Wednesday, 14 March 2007


Are you a smoker or a non-smoker? The question implies you are one or the other. So which is it to be? Smoker or non-smoker?

Today I am a non-smoker. And not just because it is National No Smoking Day. I have been a non-smoker for the past 2 months, 15 days, and about 8 hours (not that I'm counting...), having given up at the end of last year. But it's not the first time I have stopped smoking. Before this time, I gave up smoking around 7 years ago and didn't have a cigarette for over 6 years!

I smoked my first cigarette in my late teens. Both my parents smoked, and I used to go on at them about how they should stop smoking. Then one day, I thought I'd try one. I secretly took one of my dad's Silk Cut (I was straight on the hard stuff) and went upstairs and locked myself in the bathroom. I remember thinking the taste of it was awful as I lent out of the window. But it didn't stop me doing it again a few days later. And I suppose I eventually developed a taste for them, or at least I learned to ignore just how horrible they did taste. And I was at that age. I was just starting to go to pubs, and so perhaps I thought it was 'cool' to be smoking cigarettes... all the cool people smoke, don't they?

So I became a smoker for the next 10 years or so. And then I stopped and became a non-smoker for 6 years. Then last year, I started again and became a smoker. And now, as I've said, I am a non-smoker. Have been for the last 2 months, 15 days, 8 hours and 20 minutes (not that I'm counting...).

So I guess I'm saying it might make more sense not to think of yourself as a smoker or a non-smoker, but rather simply someone who has either recently smoked cigarettes or not. Maybe you'll carry on smoking cigarettes tomorrow, maybe you won't. After all, tomorrow is another day (how's that for profound?).

Now, if you're a smoker and you're wanting to become a non-smoker (although didn't I just say perhaps we shouldn't think of ourselves as smokers or non-smokers? Oh well...), you'll realise it is really hard. As well as dealing with the addiction to nicotine (does anyone else remember the stop smoking adverts on TV with the evil Nick O'Tine?), there is also the habitual aspect of smoking. When we give up smoking, we have to give up a way of thinking.

When you're a smoker (we're doing it again!) it is extremely difficult to think like a non-smoker. It is hard to imagine life without cigarettes. In fact, it is not until you are able to experience life without smoking that you can appreciate that it is possible to do without them, just like it was possible to do without them before you first started smoking. Yes, no matter how long you've been smoking there was a time when you weren't a smoker. Of course, I've never met you but I'm guessing you didn't arrive into this world with a Marlboro Light in your mouth asking the midwife if she had a light.

The thing with cigarettes is that once you have picked up the habit it becomes mightily difficult to imagine life without them. You can't ever imagine going to the pub and not smoking, or imagine not lighting one up when you sit down to enjoy your cup of coffee. But it is possible. It is possible to enjoy life without cigarettes. In fact, you get your life back. You get to choose where to go for lunch and not be restricted by where you can smoke (which will soon be even more restricted!).

I don't want to turn into one of those irritating ex-smokers who go on and on about the terrible habit that they've managed to conquer. And I don't want to nag anyone to give up smoking (been there and done that when I was a teenager). But if you are trying to stop smoking, or at least trying to not have a cigarette today, then best of luck. And if you don't manage to give up straight away, don't beat yourself up about it. You can always try again. But, believe me, it is worth the effort.

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