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Diary of an ex-smoker

The standard joke about quitting smoking is ‘‘quitting smoking is easy. I've done it many times!’’, but seriously quitting smoking is one of the hardest things you can do, harder than quitting any other drug including heroin. I was a smoker for five years until I gave up at 3pm on December 27, 2006. My main reasons for quitting was having seen Al Gore's documentary film An Inconvenient Truth which besides its portrayal of our damage to the environment also presented smoking in this day and age as something of an anachronism. This together with the cost of my habit (over 50 grams of tobacco per week, plus filters, papers and lighters) reaching over $40 per week and seeing that my smoking was increasing over time from one cigarette an hour at the start to more than two cigarettes an hour at the end, caused by the stress of studying for and sitting University of Canterbury examinations!

Smoking is one of the worst vices in existence in terms of the damage it does to society. I started smoking in the middle of a deep clinical depression and surrounded by smokers. At the time the short-term ‘‘fix’’ that smoking gave me seemed to outweigh the negative effects which were mainly in the distant future. As I said goodbye to depression and became well again I slowly learnt about smoking's negative effects and how these negative effects far outweigh the positive effects. I finally managed to quit smoking after many unsuccessful attempts. My unsuccessful attempts include:

My final and successful attempt to stop smoking involved a three-pronged approach:

Having beaten the smoking habit myself, I have become some kind of evangelist, spreading information and if possible helping others to overcome the habit.

Why give up smoking?

When you say that you want to quit smoking, your brain hears the word smoking and you continue to do so. Therefore your commitment should not be to quit smoking but rather to embrace life, something which will be explained below:

Sean at the pool
My nephew Sean Tonner,
aged 2 years.

They say that every cigarette you smoke takes five minutes off of your life. Even if this is only approximately true it implies that on average a smoker's life will be significantly shorter than a non-smoker or ex-smoker's life. If you have something good to offer society (which nearly all of us do) then the moral wrong you are doing to society can be measured by sum of your goodness to society per year over the extra number of years that you will live by quitting smoking.

From a moral point of view, the optimum benefit can be obtained by everyone never smoking in the first place. But for whatever reason, people do start smoking and will continue to smoke until they are presented with a compelling reason to stop. As smokers we cannot change our past history of smoking (as that would entail some kind of time travel), only our future history of smoking.

As an aside, smoking is also extremely expensive and for me this was the most compelling reason to stop. Making cigarettes expensive has the benefit that people cannot afford to smoke to many of them. The government makes vast profits from the sales of cigarettes (cigarettes only cost one fifth of their purchase price to manufacture, with the rest going to the government). It would me morally the best thing to do to use these profits to pay for the extra medical care that smokers will need, as well as subsidising the cost of the pharmaceuticals used to help people to quit. This does not happen (the money actually goes into some kind of slush-fund for general expenditure) and this means that the government has a vested interest in keeping people smoking, the opposite of its moral imperative to stop people from smoking!

Let us suppose that you will live for an extra ten years if you stop smoking. Wouldn't you like to have such an extension to your lifespan? Here is why I would:

smoking craves
Source: http://whyquit.com/whyquit/A_Symptoms.html

For me reaching 72 hours (three days) without smoking represented a milestone. As shown in the diagram on the left, after this point in time cravings for nicotine only decreased, and the positive effects like improved personal odour, and improved senses of smell and taste become apparent. I know that if I ever have another cigarette it will send me down the road that leads back to a full-time smoking habit, and I have no plans to go down that road, thereby losing all of the progress that I have gained.

The future of smoking

It seems likely that within the not-to-distant future that smoking policy in organisations like the University of Canterbury will result in smokers only being allowed to smoke outside of the campus. Such extreme restrictions like this will hopefully help to encourage people to give up this vile vice. If this article helps just one person to stop smoking (University student or otherwise), then it will have served its purpose.

A replacement for smoking

It seems like a reasonable argument to prefer natural highs to artificial ones. For example, instead of smoking, enjoy the natural high that comes from physical exercise or the natural high that comes from doing a good job at something and getting recognition for doing this.


My first serious attempt to quit was foiled by my habit to borrow single cigarettes from my next-door neighbour which soon led back to a ten a day habit. It was only through my second attempt at using patches that was successful.

Postscript to the postscript

My second serious attempt to quit was foiled by my habit of borrowing cigarettes off of my neighbours at the complex where I live. This soon led to 100 grams of tobacco per week habit costing me over $70 per week. My reason for taking up smoking again was because of the stress of studying for MATH335 Computability which is the hardest course that I have ever done. My third attempt at using patches has been (up to now) successful.

Postscript to the postscript to the postscript

In 2013 I started smoking again three cigarettes a day and soon built up to a 12 cigarettes a day habit. At the start of 2014 my new years resolution was to give up smoking entirely, thus saving me $3,500 per year. My bank balance is happy since I have given up smoking for good!

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