Friday 25 September 2009

Remembering vices past

On a slightly lighter note than usual, it was three years ago today that I last smoked, I remember stubbing out the last one at 03:30 on September 25th 2006 and thinking to my self "I wonder if that really will be the last", and amazingly enough, it was (so far). Since that day, apart from emptying the ashtrays of visiting friends who still smoke, I have not touched a cigarette, a fact which surprises me even more than it surprises those who know me.

I am not saying it was easy, I was a committed smoker, it was part of what I was, and I enjoyed every cigarette I ever smoked. It was extremely hard. My advice to anyone seeking to do the same is make use of every goddamn aid on offer, use the maximum strength patches, and whatever it says on the pack, double it. Remember, the instructions were written by non-smokers, they have no idea. If it says use stage one for two weeks, use it for four, at least, and do the same with the following stages. Nicotine is more addictive than heroine, and an addict needs all the help they can get.

Do not depend on will power, only people you wouldn't want to have a drink with have will power, for the rest of us will power is like second sight, very few have it, and for those who do, it never works when you need it.

Also even long after you have given up, be prepared for the occasion twinge of sadness when it strikes you that you will never light up after a good meal or a cup of coffee again. For some, that sadness will never leave you. My darling mother once said that a smoker never becomes a non-smoker, they merely become smokers who are not smoking at the moment. Like me, she was a committed smoker who would invariably light a cigarette before making a telephone call, but, unlike me, she was born into an age where everyone smoked, and they all thought it was good for them.

She gave up following a serious accident which prevented her from doing her own shopping for a few months. Those who did her shopping while she was incapacitated, would of course have bought her cigarettes had she asked, but they were non-smokers who would have made her aware of their disapproval, and she found the prospect of their martyred smugness more difficult to face than even the withdrawal symptoms.

For myself, I gave up by choice, rather than by circumstances, and there were a number of factors which lead to my decision. The Nave of Albion had given up a year or so before me. He had also been a long time and equally enthusiastic smoker, who as I recall once fell foul of the trans-Atlantic language barrier, and caused some raised eye-brows when announcing to a group we met whilst on holiday in New York that he had to go outside, as he was "desperate to have a fag". Once he had given up, smoking was no longer something we did together, and. as such, seemed slightly less comfortable.

In addition, we have a child, and I guess it is best that he grows up without the wrong influences around him. Although, given how so many children rebel against their parents, our decision to quit may well result in him becoming a sixty a day tobacco baron.

The writing was already on the wall, of course, the ban on smoking in all public places was due to come into effect the following July, with the devastating effect it has had on British pubs, and, to a lesser degree restaurants. However, it was already becoming difficult and uncomfortable to smoke even in places where it was still legal. You could be sure that the instant filter tip hit lip gloss someone would have raised the subject of passive smoking, the sad demise of Roy Castle or the alleged tooth rotting properties of nicotine.

It was no use pointing out that the World Health Organisation study on the effects of passive smoking was suppressed for two years because it actually showed only that it was not wise to raise an infant in a pub, but for an adult over eighteen months suffering ill effects from the average levels of passive smoking was statistically less likely than being murdered in Norway. By then alternative studies funded by organisations with names like "Send Smokers to Hell" or "For the children, for the little children" had been published showing totally different, and more politically acceptable, results.

This was on top on the daily diet of newspaper reports which kept appearing at the time with headlines such as "Smoking makes your ears fall off" or "Scientists say smoking causes global warming" on sale next to the shelf selling packs of twenty with pictures of diseased lungs plastered across the front.

Of course the other side of the story is never mentioned anything like so prominently. it is not until you have given up that anyone mentions the slimming effect of a twenty a day habit, how much more difficult it is to keep the weight off your hips once you give up, and that obesity, often the direct result of giving up, is actually far more dangerous than smoking. I have actually only put on about eight pounds, but it has been a struggle.

Yes, I know smoking was bad for me, and that I gave up before the hacking cough and health problems kicked in. I gave up before I reached 40, so I remember all the pleasure cigarettes give the young but none of the downsides, which show themselves later on in life. However, for all the wonders of the world He created, it is surely evidence of a somewhat perverse sense of humour on the part of the maker that so much in life which gives you pleasure, is either bad for you, or makes you fat. There are surely few experiences more dismal than an entirely healthy lifestyle, and that seems rather unfair.

There is, of course, no going back, in a world where in the not too distant future, smokers will no doubt risk arrest in the street, and smoking in your own home will be a criminal offense if you so much as employ a cleaner or chimney sweep, returning to my old addiction is not a practical proposition.

However, if tomorrow you turn on the news and hear a report that a ninety mile wide asteroid is on collision path with planet Earth which will end in ball of flames next Thursday, that clattering you hear will be me rushing to the nearest tobacconist, before calling in at the liqueur store via my favourite chocolate shop.

A glamorous vice from the past

Health Warning: Smoking is the primary cause of preventable death and statistics


alanorei said...

A most interesting post, Sarah

Trust you and your 'Nave' (Knight?) can continue to keep the habit kicked.

I have never smoked because I've always regarded it as anti-fitness, which I believe it is. That's been a help.

One point of interest, I have heard that tobacco leaves are a most effective rat poison.

(At this point, I can't resist the time-honoured exhortation, "Think what it's doing to your lungs!")

A couple of incentives to help you stay smoke-free.

1. Cheryl 'Ragwort' Tweedy-Cole is a puffer.

2. One of these for the 'Nave of Albion' (if he hasn't got one already).

Red Squirrel said...

Hi Sarah,
I have an appointment at our local stop smoking clinic on the 8th of October and with a bit of trepidation I nonetheless am going to do my best to give up the habit.
It was not the draconian 'anti-smoker' laws that brought me to this decision though, it was because of my neighbours.
They are a couple in their late 70's who have been lifelong smokers. One of them suffered a stroke recently and was rushed to hospital. I didn't know if she was still alive, as I had seen their children and grandchildren going in or out of the house for a couple of weeks.
Well I put my fears aside and called around. They were pleased to see me, and they looked SO much healthier for having given up. It really is never too late to stop smoking!

Dr.D said...

Congratulations on giving it up longer. You will live much longer and have more time to learn the crummy koran.

Those are nice pictures of yourself and the Nave of Albion that you posted. You make a glamorous couple.

bernard said...

Well, thanks a bunch for the Government sponsored health warning.
Has it occurred to you that it is HEAVY smoking that is injurious to health, in the same way that HEAVY drinking is as well, or too much sunshine, or barbiturates, or excessive eating, or any human habit that is indulged in beyond that which is reasonable?
The fact that you could not control your smoking-intake says more about your poor self-control, while ignoring the fact that those past generations ("when everyone smoked") had larger, healthier families and are now the ones who are living to a ripe old age.
Light smoking, apart from relieving stress, has been shown to inhibit auto-immune diseases like MS, as well as dementia.
The vast majority of smokers do not get smoking related cancers because their smoking is self-moderated and reasonable, which is why per head of population it is way down the bottom of the list of cancers.
If you want to join those joyless health-fascists of NuLabour, then be my guest. They'll love you.

Sarah Maid of Albion said...

To Alanorei

The Nave of Albion Is a Knight when he needs to be, but like most men, there is always a nave hiding there somewhere!!

If the ragwort is a smoker that is even more reason to stay clean!!

To Red Squirrel. Good luck at the clinic, I know how difficult it can be, it is one of the most addictive drugs known to man.

To Dr D. Thanks, I don't know if I will live longer, but it will probably feel a lot longer, especially when I have to start reading the Koran and wearing a burka.

Sarah Maid of Albion said...

Hi Bernard

I am sorry if post came across as an anti-smoking health warning, I certainly didn't intend it to be.

I am personally not anti-smoking, I allow smoking in my home and my car, I just no longer smoke there myself.

As I think I implied, I don't accept the official claims about passive smoking, which is far less dangerous than it is politically correct to admit.

I also believe that the total ban the government have imposed is yet another erosion of public freedom and adult choices.

I gave up for my own reasons, and because it was my own choice. I posted that message because I have reached the third anniversary since I gave up, and it was difficult thing to achieve.

However, the message was intended to be light hearted and amusing.

I certainly did not wish to offend any smokers, I was one of you for almost twenty years and believe you have every right to carry on enjoying a legal activity.


bernard said...

Good reply Sarah.

Half of my own extended family smoke and the other half do not. Neither 'factions' feel compelled to get on a soapbox about the subject, but I must add, the smokers are a more congenial & relaxed lot to be in the company of!!

Robert said...

After 50 years of smoking I developed a nasty cough, a very nasty cough. A web search led me to Zinc. It cleans the lungs. My cough is gone.

zazie said...

To Sarah and her readers,
I really enjoyed the article, both for the topic and the humour, and all the replies.
Once I told my doctor about living longer, but in boredom, if I stopped smoking ; she did not like it, and "sent" me to one of her colleagues. No warning worked on me ; then, one morning, I sat up, and said to myself : "this is the day" ; and it was!
My "trick"? For several weeks, I kept cigarettes and a lighter and a pocket ashtray in my bag : every time I "was desperate for a fag", I thought, or spoke aloud if alone, "this is me, and nobody else, that will not have this cigarette".
Not very humble, surely, but most effective! And I used no patch or any other medical help....

alanorei said...

A lively discussion has ensued on this topic, so it's been well chosen, Sarah.

Some more practical points follow, which might be of particular interest to BNPrs.

Non-smoking could be said to be environmentally friendly, because it cuts down on waste.

1. It saves on lung capacity. As indicated earlier, smokers aren't athletes, by and large (exceptions like the Australian miler of many years ago Herb Elliott prove the rule, they don't overthrow it).

2. It reduces your carbon footprint, with less CO2 produced (I don't buy into the global warming climate change scam but many anti-BNPrs do, so you might as well thwart their antagonism on that front however you can).

3. It frees up tobacco for more useful applications e.g. rat poison, as indicated earlier).

4. It saves oxygen, essential for sustained breathing, see 2 above.

5. It saves expense on cigarettes etc., clearly. It also saves expense on air fresheners and other cleansing agents you may need to use whenever you want to rid your home/car of that persistent ciggy aroma.

6. It saves paper, obviously, the knock-on effect of 5, 6 and 7 below being, for example, more resources for the printing and circulation of VoFs.

7. It saves on dry cleaning expenditure (energy, and chemicals as well as costs) or even on your washing machine if you have a washable suit. I'm referring to BNP meetings that used to be conducted in smoke-filled pubs, before the smoking ban. (If you leave your suit to air, like I used to, instead of having it dry cleaned (Like Nick Griffin said he did), you put undesirable smoke chemicals into the environment.)

8. It provides an incentive for the development of more eco-friendly industries if the cigarette industry suffers an economic downturn through diminishing sales.

9, It saves on waste disposal, by removing the necessity to sweep up discarded butts etc.

A couple of other non-smoking advantages could be:

10. You avoid the discomfort of standing outside the pub in inclement weather for a fag break in the course of BNP meetings. You may prefer to be known as "Smokers together whatever the weather" but there's clearly an argument against catching cold as well as cancer.

11. You probably present a better image to the public by leafleting without a glowing fag clamped between the lips. (Just keep a lookout for a convenient bike shed or the equivalent, as in the old days, if you get desperate.)

Remember, it's all in a good cause. BNP - the Party that sees the big picture.

Anonymous said...

Just wish to thank you for your blog as a new reader and reply to this particular post. As one who has smoked since age 10 and quit for two years from 88' to 90' I would like to point out that my asthma got a lot worse when I wasn't smoking than when I was. Do you think the same media could be lying about this issue too? hmm!