CIGAR-EXIT: You Can Have it Hard, Soft or No Deal
If I showed you a picture of me relaxing in my twenties, you’d probably see a cigarette in my hands or, actually, stuck between the first 2 fingers of my right hand. I started smoking at college; it seemed like the ‘cool’ thing to do and a packet of Number 6 cost the equivalent of 12 ½ pence and lasted me about a month! I was very much a social smoker, enjoying a cigarette and the accompanying sharing and swapping with other smokers at college social events. I didn’t feel reliant on them at all.
After finishing college I worked in Seville, Spain for 3 months, which nobody really did in those days, certainly not at age 19. It meant I had to go into restaurants on my own, which I found quite difficult. There were very few tourists in Seville at that time, and very few young people ate alone. To be honest, I lost a lot of weight in the first few weeks, surviving on breakfast provided for me by my ‘landlady’ – an impoverished Countess! She eventually fixed me up with a nearby family restaurant which her daughter drove me to and shoved me through the door. There was no going back, but sitting there on my own felt extremely uncomfortable. I needed something to help me.
It wasn’t long before I found my little helper when I realised that Spain had a rather different system of selling ciggies. You could buy them individually from kiosks! That suited me down to the ground and so every evening on my way to the restaurant I would buy two cigarettes (1-X-2 was the brand), one to have after I ordered and while waiting for the food to arrive, and the other as I waited for the bill. A table for 1 with the seat facing the wall, and I was all set! Smoking was my saviour.
On my return to England, I worked as a Legal Temp Secretary. The uncertainty of each new placement was a bit stressful but I found that a packet of Guards would see me through. Now a pack of 10 lasted a couple of days rather than a couple of months. It wasn’t too long before I was a regular smoker using a cigarette to help me transition from situation to situation, allowing me to take little breaks through the day and, at least in my mind, preventing me from gaining weight.
In those days smoking was a very sociable thing to do. Both of my parents had smoked, most of my friends smoked and we all felt that non-smokers (especially the disapproving ones) were just sad killjoys.
I was still smoking 10 years later but had now moved on to a more sophisticated brand – Benson & Hedges. In between times, I had tried Gauloises, Menthol, and those extra long, extra slim ones in the brown wrapper which made everyone look so sophisticated. Or so we thought. But the golden delights of the B&H could not be beaten. For me, smoking was the Monosodium Glutamate of my daily life; it just gave everything a bit more taste, enhancing each smoky moment. Now I was an Ad Sales executive, smoking helped me build rapport with my clients as we enjoyed boozy lunches, with the obligatory cigarette break between courses, or just a coffee and a smoke. Happy days – mostly.
It’s been 35 years now since I had a ciggie. Do I miss it? Fleetingly I do, to be honest. It’s the memory of a glass of chilled white wine in the sunshine and my friend, the B&H, dangling from my lips. But that soon passes as I remember the other side of smoking, the dark side.
Probably the worst thing is the way it makes you smell. I still have friends who smoke and if we’re having a chat just after they’ve put one out, the breath is not at all pleasant – I remember spending a fortune on Polo mints when I smoked because the taste in my mouth was so bad and it felt so dry. Add a cup of coffee to the mix and you’d have a very anti-social brew coming out of your mouth with every breath.
And it’s not just your breath! Hair, clothes, everything you own stinks of fags. You can smell a smoker from several feet away, and no amount of perfume or after-shave will mask it.
But of course, smelling of smoke is not all that a smoker needs to worry about. We all know much more about the health risks these days. Smokers poison themselves. The poison affects the circulation, heart, brain, lungs, stomach, mouth and throat, skin, bones, reproduction and fertility, opening us up to a greater likelihood of stroke, a huge variety of cancers, and wrinkles. Smoking is responsible for 80,000 preventable deaths per year. (https://www.nhs.uk/smokefree/why-quit/smoking-health-problems)
And according to the experts, it’s not just smokers’ physical health that is at risk https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk. Far from helping them relax and improve their mood, smokers can end up suffering from greater anxiety and depression. To counteract that, they may well smoke more, thus continuing the vicious circle:
The other part of us that suffers when we smoke is, of course, our pocket. With the average price of a packet of 20 now standing at £10.80, smokers are spending nearly £4,000 per year on their habit. That’s a lot of money going up in smoke and a huge investment into your ill-health!
A survey by MoneyTalks earlier this year (2019) concludes that that’s more than either men or women spend on beauty products. You can see more about that if you follow the link www.beautyserve.com/UK-beauty-spending-habits-revealed.html, Interesting when you take into account that smoking ages people too, drying out the skin and increasing that leathery, weather-beaten look.
Then there’s the inconvenience. Since smoking became widely socially unacceptable if you want to smoke you have to go outside. Seeing those little groups of unhappy-looking people huddled together in inadequate shelters while the rain belts down and the wind batters them, do you wonder if they are actually having fun?
So, as I mentioned, I no longer smoke. In fact, I haven’t had a cigarette since February 1985; that’s more than 34 years. I had tried to stop a few times but my efforts were half-hearted and I’d end up “just having one” which of course led to a return to smoking full-time. What finally gave me the incentive to stop was meeting the person who was to become my husband. He hated everything about smoking so, suddenly, I could see some advantages in making the decision to stop once and for all.
I knew I couldn’t do it on my own so I signed up to a course. 5 days later I was no longer a smoker. I didn’t gain lots of weight, I didn’t feel deprived, and I did enjoy my smoke-free relationship to the point that we have now been married for 33 years.
So my advice to you is – don’t give up! Don’t give up the idea that you can live a happy and fulfilled life, smoke-free. All you need is the right motivation and some help to make it easier than it seems when you go it alone.
If you are already a reluctant smoker who feels ready to go smoke-free now, you might be interested in my ‘Cigar-exit’ hypnotherapy stop smoking course. You can choose Hard Cigar-Exit – a 3 session course taken at your top smoking times. Or Soft Cigar-Exit taken more gently over 5 days. Of course, you also choose No Deal, where you’re not ready to stop right now, but are definitely preparing to do so soon because you want better health, better mood and better finances.