Friday, November 10, 2006

The Demon Weed

For some strange reason, smoking has been a recurring trend in my life recently. I quit smoking on September 30, 2005, a little more than a year ago. My primary reason for doing so was a statistic stating that children of smokers ran a 60% greater chance of dying of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) than the children of non-smokers. Of course, I quickly considered many ways that this statistic could have been misleading. For example, many smokers are lower income, which could connect to numerous other causes of SIDS. However, I knew that I was only making excuses, and that I needed to quit. So I stopped smoking roughly a week before the birth of my child.

I got Doc Shepherd, my friendly neighborhood GP, to give me a prescription for Welbutrin, which had helped me quit the other time I stopped (I stayed off for a year and a half that time). As he rarely did this, he wasn't sure about what he was doing, so (as I later learned), he underdosed me. While I was able to stop, it was a constantly-sweating, white-knuckled time that was only exascerbated by the arrival of the fruit of my loins, not to mention a timely visit from my in-laws.

Still, with the help of determination, medication, and the realization that my wife would castrate me if she smelled smoke on my clothes, I stopped. Over the next few months, as I spent a lot of time with my brand-new daughter, discovering a new love and rediscovering food, I put on over 25 pounds, which I'm still trying to lose. More to the point, I also discovered the return of my own super sense of smell, and my ability to detect a cigarette across a distance of roughly half a mile. Although the smell disgusts me, my disgust is tinged with a slight attraction (all in all, it's the same feeling I get from Tara Reid. Or Eva Braun.). However, I've now managed to go over a year without a cigarette, and I have no intention of smoking again.

I now get a little annoyed at smokers. I wish they wouldn't tempt me with their smoke, and I seem to remember being a little more courteous when I was in their shoes. However, I know exactly what's happening here, and I'm determined to avoid falling into the born-again nonsmoker trap. You see, as easy as it is to criticize smokers, we need to face the simple fact that our criticism, hatred, and snottiness not only don't make it easier for them to quit, but actually may goad them into continuing their habit. After all, what could be more satisfying than blowing some smoke into the face of a health Nazi who has just fake-coughed at you?

How could we make it easier for smokers to quit? Well, how about recognizing that quitting is among the hardest things in the world? As somone who's been through some pretty tough times, I have no problem stating that quitting smoking is the most difficult thing I've ever done. Some people say quitting smoking is as hard as quitting heroin. I disagree; for me, at least, quitting smoking was as hard as quitting air. Unlike heroin, cigarettes are available on every street corner. On a basic level, quitting smoking involved changing my life, my routines, my priorities, and even my personality. In fact, as I went through it, I had to wonder what part of myself wasn't fundamentally changing.

Another thing we could do would be to stop blaming the victims. Frankly, smokers are victims of their addictions. If you were to ask prospective smokers if they wanted to be reliant on cigarettes for their well being, I'm sure that most would say no. Frankly, by the time I was aware of the consequences of smoking, I was sucking down over a pack a day. Did I want to funnel my money into the pockets of Big Tobacco? Did I want to spend several years of my life inventorying my stash of cigarettes before every vacation, graduation, or other major event? Did I want to have to skip out of every family gathering to grab a cigarette? No, of course not!

Well, actually, I liked having an excuse to duck out of family gatherings. That's one of the things I really miss about smoking.

Another thing we might try is funding anti-smoking aids. The first time I quit, I had to pay over $100 a month for Zyban. Luckily, my insurance took care of the Welbutrin prescription the second time around. Still, if we really want people to quit smoking, why don't we pick up the tab? Even with the rising cost of cigarettes, I always found that it was more expensive to pay for the patch, nicorette, or other things that would help me quit. In the short term, it made more economic sense for me to stick with the coffin nails.

Finally, if we really think that cigarettes are killing people, doesn't it behoove us to make them illegal? Yes, we will need to up the subsidies to the tobacco farmers while they switch crops. Yes, we'll probably have to help the cigarette companies while they retool. And, yes, we'll have to change cigarettes into a controlled substance that can only be purchased with a prescription. However, if we all agree that these things are killing people, then why don't we make it impossible for sixteen year olds to get them?

And, until that great day comes, I call on all non-smokers to stop harassing their less-fortunate breathren. See smokers for what they are: society's last politically-correct scapegoat. They're what african americans used to be and what gays are in the process of un-becoming. They are our lepers, our sin-eaters, and our goats. They're the ones who make us feel better about our own shortcomings and crappy health. If that doesn't make them due for some serious appreciation, then I don't know what does.

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  • Congrats on quitting! I did it 5 years ago and still want to breath in that second hand smoke..and that pic of the cig on your blog looks delicious! Ah......

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 10, 2006 at 9:11 AM  

  • Smoking is a sign of cool maleness in many places here. It was lot more prevalent and ultra-cool during my college days, though it has lost its sheen these days and most authorities are banning it. Even I smoked for a few days but always felt suffocated for want of clean air.

    My grandpa still smokes and can't give-up. Initially we were angry with him for continuing, but now we just feel pity.

    I hardly harass any smoker(not that I do that to other type of people), but someone smoking in a closed public place like bus or train just makes me mad. Give it up!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 10, 2006 at 9:36 AM  

  • For me, giving up was easy when I really wanted to do it, but when I gave up, I realised what the smoking was doing for me - I used it to cover up a lot of my insecurity in social situations. Once I confronted that, I didn't need to smoke. Now it completely disgusts me.

    Nothing like a born-again non-smoker.


    By Blogger Glamourpuss, At November 10, 2006 at 9:41 AM  

  • I agree with you that it is the hardest thing I have ever done, and its not like once you quit you are all done and all is well, it is a continuing struggle to not pick up that cigarette, to not go buy that pack. Sure it gets easier, but it never goes away completely.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 10, 2006 at 10:09 AM  

  • Hooray for you and yes on all your suggestions to fix the tobacco industry. I quit smoking about 4 years ago. I don't mind the smell when I'm expecting it (bars, casinos, etc.), but I can't wait to ditch my stinky clothes when I get home!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 10, 2006 at 10:49 AM  

  • Congratulations on quitting!! I have a friend right now that is quitting...
    Although I don't like the smell of smoke and I do like to harass my smoking friends (in jest), I remember working as a hostess...some non-smokers opted to sit in the smoking section (this was back in the day..) and then complained to the waiter about people smoking!! He told me that they asked him to tell the people not to smoke...I told him "tell them not to breath. They're in the smoking section!"

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 10, 2006 at 11:31 AM  

  • Odat-
    Yeah, I'm rethinking the cigarette picture...

    And, while I'm on the subject, Bogie made smoking look way too cool.

    It's funny, but I hated secondhand smoke, even when I was a smoker. I couldn't even stand my own secondhand smoke. I'm with you on that particular irritation.

    It's hard to fight against your own inclinations, isn't it? Now that I've quit, I sometimes find myself wondering why other people can't get with it and quit, too.

    Then I remember how long it took me to quit.

    By the way, thanks for stopping by. I love your blog!

    Right there with you. I just keep reminding myself of how horrendously painful it was to quit. I never want to go through that again.

    I'm not there yet. I can handle smoky places for a little while, but I still feel the pull a little too much. I'm with you about the smell on my clothes. Ugh!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

    Been there! In the student center at my university, there was one place that was open for smoking. It was a ratty couch on the third floor. One day, a lady came up to the space, started fake coughing, and loudly demanded that I put out my cigarette. I pointed out the "Smoking permitted" sign and noted that she could go anywhere else in the building if she didn't want to deal with my smoke.

    It's like some of the anti-smoking people are health kamikazes, setting themselves up for suffering so that they can have a reason to complain. Seriously, get a hobby.

    Wow. You really got me on a roll. I guess I've still got some anger there.

    Anyway, thanks for dropping by!

    By Blogger Crankster, At November 10, 2006 at 12:08 PM  

  • I have a confession to make, I am a born-again-used-2-smoke-2-packs-a-day nonsmoker. I quit a few months before I got married. On our honeymoon I smoked 2 packs in one night of drinking. I threw up for 2 days in the shower. Thank the gods hotels don't run out of hot water! It's been 15 years and I still can't stand it. The thought of inhaling smoke into my lungs makes me queasy.

    But I don't care if other people smoke, and I certainly don't want it illegalized. Less government! Make everything legal and watch the Darwin theory work! We've given up enough of our rights.

    But there is ONE thing that should be punishable by death...and that is throwing goddamned cigarette butts out goddamned car windows so they hit the goddamned car behind them. It's rude, it's littering, it's maddening! Wanna pollute their bodies...fine! Use the ashtrays!

    Whew! Sorry. It's just a little pet peeve! ;)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 10, 2006 at 1:43 PM  

  • I quit September 26, 2003 when the surgeon said, "your broken arm will never heal if you don't quit smoking." Not being able to shave, shower, cut my own food, and a few thousand other little things made quitting a tad bit easier. Still, it wasn't fun.

    I am amazed at how much you are like me, but generally better and slimmer. If I adopt you, do I have to change my name to Crankster? Or George?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 10, 2006 at 2:27 PM  

  • I just quit smoking. In the car on the way home because I ran out of cigarettes.

    It's been one hour.

    By Blogger mist1, At November 10, 2006 at 4:16 PM  

  • Lee-
    Any time someone's lit butt finds its way into my general area, I get a little ticked off. Courtesy is fairly easy to pull off; I'm depressed that more people don't do it.

    There's nothing like a broken arm to put quitting smoking in perspective. Of course, you and I had it easy--we had a reason that was constantly there.

    I think that, if you adopted me, we'd need to look into hyphenates, and we might add German titles in for fun. So my daughter could be Georgia von Crankster-CEO.

    That first hour's a huge bitch, isn't it?

    By Blogger Crankster, At November 10, 2006 at 5:18 PM  

  • the nearest Ive come to giving up is going for a lighter brand (yeah right as if its better for you!) anyhoo I think you need to want to give them up and at the moment even though my educated mind tells me I have no business touching the coffin nails my willpower is saying uh uh youre not doing that just yet. Like I said you got to want to give them up and for all the self righteous anti smokers out there I suggest you google bill hicks and smoking :)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 10, 2006 at 5:48 PM  

  • Judith-
    Nobody makes smoking look nice like Bill Hicks. I'm pretty sure his rants against nonsmokers kept me on the cigarettes for an extra couple of months.

    Of course, the self-righteous nonsmokers also made it look attractive.

    By Blogger Crankster, At November 10, 2006 at 8:27 PM  

  • I grew up in a house with second hand smoke but have never smoked myself, although I tried, because I really coudn't stand it. I had to accept at a young age that I would never be truly cool.

    I believe that any addiction is devilishly hard to beat. I agree that we luckier ones should stop ostrasizing those who are hooked, but they, also, should be less rude and boorish about endangering our lungs and stinking up public places.

    And that goes double for cigar smokers.

    By Blogger heartinsanfrancisco, At November 10, 2006 at 11:54 PM  

  • Why is it that right after you quit it seems EVERYONE is smoking on TV or in the movies and it looks SOOOOOooo good!!!

    By Blogger Nihilistic, At November 11, 2006 at 1:05 AM  

  • Hearts-
    I always tried to be polite when I was a smoker, but there were times...

    Okay, I'll admit it: there was one time when a lady was bitching me out for smoking in a public place. She was complaining about secondhand smoke, so I glared at her and said "I don't know what you're yelling about, lady. I had to pay three bucks a pack for that smoke. You're getting it for free."

    I'm a little intolerant of intolerance.

    I'll go you one better; one time that I tried quitting cigarettes, I got hooked on cigars. I found myself watching Mulholland Falls and drooling over the cigar smoking. I had to hate myself.

    By Blogger Crankster, At November 11, 2006 at 5:25 PM  

  • Switch all tobacco crops to hemp, immediately. Makes sense to me.

    Now that I'm a non-smoker, one night in the bar with a smoker-friend and I'm sicker than a dog.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 12, 2006 at 5:21 PM  

  • Matt-
    Isn't that a bitch? After you're off the cigarettes, they make you ill--I've got the same problem.

    By Blogger Crankster, At November 12, 2006 at 5:25 PM  

  • I never said I was going to quit. I always said I just wasn't going to smoke right now. 2 packs a day for 10 years. I stopped for about 10 years. Then I helped my dad in his final months and I picked it all back up. It took over a year to finally put them down again. It's been two years since the last one. I repeat. I never quit, I just am not having one right now.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 12, 2006 at 9:45 PM  

  • Olives-
    You're better than I. That method never worked for me. I had to quit, "x" them out of my life, declare my undying hatred for them...

    By Blogger Crankster, At November 12, 2006 at 9:58 PM  

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