrays or high end lighters with the mechanical action of a finely engineered Porsche manual transmission. My favorite lighter was one from Japan; it looked like a cigarette and held the same dimensions; taking off the filter revealed the flint action. Unwittingly these were all ways of celebrating a deadly habit.
Despite the front, inside I always knew that smoking was not a smart decision. Eventually this other me, the non-smoking me, made an increasing presence in my conscious thought. You know the heart beat sound at the beginning of "Dark Side of The Moon", by Pink Floyd? That's how my desire to quit started. Faint, but grew steadily, and finally a huge relief to defeat the beast.
Before success though, I failed many times. I tried cutting down, switching to "light" cigarettes (what a joke those are), and went cold turkey. Then there was the throat infection. It was pretty bad. A doctor told me if I didn't quit right then, the throat infection could take a turn for the worse and become very, very serious.
Go here for the conclusion on how I finally quit smoking.
It's been known for decades that smoking, if you do it long enough, will eventually cause serious health problems. This might give the impression that one has some time to consider their smoking habit.
It's now understood that there is no safe level of cigarette smoke exposure either first or second hand. The chemical constituents of cigarette smoke instantaneously cause cellular damage.
Quitting smoking has immediate benefits.
I can confess that quitting feels really good. Instantly sleep quality improves, cognition improves, energy levels increase, and best of all you don't have that beast of burden dragging you down. Maybe that isn't the real "best of all"; that might best be reserved for the fact that quitting smoking saves your life both physically and emotionally.
If you're a smoker; quit. You'll like it :-)